Urban development in eastern Australia is concentrated along the coast, creating congestion and imposing constraints on productivity, employment and the nation’s overall economic performance. Very fast trains will be needed for the future transport of passengers and freight. There is a compelling case to provide for future options by preserving civil ready corridors now: acquisition is cheaper now than later; benefits are gained from the creation of shared infrastructure corridors; and there is scope for incremental improvements in capacity.
Preserving an infrastructure corridor means that development that would preclude future infrastructure from occurring on that land is not permitted. This saves money in the long-term, and often with very little upfront costs. There is also less by way of community impacts in securing corridors sooner rather than later. Related value capture development is also more likely to eventuate with the trends towards industrial estates, higher density housing, and commercial property developments. Australia is in a position to learn from other countries that are developing high-speed rail but face a substantial expense to acquire the corridors. At present, planning in Australia is confined to upgrading existing corridors, rather than taking a more strategic approach to cater for longer-term requirements. A coordinated, longer-term view would support the metropolitan planning principles established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and a recent Senate committee report on transport.
This report aims to trigger a generational change in Australian infrastructure policy and planning to meet the nation’s futureneeds in circumstances that take into account population growth and demographic change. An essential pre-requisite is to define land corridors for infrastructure to meet changing demands froman economic, social and environmental perspective, with the ultimate aim of facilitating the development of high speed rail for both passenger and freight transport on the east coast from Melbourne to Brisbane.
While building a very fast train tomorrow from Melbourne to Brisbane would be desirable, it may not be feasible for years or decades. This report instead advocates an evidence based scenario for long-term infrastructure planning and its incremental implementation over the decades ahead in line with demonstrated demand. A long-term approach, which begins to deliver improvement and tangible benefits in the medium term, is essential to overcome problems and constraints that are already evident and progressively becoming more acute. It will require a national approach that first identifies and preserves appropriate corridor networks in the east coast capital cities and ultimately connecting the major east coast population centres while aligning to other projects in Australia. An integrated approach to critical infrastructure corridors state-to-state, region-to-region, requires long-term vision and governance. As is the situation in many developed countries, Australia’s existing corridors are short on capacity. Nationally, domestic freight movement doubled to 521 billion tonne kilometres over the 20 years to 2007, and analysis undertaken by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia estimated that freight volumes will triple over the period to 2050, increasing to 1540 tonne kilometres per annum1. Rising freight volumes coincide with congestion reaching critical levels on rail systems in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, on metropolitan roads and in the principal air corridors.