Greens to push $40bn fast-rail link to Sydney
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IT IS the dream that will not die: Melbourne to Sydney by train in four hours, instead of the current 11½ hours.
Today, Greens Leader Bob Brown will launch a campaign at Southern Cross Station for a major concept study into a high-speed rail link between Australia's two biggest cities, which his office has costed at $40 billion.
This follows the launch in January of a ''pre-feasibility'' study by the Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, which examined a plan to cover the 900-kilometre Sydney-Melbourne route by train at an average 280km/h.
Mr Brown said a high-speed rail link was needed to provide ''fast, reliable transport for 75 per cent of our population … [And it] would also generate thousands of jobs and promote regional development.''
He called on the Rudd government to fund a $10 million one-year planning study.
Several attempts have been made at getting a Melbourne-Sydney fast-rail project started. The last attempt, involving an initial Sydney-Canberra link, failed in 2000 when the Howard government baulked at its $4.5 billion price tag.
With no train capable of speeds over 250km/h, Australia lags the world.
A total of 1737 high-speed trains currently operate on dozens of different routes, mostly in Europe and Asia, says the International Union of Railways.
Advocates of a high-speed rail link point out that the Melbourne-to-Sydney air corridor is the world's third busiest, with 121 daily flights. The rail alternative is a half-day journey with a top speed of 130km/h.
David George, head of the industry and federally funded Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, said high-speed rail would be competitive with air on the route. ''If you travel by plane, by the time you get out to the airport and pick up your luggage and then do it all in reverse at the other end, it's probably four hours.''
He said high-speed rail was being built in many countries including India and China. ''It's not just the preserve of First World countries any more.''
Japan's first Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka opened in 1964. It now carries 360,000 people a day at up to 300km/h. France's TGV network has been running since 1981.
Based on European construction costs of between $A19 million and $A48 million per kilometre, a Sydney-Melbourne link could cost up to $43 billion.