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Getting high speed rail right

Last time I told you that Andrew McNaughton supports our approach to implement high speed rail. So I thought I should give a quick overview of the difference between our approach and what was proposed in the 2013 HSR Study.

Our view is that high speed rail must be implemented in the right way to ensure it makes regional areas more attractive places to live and work.  It is has to be implemented in stages that progressively connect regional cities to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.  And it must be delivered as part of a wider regionalisation initiative that promotes and incentivises regional growth and economic development. 


We have identified five strategies that must be aligned to make high speed rail a catalyst for regional growth in Australia:

#1: Focus on shifting growth from capital to regional cities:  Most people now recognise that high speed rail will catalyse regionalisation, which will relieve the housing crisis and boost Australia’s productivity over the next 40 years.  Most importantly, the primary objective is not to replace air travel between capital cities, as proposed in all previous studies.

#2: Optimise the flow of people and goods in key corridors:  Australia’s population is too small to justify a high speed rail line dedicated for intercity passenger services.  Instead, the utilisation of the high speed line must be maximised by integrating it with the existing low speed regional rail network.  This will allow the high speed line to carry additional services - for commuter from nearby regional to capital cities, for long-distance travellers to regional cities off the high speed line, and for faster freight (particularly at night).  In addition, it will free up existing lines for increased freight and local regional passenger services.

#3: Maximise growth and development opportunities:  Regionalisation requires more than just a high speed line.  Stations must be inside regional cities and centres.  They must become local transport hubs serving the city and region.  Station precincts must be activated for increased shopping and business activity.  And incentives are needed to encourage investment in jobs-creating industries.  Complementary initiatives to deliver these capabilities must be conducted in conjunction with the introduction of the high speed line.

#4: Minimise the cost to future generations:  Significant investment is needed now, but we don’t want to place the burden on future generations.  Mechanisms must be implemented to realise the value received by indirect beneficiaries from the investment in high speed rail.  In particular, the uplift in land value is considered to have high potential as a funding source that will mitigate the borrowing needed by Government.

#5: Manage delivery under joint State and Federal Government governance arrangements:  Under our constitution, state governments are responsible for railways and the federal government is responsible for most taxation.  Hence we need joint ownership and funding arrangements for all regional and interstate rail in Australia – including the implementation of new high speed rail lines.


You can download our paper outlining our approach here


And hopefully you can come to our mini-conference with the Australian High Speed Rail Association.  Let us know so we can catch up with you. Register here.


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