“New cities where data is open. Energy is renewable. Water is valued. Homes are affordable. People can live within 10 minutes of all they need. Cities where world class healthcare meets high tech education. Where new and existing businesses will converge to create more vibrant regional economies. Cities built to unlock all human potential.”
That’s the plan for a high speed rail network that will connect Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney — and it claims to require no government funding.
A video released promoting the long-awaited proposal by private company Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) Pty Ltd, which has partnered with international companies to develop the proposal, claims its high speed rail network will “place citizens in our capitals in less time than a morning commute”.
The dramatic footage uses excerpts from former American President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Democratic National Convention Nomination Acceptance Address, where he says, “the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won; and we stand today on the edge of a new frontier … the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises. It is a set of challenges.”
The striving plan includes the construction of eight brand new island cities between the three capitals, with land deals already secured for the regional hubs that will set up close to current towns.
It claims CLARA has “a plan to rebalance the Australian settlement”, building “new, regional compact, sustainable smart cities and connect them by the world’s most advanced high speed rail”. One image suggests trains will be travelling at speeds of up to 430km/h.
It’s expected to come with a $200 billion price tag, but, the company claims, it won’t cost taxpayers a cent.
“Building new cities to decentralise our population” is one of its biggest advantages, it claims, offering “untold benefits to our capitals and to our regions”.
Six new “advanced, sustainable, smart cities” are proposed for New South Wales and a further two for Victoria.
The company has labelled the plan “a quantum leap forward in the development of our nation”.
Land deals have been struck in regional areas, and if it receives support from three levels of government, the company says construction could begin within five years.
Phase one of the development will involve a $13 billion high speed rail into northern Victoria and the development of two new partner cities in the region over 30 years.
Both sides of federal politics have signalled support for a high speed rail network, but hadn’t been able to explain how a cash-strapped government would hope to pay for it until the value-capture model was floated earlier this year.
A vague plan for a network beginning at Sydney and leading to Canberra, with links to regional centres like Goulburn had been discussed with a similar plan linking Melbourne to its regional neighbour Shepparton. These regional links will be included in CLARA’s proposal.
Fast rail plans have been floated by every federal government since Bob Hawke was in power.
Former Prime Minister John Howard considered a very fast train plan in 2000. He famously said he “rather liked the idea of a very fast train”, but couldn’t justify the $1 to $2 billion expenditure.
But with the plan being seriously considered post-election, Australia may be inching closer towards no longer being the only continent — with the exception of Antarctica — without fast trains of our own.