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May 7, 2021

High speed rail hits top gear

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The federal government’s High Speed Rail Advisory Group met in Brisbane last week to discuss the implementation of a public consultation program and debate on the role such a rail line could play in Australia’s transport future.

The team of prominent Australians brings a broad range of skills and expertise expected to be crucial in getting the ambitious long-term infrastructure project off the ground.

The proposed 1,748-kilometre track from Melbourne to Brisbane is estimated to cost $114 billion and is tagged for completion in 2065, after many of its architects are dead and buried.

The far north coast gets one of the eight stops allocated between Sydney and Brisbane, which will be sited approximately nine kilometres west of Casino.

Once fully operational, the high-speed rail could carry up to 84 million passengers each year, with express journey times of less than three hours between Melbourne and Sydney and between Sydney and Brisbane.

The federal minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese, released the much-awaited Phase 2 feasibility study last month following the Phase 1 report in 2011.

He is a firm supporter of the project, which was part of a 2010 election promise, and is keen to get it moving with all feedback required in by June 30.

Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils president and Lismore mayor, Jenny Dowell, was selected as one of the seven-person panel based on her abilities to facilitate community consultation.

Mr Albanese told Echonetdaily that Cr Dowell brought a wealth of proven and determined experience in regional cooperation to the group.

‘This is evidenced by her recent re-election as president of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils,’ he said.

‘She brings to the High Speed Rail Advisory Group a staunch, demonstrated commitment to transport links between the northern rivers of NSW and other regional and urban centres.’

Cr Dowell said she looked forward to her role ‘making sure that the community’s voice was heard’.

‘I’ll be representing not just our region but every region along the line and asking the questions the community will want to know about the high-speed rail proposition,’ she said.

‘It’s a great thrill and honour to be asked to be on this task force and we’ve got quite a big job ahead of us, particularly when submissions close at the end of June, then going through and summarising those and feeding that back to the decision-makers.’

The full report and feedback forms are available at: www.infrastructure.gov.au/hsr.


The High Speed Rail Advisory Group:

Lyn O’Connell (chair), deputy secretary, Federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport; Tim Fischer AC, former Australian deputy prime minister (1996–1999) and former ambassador to the Holy See (2008–2012); Jennifer Westacott, chief executive, Business Council of Australia and former director-general of NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources; Sue Holliday, former director-general of NSW Planning (1997–2003) and current member of the Urban Policy Forum; Peter Newman, professor of sustainability at Sustainability Policy Institute of Curtin University and Infrastructure Australia Board member; Bob Nanva, national secretary, Rail, Tram & Bus Industry Union; and Jenny Dowell, president of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils.

The ministerial group:

Scott Emerson, Queensland minister for transport and main roads; Terry Mulder, Victorian minister for public transport and roads; Gladys Berejiklian, NSW minister for transport; Simon Corbell, ACT minister for the environment and sustainable development.

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