TGG targets pollies

THE Goulburn Group (TGG) has called on both the state and federal member to put pressure on their parties to stop procrastinating on High Speed Rail (HSR).

"The question TGG has for our local MPs, Pru Goward and Alby Schultz, is: are you prepared to get on board…and put pressure on your party to get a decision now, rather than wait yet another 10 years?" head of the train watch committee Peter Fraser said.

His comments followed a forum held in Wagga Wagga last week, which advocated for the establishment of a HSR between Sydney and Melbourne. The meeting was organised by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and hosted by the Federal member for Riverina, Michael McCormack.

It aimed to promote HSR as a viable and necessary alternative to the current “logjam of air transport” between the two state capitals.

Mr Fraser represented Goulburn at the forum, along with Mayor Geoff Kettle, and said many of the myths about the mode of transport were "well and truly debunked" by the guest speakers, which included Sydney University's Professor David Hensher and the CEO of ARA, Bryan Nye.

"We hear so often the argument that there are not enough people in Australia to justify HSR yet the Sydney to Melbourne corridor has more air traffic on it than any sector in either the USA or Europe" Mr Fraser said.

One example given on the day was the situation of Madrid to Barcelona. The HSR there joins two cities over 600 kilometres apart that both have populations lower than Sydney and Melbourne. Several speakers spoke about Sydney and Melbourne as "mega cities" when compared to most cities in either Europe or America.

"It became abundantly clear that there is well and truly enough people in this corridor to support HSR right now, let alone in another ten years that it will take to build such a large project," Mr Fraser said.

"The only issue is political will from both sides of politics. Dale Budd, a long time consultant on rail infrastructure, outlined the pitiful history of past Liberal and Labor governments passing up the chance to bite the bullet and make a decision. And, as Mr Minesaki pointed out, HSR has a big impact on reducing carbon emissions and this is a very important issue for The Goulburn Group.”

As for the cost of such a project, Professor Hensher pointed out that the total benefit to the whole country would be in the order of two per cent of Gross Domestic Product, which is well over the cost of building the project.

"Taken together with the fact that it will be a staged project over ten years, and that it will delay the need for a second airport by as much as 30 years or more, no wonder Mr McInnes said it was a 'nobrainer'," Mr Fraser said.

Cr Kettle said the highlight of the day was the wider economic and social benefits that HSR can bring to regional centres such as Goulburn.

"A presentation by Mr Tomokazu Minesaki of the central Japan Railway Company's Sydney office highlighted the growth of regional centres along the length of Japan's Tokaido Shinkansen Bullet Train between Tokyo and Shin- Osaka", Mr Kettle said

"A HSR with Goulburn on the alignment would mean strong growth for the area which would reduce social exclusion, provide closer access to jobs, benefit long term productivity gains and attract business investment.

"I am exploring the possibility of hosting a similar event in Goulburn so that our community here can see the benefits that High Speed Rail can bring to this region."

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