Reality of high-speed rail for CQ
PLANS for a high-speed train across Central Queensland and Australia’s east-coast have once again become a sore point as industry figureheads clash over the project’s viability.
Analysis by Grattan Institute released last month called upon federal and state governments to reconsider funding the estimated $114 billion project, labelling it an “expensive folly”.
Head of cities and transport program Marion Terrill said high-speed rail systems offered little benefit for Australia’s regional communities and should instead be scrapped in favour of restoration projects.
It is not the first time Grattan Institute called for bullet train plans to be shelved, discouraging the idea during Victoria’s election campaign in 2018.
Regional Capitals Australia chair Shane Van Styn fired back at Grattan Institute’s “oddly timed” claims in a statement released early this week.
“This is a concept that Regional Capitals Australia, and which Rockhampton Regional Council as an active member, has long been championing,” he said.
“We make this case because better-connected regional cities have communities that are healthier and wealthier – more access means opportunities.”
Grattan Institute warned the project could instead have an adverse effect on the very communities it intended to help.
“Very few city residents would move to the regions; regional cities may actually lose out if their residents can get to the capital more quickly,” the report stated.
Mr Van Styn refuted the claims, however, saying “commentators, businesses and families are all wakening to the idea that remote working and regional living means the great Australian dream of an affordable quarter-acre-block is far from dead.”
He also slammed Grattan Institute’s suggestion the project would result in a “bad bullet train”, which would become increasingly costly.
“Perhaps a more relevant statement is that continuing to serve a ballooning Sydney and Melbourne with new brownfield rail infrastructure is very expensive and the debt we can no longer afford,” he said.
“Our country needs a firm grip on the future, not a commitment to doubling down on the things that have held us back – namely productivity crushing congestion.”
He believes it is with good reason Federal Labor and the Morrison-McCormack Government intend to improve Australia’s regional rail.
“If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it must be that now is the time to move on past positions and plans. Now is the time to put regional rail on the ‘shovel-ready’ and ‘funded’ track.”