Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Page: 18554

Mr MOSSFIELD (11:27 AM) —In speaking on the response of the federal government to the reports Planning not patching, Tracking Australia, Revitalising rail and Progress in rail reform, I would like to talk about the very high speed train proposal being considered by the federal government which is highlighted in the Revitalising rail report. The preferred option being considered by the federal government, the Speedrail consortium, is to use the TGV technology that is currently operating in eight European countries. This project has the potential to lift the Australian passenger rail network into the 21st century and provide interstate travellers with an alternative to air transport. There would be a further spin-off in that interstate air movements into Kingsford Smith airport would be reduced considerably and the noise and air pollution surrounding the airport would be reduced.

For the VFT project to be successful, it has to adopt some of the efficiencies and sophistication of the European rail networks, particularly the Swiss system. To be an alternative to air transport, rail needs to jump ahead of air in terms of technology and service to the general public. It needs to deliver passengers into the central business districts of Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane at comparable times to air and it needs to compete with air in terms of cost.

A private sector task force set up by the federal government to report on how to revitalise rail in Australia has presented its report—the one that I am speaking to now entitled Revitalising rail—which, in reference to the very fast train concept, states:

The taskforce considers that very high speed trains have the potential to make a major contribution to Australia's long term transport needs and that this potential must be assessed as part of the development of a national transport strategy.

If very high speed trains are found to have the potential to make a significant contribution to a national transport strategy, then the Canberra-Sydney V.H.S.T project represents a major opportunity to turn this potential into a reality. However, the government's handling of this proposal has suffered from the lack of a national approach to major interstate rail proposals.

While there have been some encouraging statements made by the Prime Minister concerning the very fast train proposal, I think the government's official response still lacks a sense of urgency. I think it can be summarised by simply saying that the outcome of the Sydney-Canberra very fast train proposal has not yet been determined.

With the estimated capacity of Kingsford Smith airport of 360,000 aircraft movements per year likely to be reached by the year 2009 or 2010—if nothing is done to either increase the capacity or to reduce the number of aircraft movements—there is a need to consider the impact of the Speedrail proposal on Kingsford Smith airport's capacity in the context of airport congestion. My comments are based on information provided by the Sydney-Canberra Speedrail Consortium. We should consider the full completion of the Speedrail proposal from Brisbane to Melbourne, via Sydney and Canberra, in three stages. If only one stage—Sydney to Canberra—were completed, the need to expand Sydney's airport capacity could be put back by some two years. If stages 1 and 2 were completed—Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne—the need to expand Sydney's airport would be put back by eight years. However, if the Brisbane-Melbourne link were completed, the need to expand Sydney's airport would be deferred by at least 20 years.

The interesting point made by Speedrail is that the major proportion of aircraft diversion would result from the Sydney-Brisbane sector. This sector includes the three large urban centres of Brisbane, Coolangatta and Newcastle as well as significant regional centres such as Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree and Lismore. This would suggest that this sector should be considered prior even to the Canberra-Melbourne link. The overall impact of the Speedrail proposal within stages or on completion of the project will result in a reduction in the number of aircraft using Kingsford Smith airport, with a corresponding reduction in pollution.

Mr Wal King, who is Leighton Holdings' chief executive, recently addressed the ACT regional chamber of commerce and industry dinner, and he predicted that the Sydney to Canberra journey could be completed within 90 minutes. Mr King predicted that the project would create 15,000 jobs during the construction stage and a further 2,400 permanent jobs once the rail link was completed. Hourly services are planned, with stops at Canberra, Goulburn, the Southern Highlands, Macarthur and Sydney domestic and international airports. There would be considerable benefits to these regional locations through improved accessibility. Improvement in public transport systems would encourage more businesses to locate in these regions, therefore increasing economic growth and local employment. There would also be considerable environmental benefits resulting from the Speedrail concept such as reduced aircraft movements and the corresponding reduction in noise and air pollution.

The future of Kingsford Smith airport and the possible development of Badgerys Creek airport are linked very closely with the very fast train proposal. A recent report released by Access Economics Sydney gateways in the 21st century states:

2016 is the earliest possible timing for the Badgerys Creek Airport assuming the most favourable economic circumstances.

I think this is an important timetable to consider when we are looking at the integration of air and rail transport. There would be some people who would see the building of Badgerys Creek airport as a fairly quick solution to our air pollution in Sydney. However, that independent report indicates that it would not be economically viable to have an airport at Badgerys Creek at least until 2016 and possibly later. This framework, however, does allow for the speedy development of the Speedrail proposal and would allow for a better integration of rail and air transport over the next five to 10 years.

I would like to finish by summarising some of the advantages of stage 1 of the Speedrail proposal between Sydney and Canberra. Speedrail's TGV technology will link Sydney and Canberra in about 80 to 90 minutes at a phenomenal speed of 320 kilometres per hour, or one kilometre every 11 seconds. Speedrail will offer a range of fares, Qantas service and even Frequent Flyer points, as well as the ability to use mobile phones and computers—which I think we would all agree is rather a drawback when one is travelling by air. Stops at Sydney and Canberra airports will create significant efficiencies in aircraft movements, particularly in Sydney, and will also take an estimated one million cars per year off the Hume Highway.

Speedrail will be investing an estimated $3.7 billion into the economy, creating 15,000 jobs during construction and over 2,000 permanent jobs. Many of these will be in the regional areas. Experience from France indicates development along the route will generate another 4,000 jobs. TGV technology is clean, electric technology, which uses significantly less energy per passenger than either planes or cars. There will be access across the line for people, native animals and livestock, and farming will not be disturbed. Speedrail will create a job corridor, reversing the steady decline of rural employment in the region. It will also enhance the tourist potential of towns and cities along the route.

I will conclude by highlighting what I believe to be the big advantage of rail to our economy: the creation of jobs. I have a bit of a vested interest because my first job was as a railway apprentice. If you look at the situation today and the number of people and the apprentices who are being trained in industry, you will see a decline in the training of apprentices in the aircraft industry, as we have all seen in relation to Qantas. However, I do believe that rail has the potential and the willingness to train more apprentices.

If you look at the technology in comparing the two forms of transport, you will see we do not build any major aircraft in Australia. For that reason, I suggest that most of the repairs, parts, et cetera, come from overseas; aircraft can be, and are, flown overseas for repairs. Take these points into consideration and then look at the rail industry, where you will see that most of the work for this new project would have to be performed in Australia. That would create a pool of employment which, in the long term, would be to the great advantage of the people of Australia and to the economy in general. I am happy to speak on this report.