World / Asia-Pacific

Aust'n PM urged to build high-speed rail link between Sydney, Melbourne

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-03-17 15:08

MELBOURNE - Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be approached to build a fast rail network to link the nation's two big cities, namely Sydney and Melbourne, in a meeting on Thursday.

A Melbourne-based consortium, Consolidated Land and Rail Australia, will unveil its plan before the PM to "reshape Australia" by constructing the very fast train (VFT) network between the two cities on the east coast.

Consolidated Land and Rail Australia director, Nicholas Cleary, told Fairfax Media that further details on the proposal would be released after their "unsolicited offer" to Turnbull.

The distance between Melbourne and Sydney is around 870 kilometers and the mooted VFT is expected to complete this journey in under three hours - as opposed to the current trip time of 11 hours.

However, Federal member of parliament John Alexander - who is familiar with the company's pitch as chair of a government committee currently researching transport innovation - said the idea involved privately buying-up land in regional towns and cities to lay down the tracks.

Alexander said the company, which is funded by a huge US-based investment group, was one of "three separate groups who are looking at similar ideas, of securing land in the corridor between Sydney and Melbourne".

"There are a number of groups that are looking at securing their own land at the current price, funding the infrastructure and then paying for it in the uplift of the properties," Alexander told Fairfax Media on Thursday.

A high-speed rail link to connect Sydney and Melbourne, the fifth-busiest commercial air route in the world, has been discussed in political circles since the 1990s.

The Liberal government, under then-PM John Howard, decided not to pursue the idea after research indicated the project could cost upwards of $3.4 billion in 2000.

By 2012, that price tag had ballooned out to around $85 billion, under the latest government proposal. That plan, however, also involved expanding the line to include the Queensland capital of Brisbane.

That same study identified Mittagong, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton as likely stops between Sydney and Melbourne.

Momentum to reinstate the major infrastructure project on Australia's political agenda has been growing in recent months.

In late February, Trade Minister Andrew Robb said it was time take Australia took its cue from China and built a similar network capable of connecting the cities.

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