Fast rail on the agenda

THE case for Gippsland to be included in any high speed rail plans for Australia has again been mounted, despite a preferred route excluding this region.

The deadline for feedback on phase two of the Federal Government’s study on a proposed High Speed Rail network ended on 30 June.

Committee for Gippsland called for the current preferred route to be amended to include Gippsland, with potential stops in Dandenong, Warragul, Moe or Morwell, Traralgon and Bairnsdale.

As it stands, a HRN network, estimated to cost about $114 billion (in 2012) and be fully operational from 2065, would include about 1748 kilometres of “dedicated route between Brisbane-Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne”.

The phase two report revealed a “preferred alignment” including four capital city stations and four city-peripheral stations, including Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

Options for high speed rail have been part of a national conversation since the early 1980s, but disagreement on routes and an inability to secure government or private funding for the project has stalled progress.

In a submission to the Federal Government, C4G chief executive Mary Aldred cited various studies conducted over past years, including one by transport consultancy AWTY – released in March – which found the “far-reaching economic and employment benefits” of a Gippsland HSR route would outweigh the added costs and potential impacts on sensitive environmental areas, which had also been linked to the route.

“Among the benefits, including easing traffic congestion problems on the Dandenong rail corridor, the local economic growth in Gippsland for towns with stations, and regional areas near stations, Latrobe Valley towns would become commuter suburbs, easing pressure on Melbourne’s outer suburbs, and a growth in tourism for East Gippsland,” the submission said.

It promoted Gippsland’s potential for contributing economically to the project given the region’s “major contribution to the Victorian and national economies” and the “unlocked potential and numerous benefits of continuing to develop Melbourne’s south-east corridor as a higher education and employment hub”.

“With a growing population of over 2.5 million people, a fast train route through Gippsland would complement higher education and employment activity through the south-east corridor, as well as providing economic benefit to the Gippsland region,” the submission said.

The C4G urged consideration of other “pieces of work” it said featured Gippsland as a “major economic contributor” and said the phase two study excluding Gippsland deviated from “over 20 years of work already undertaken in the area of interstate fast rail travel”.