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High-speed rail network back on the agenda

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Federal Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese will ask parliament to push ahead with plans for a high-speed rail network after slamming the government’s lack of support for public transport.

The MP for the Sydney seat of Grayndler was a strong advocate for a Brisbane to Melbourne line – via Sydney, with a Canberra branch – which the former government budgeted at $114 billion to be operational by 2065 and carry 84 million passengers a year.

But the coalition has scrapped an advisory group commissioned to advise on the project.

“If we don’t start planning now for the possibility of high-speed rail, it will never happen,” Mr Albanese told an AusRAIL conference in Sydney on Thursday.

“When parliament resumes next week I will be introducing a private member’s bill that would require the Commonwealth to begin work immediately on securing a corridor for a future high-speed rail line.”

The bill would include the establishment of a high-speed rail authority made up of federal, state and industry stakeholders.

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss addressed the same forum and instead committed the government to deliver a fast-tracked completion of the inland rail project, largely used for freight.

“This announcement builds on my commitment during the election campaign to provide federal funding of $300 million to get the project back on track,” Mr Truss said, adding that an implementation group would be created to ensure deadlines are met.

He said the line between Brisbane and Melbourne, passing multiple regional centres, with coastal branches, would boost “national productivity by linking eastern production zones”.

Mr Albanese said Australia’s public transport system, including urban rail, has been shunned by the coalition.

“The modern infrastructure agenda is already losing steam under the new government,” he said.

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