As an important first step for the establishment of the east coast high speed rail network, the ‘High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2022’ has been passed by the parliament.
A high-speed rail network along the east coast of Australia has been under investigation for decades, with a report from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) earlier this year estimating the value uplift from the project to be as high as $140 billion.
The High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2022 passed by the parliament last week is an important first step in the Federal Government’s commitment to establish the High Speed Rail Authority, which will guide the development of a high speed rail network in Australia.
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King said the authority will provide independent and impartial advice on the policy and standards of high speed rail; and plan, identify and secure corridors.
“The authority will also oversee the construction and operation of the high-speed rail network, and coordinate with state and territory governments, industry, business and communities to enhance Australia’s long-term rail investment,” she said.
“The authority will build on previous work, including the comprehensive study, commissioned under former Infrastructure Minister and now Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, that found high speed rail was not only viable, but would return over $2 for every $1 of investment.”
A high-speed rail network could allow passengers to travel between major cities and significant regional cities at speeds exceeding 250 km/h.
Various corridors have been proposed for a potential high-speed line, but the most commonly suggested route is between Sydney and Melbourne, which is one of the world’s busiest air corridors.
The UNSW report, published in February this year, suggested a rail network running from Melbourne to Sydney (by 2040) and Sydney to Brisbane (by 2058), with spur lines to Canberra and the Gold Coast, could boost land value and property prices around high-speed stations by up to $140 billion – thus building a case to fund the project.
Minister King said with the passage of the bill, the authority will now get to work on the $500 million down payment for the planning to secure corridors and commence early works for the Sydney to Newcastle section of the high-speed rail network.
“This commitment will see work progress in this fast-growing region of the east coast,” she said.
While the authority works closely with the New South Wales Government on this section, it will continue to advance plans for other sections of the high-speed rail network, which will eventually connect Brisbane to Melbourne, with stops in Canberra, Sydney and regional centres.
The authority will be overseen by a board which will include experts from the rail and infrastructure sectors.
Faster rail will continue to be advanced under the authority, with the functions of the National Faster Rail Agency being undertaken within the authority and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.