While it is certainly progress that the federal government’s $20 million Phase II Report on building a high-speed rail (HSR) network down eastern Australia is finally being released today, why the report has been delayed for more than five months is a mystery.
The report, meant to outline the route, stations, and financial viability of HSR, shows major benefits of building the network:
- 80% of the population will have access to bullet trains;
- big cities and regional towns will benefit;
- tens of thousands of jobs will be created;
- travel times will be slashed;
- most importantly, every dollar invested will bring a $2.30 return returned to the Australian economy, ensuring financial viability; and
- enormous environmental benefits.
But by pushing a figure of $114 billion as the total cost to build the network, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese is trying to paint HSR as too expensive. The picture painted in this review shows the total costs of HSR on the entire east coast — without mention of benefits to the local economies, populations, or industry-related job creation. When factoring in the other cost-saving benefits such as a second Sydney airport, combined with a projected $262.2 billion dollar return into the Australian economy for its investment in HSR, the feasibility of HSR is a no-brainer.
Lastly, the reported timeframe would make it the slowest construction of HSR on earth. Comparable projects around the world have proven that HSR building can be measured in years rather than decades. The Singapore and Malaysian HSR link will be built in seven years; UK HSR will take 13 years; Thailand HSR will be complete in five years; and the California HSR is set to be all done in 16 years, with functioning routes in five years.
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Estimations of 52 years for Australian HSR prove that Albanese refuses to take HSR seriously as a feasible option.