New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has opened the crypt containing all the desperation policies for when the opinion polls are down the toilet and an election is looming. She has promised to spend $4.6 million ‘planning’ fast rail routes in New South wales. The routes to be considered are Sydney-Newcastle, Sydney-Lithgow-Bathurst-Parkes, Sydney-Wollongong-Nowra or Sydney-Goulburn-Canberra. She has asked British rail expert Andrew McNaughton to do an assessment of these various routes. The cost of building a high-speed train system from Sydney to Newcastle is estimated at upwards of $40 billion, because much of it would have to be in tunnels1. The leader of the NSW Opposition, Michael Daley, has been less than kind, noting that the government has struggled to build a light rail line between Sydney’s CBD and the southeast of the city and he finds it difficult to believe that they could build such a massive railway system. This desperate gambit by Berejiklian comes only five months after the Labor Opposition promised to do the same1.
This suggestion has been raised before numerous times (more often than I can remember). In 2011, a feasibility study into a very fast train along the route Brisbane-Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne was released. It was expected to cost $108 billion, and the late, great, Mark Colvin did a story on ABC radio’s PM playfully rolling a tape, supposedly reported by David Mark. In that, David Mark started “A very fast train will run between Sydney and Melbourne on a specially designed track. Travelling at a speed of 350 kilometres an hour, it will be the fastest train in the world. The Sydney-Melbourne journey will take just three hours.” Mark Colvin then interrupted, saying: “Sorry, wrong tape. That wasn’t David Mark, it was Gordon Taylor from PM in 19892 (there was a federal election in 19903). Let’s try again.” David Mark then continued: “Sounds familiar doesn’t it? A very fast train: three hours between Sydney and Melbourne. Millions of passengers. Competitive prices …”. He then ran a recording of then Labor Transport Minister Anthony Albanese spruiking this latest feasibility study. David Mark mentioned that CSIRO’s Dr Paul Wild had championed the concept from the 1980s. Colvin then played a recording of himself from 1998 relating that the then Coalition federal government said: “within five years Australians might be able to catch a very fast train from Sydney to Canberra”2. After the federal election was won in 19983, this project, ‘Speedrail 2000’ was cancelled by the federal government in 20002.
This latest effort is just another desperate announcable by Berejiklian before the election, which is due in March, 20194. Berejiklian is hopeful this will offset the shemozzle she has got herself into by attempting the demolition of perfectly serviceable sports stadia to rebuild them, when that money could be better spent on schools, hospitals and sundry other things from which the populace would benefit. The Labor Party have said they will stop this reconstruction happening should they with the March election5. It is suspected that this plan by the Berejiklian government is a way of them laundering much-needed money. To get the stadia rebuilt they hand out contracts to companies, which then make donations to the Coalition government. It is a common technique.