‘Game-changing’ new fast rail plan
AFTER years of empty promises, a plan to connect some of Australia's busiest regions with high-speed rail is on the table again and this time the multi-billion dollar plan is gathering momentum.
Victoria, Queensland and NSW have all expressed their desire to get fast rail in their states for years but it's a new proposal put forward by southeast Queensland that could finally stick.
Earlier this week, the Council of Mayors of southeast Queensland released information from a feasibility study.
The Council of Mayors, made up of 10 councils from around southeast Queensland and representing more than three million people, first looked into whether the region could host an Olympic Games last year.
The region is hoping to host the 2032 Olympic Games - a global event that the council says would pair perfectly with a high-speed rail network linking all of southeast Queensland's towns and cities.
'$70 BILLION FOR A 45-MINUTE REGION'
Regardless of whether southeast Queensland does decide to put its hand up to host an Olympic Games, the 10 mayors sitting on the council say they will still push for a high-speed rail network to turn the popular area into a "45-minute region".
Population growth and migration to the region is higher than anywhere else in Australia and by 2043, more than 5.5 million people will call southeast Queensland their home.
The cost of building the rail network, which will have its hub in Brisbane and stretch as far west as Toowoomba, will cost more than $70 billion.
The state government estimates the cost of delivering the infrastructure projects - a price tag that includes Brisbane's Cross River Rail and the city's metro - will be around $2 to $3 billion each year.
Brisbane's Lord Mayor and Council of Mayors (SEQ) Graham Quirk said the region had to be ready to
"As a region, we need to ensure we're prepared to accommodate the fast population growth that South East Queensland will face in the coming decades," Mr Quirk said.
"One of the potential solutions of the Council of Mayors' (SEQ) work to-date is an investigation into a regional faster rail network. With a North Coast Connect business case already underway, it's an ideal time to look at what a South East Queensland faster rail network could deliver for the region."
Initial findings from the study found travel times between Brisbane and the Sunshine and Gold coasts could be slashed to under 45 minutes, and reduced to just 20 minutes for Ipswich commuters.
"This could have a massive impact on congestion on many of our major transport corridors and minimise the need for future road upgrades," Mr Quirk said.
VICTORIA PUTS FORWARD 'VERY BOLD' RAIL PLAN
Earlier today, Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Minister Alan Tudge flagged the key points in the coalition's plan to ease pressure on Australia's big cities.
One facet of the government's population plan, Mr Tudge said, was to force new migrants to spend at least five years in a region that isn't southeast Queensland, Sydney or Melbourne.
Mr Tudge told The Australian high-speed rail would be used as a way to encourage migrants to get away from Australia's busiest regions and to take pressure off the cities.
The government is looking into funding three fast high-speed rail projects including one stretching between Sydney and Newcastle in NSW and Shepparton and Melbourne in Victoria.
"Now if those were enacted, of course they would support the economic growth of those regional areas and take a bit of pressure off Melbourne and Sydney respectively too," Mr Tudge told The Australian .
"We've got three good business cases going on at the moment and we'll get those back early next year.
"I should say here in Victoria the state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has put a very bold plan here on the agenda with four fast rail corridors to be built here if he were elected, and that would slash the time to get to places like Bendigo and Ballarat, to Shepparton, to Traralgon, so that you could actually reasonably reside in those places and commute each day to Melbourne. I think that would be a game changer."
Victoria is hoping to transform its passenger rail network into a European-style rail network under the plan announced by opposition leader Matthew Guy.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Mark Stone said regional high-speed rail infrastructure would connect regional workers and businesses, cutting travel times and creating more liveable regional cities and towns.
"Infrastructure investment is needed to tackle rising congestion as a result of Victoria's significant population growth, which is projected to almost double to 10 million people by 2051," Mr Stone said.
These projects will support trade, help get people to where jobs are and improve liveability.
Regional Victoria contributes nearly 20 per cent of Victoria's annual economic output.
It's home to over 130,000 businesses in agribusiness, tourism, advanced manufacturing, health care, education and retail trade.
The Victorian Chamber calls for a bipartisan approach to ensure businesses and Victorians can benefit from an improved transport system.
Better infrastructure to connect regional workers and business was a key finding of the Victorian Chamber Transport Taskforce, and as a priority for business, is a part of our 2018 election platform, Stronger Business, Stronger Victoria.
- With Wires