High Speed Rail and Regional Australia funding

The long-proposed east coast High Speed Rail project is back in the news again after Labor on 10 May pledged $1 billion toward land acquisitions to create the corridor.

The railway would run between Melbourne and Brisbane via Sydney and Canberra, using trains capable of speeds up to 350km/h.

A former Labor government study identified a 1,748km route that would benefit communities including Gold Coast, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga and Shepparton, said Labor’s Anthony Albanese.

“It would bring these communities closer to capital cities, allowing for increased commuting while also strengthening the case for regional business investment,” he said.

The Liberals’ Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Alan Tudge, said the $1 billion was inadequate, because Infrastructure Australia in 2016 estimated the cost to buy properties along the route was $2.8 billion.

The Liberals’ plan includes $2 billion for fast rail between Melbourne and Geelong, and $40m to assess five additional rail corridors, on top of three others that the federal and state governments have funded, he added.

Meanwhile, both Labor and the Coalition have unveiled their pitches to regional Australia.

The Coalition’s plans include $15m to create five additional Regional Study Hubs that help university students to stay in their communities.

“We will also invest $2 million in the Country Education Partnership’s Rural Inspire initiative to support young people living in rural communities to set their sights high, and achieve their goals,” the Liberal party’s statement said.

The ALP’s plans include creating a new Office of Regional Development and a new City Partnership, and reviewing the effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s Regional Australia Impact Statements (RAIS) that Cabinet considers.