On fast track

March 10, 2018

A proposal for a fast train from Melbourne to Shepparton has been further advanced.

Yesterday, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum announced Consolidated Land and Rail Australia as the recipient of $20million in funding for a business case.

‘‘In the full vision of the project, you’re likely to see passenger travel between Greater Shepparton and Melbourne reduced to 35 minutes,’’ he said.

‘‘This will see Shepparton very quickly becoming a city of around 400000 people.

‘‘This business case will prove or disprove the viability of bullet speed trains between Sydney and Melbourne.’’

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell said if high speed rail became a reality between Shepparton and Melbourne, it would be fantastic for the region.

‘‘The community are a little bit cynical about high speed rail because there’s been so many studies over the years that have ultimately been rejected,’’ he said.

‘‘That’s not to say studies aren’t an important part of the process, they are a necessary part. But people will get excited when they see something actually being built.’’

CLARA is one of three business cases being funded under the initiative following a competitive assessment process.

‘‘The Australian Government called for submissions from all over Australia, for the best projects, in relation to faster rail,’’ Mr Drum said.

‘‘The idea is we were going to pick the best three proposals and help those three with $20million. The CLARA proposal is one of those three successful candidates.’’

The Federal Government will co-fund the business case which is hoped to take it forward for the next 12 to 18 months.

‘‘This will check out the logistics, the costings, the engineering and is an opportunity to take this nation-building, nation-changing project one step further,’’ Mr Drum said.

‘‘CLARA will have the ability to engage world-class consultants, engineers, accountants, economists to work out exactly how this project can be built.’’

The successful proposals in Victoria, NSW and Queensland have the potential to improve the efficiency of rail links between key regional centres and major cities.

Mr Birrell said high speed rail in Victoria would benefit the state more than most, as the area had the advantage of regional cities being ‘‘not too far away’’.

‘‘Decentralisation is extremely viable. But rail connectivity is the key as has been proven in Japan, France, China and Germany,’’ he said.

Mr Birrell said if the project eventually got off the ground, a lot of planning and thought would need to go into the exponential growth forecast.

‘‘That changes the nature and the fabric of the city. In Shepparton, we want growth and have always talked about growth. But we also have to ask ourselves what type of community we want to live in,’’ he said.

Mr Drum said CLARA had proposed a model which did not involve direct costs to government or taxpayers.

‘‘The proposal instead relied on the opportunity created by the development of two brand new cities to fund the infrastructure to support them through land value uplift,’’ he said.

‘‘I have my own level of scepticism. I need to be convinced by the business case but that’s the whole concept of what we’re doing. This will prove or disprove the viability of bullet speed trains.’’

After the business case is delivered, it will then proceed to independent assessment by Infrastructure Australia.

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