Private consortium secures land for High Speed Rail

A Very Fast Train prototype. 
Image supplied
A Very Fast Train prototype. Image supplied

A PRIVATE company has already secured land purchase options to build a city and station near Goulburn as part of its ambitious high speed rail project.

At an anticipated 400,000 people it would dwarf Goulburn but turbo-charge economic growth, a company claims.

It would be one of eight cities to be built along the 915km Sydney to Melbourne route, chairman and founder of Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), Nick Cleary said.

His company is driving the $200 billion, 40-year high speed rail project, using 'value capture' or a profit margin to developers building along the corridor. Hume MP Angus Taylor, who sat on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, chaired by Bennelong MP John Alexander, has also spruiked the method.

The project is also highly reliant on overseas investment, but not Government money, Mr Cleary says.

If realised, a trip from Sydney to Canberra could take 20 minutes, and Sydney to Melbourne - 110 minutes.

CLARA is exploring various technologies used overseas.

Mr Cleary, who grew up on a dairy farm in the Southern Highlands, has a background in regional development and agribusiness.

A "passion" for the regions is fuelling his ambition to finally realise high-speed-rail.

On Friday he was not giving away any secrets about a second city for Goulburn Mulwaree.

"(But) we have already secured land options for a station and a city there," Mr Cleary said.

“We’ll be respecting their confidentiality until we’re ready to lodge a development application.

“We’ve secured 40 per cent of the city sites and we need to work in cooperation with the State Government to secure the corridor, which we’re very keen to do.

“...Irrespective of whether we do it or not, one day there will be high-speed-rail so it’s crucial the corridor is secured. We’re holding talks with all three tiers of government and we’re buoyed by talks to date.”

On Friday he spoke to Mayor Geoff Kettle, who chairs the Coalition of Councils in Support of High-Speed-Rail. It comprises some 18 councils between Campbelltown and Melbourne, plus the ACT Government, which has continually lobbied for the technology.

Mr Cleary said the cities would be built on greenfield sites no more than 15 minutes from existing regional ones.

“We are looking to create smart, sustainable cities in reasonable proximity giving all the advantages of being next to a large centre but not overburdening or compromising the existing regional cities,” he said.

They would harness renewable energy, modern technology, “the best” water and waste systems and be pedestrian friendly.

The company envisions 100,000 to 200,000 dwellings in each city, accommodating 200,000 to 400,000 people. Mr Cleary said there would undoubtedly be an affect on Goulburn. But rather than detract, he argued it would super charge economic development.

The CLARA executive team Jay Grant, Alex Johnson, Nick Cleary, Clayton Davis and Mark Doyle.

The CLARA executive team Jay Grant, Alex Johnson, Nick Cleary, Clayton Davis and Mark Doyle.

He cited an earlier Greens study predicting a $48bn benefit for the regions.

“High speed rail will be a great advantage to Goulburn Mulwaree and we think without us, it will never be done,” he said.

“...There’s always conjecture about how cities should grow and the best way to handle urban sprawl...People don’t know their neighbours anymore and to do anything, they have to hop in a car and travel. We don’t think that has to be the case. These will be true 10 minute cities.”

He did not think major cities should be the main beneficiaries of Australia’s anticipated population growth.

Other cities are planned for the Wingecarribee Shire, Yass Valley, Gundagai Shire, Albury, Berrigan Shire, City of Greater Shepparton and the Shire of Strathbogle.

Stage one, costing $13bn and to be operational within 10 years, would connect Greater Shepparton with Melbourne.

“If there’s political will over the next three years we believe we could start construction of rail and the first city within five years,” Mr Cleary said.

Stage two is Sydney to the Southern Highlands. Mr Cleary said the consortium could be turning soil in Goulburn Mulwaree in seven years, with high speed rail operational within 15 years.

CLARA’s advisory board includes former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and retired federal trade minister Andrew Robb.

Mr Cleary was confident of securing the necessary capital, which would also pay for land on the corridor.

“We’re not worried about it,” he said. “The private sector is willing and waiting and there is a global appetite for it. What’s missing is the cooperation of state, federal and local government.”