Former Mayor Geoff Kettle has backed calls for councils to secure the corridor for high speed rail.
Mr Kettle, now stakeholder engagement manager with Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), the company vying to build high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne, was speaking following release of Infrastructure Australia’s report on Friday.
The report warned that buying necessary land from developers in future would cost $3.56 billion as opposed to $720m currently.
The document identified 60km of land in outer Melbourne and Sydney as under development pressure. While these pressures were less in rural areas, the report stated that authorities needed “to be alert to the possibility that any failure to identify and protect a corridor could have adverse consequences.”
It also urged the preservation of areas for stations and cities along the route outlined in its draft 2013 study.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council is trying to lure industry and business from western Sydney, where land pressures are coming to bear. While Mr Kettle doesn’t believe this will conflict greatly with the rail corridor, he agrees wholeheartedly with the report.
“It’s what I’ve said all along; corridor protection is pivotal to high-speed rail,” he said.
“All councils must have it in the back of their mind that this corridor could go through their area, even though the route is yet to be determined.
“Infrastructure Australia is correct. It will only get dearer if we don’t do it now.”
His role is to meet with councils and business chambers along the route that CLARA has loosely identified. It roughly aligns with Infrastructure Australia’s route, but differs in several places, including Goulburn where it travels west around the city, not east.
Under the CLARA model, tracks would be elevated, meaning that land would only need to be secured for easements and crossings. The company has bought options for 50 per cent of the land needed for eight cities along the route.
Mr Kettle said while it was a State responsibility to secure the corridor, CLARA could play a private enterprise role through buying the options.
The company met with the State Government last week, drumming up support for its high-speed rail project.
Mr Kettle said the organisation would soon meet with the Victorian Government as well.
“We’re also continually meeting with councils along the corridor. Goulburn Mulwaree and (Mayor) Bob Kirk have picked up the mantle and run with it and we’re also working with government and (the State’s appointed regional infrastructure coordinator) Ken Gillespie,” he said.
Mr Kettle previously chaired the Coalition of Councils in Support in Support of High Speed Rail.
He dubbed CLARA’s concept as a regionalisation plan. Eight 10,000 acre ‘smart cities’ are planned along the route, four of them in NSW, including one north of Goulburn.
CLARA chairman Nick Cleary recently told a Goulburn Chamber of Commerce meeting the cities would be dominated by apartments but there would also be single dwellings. Mr Kettle said while some people might see these as a “bit George Jetsonish,” they offered choice.
“Do people want to live in a modern greenfield site or in a beautiful heritage city like Goulburn?” he asked.
Mr Kettle argued that overseas settlement strategies were going this way and Australia also had to consider its population was estimated to grow by 14 million people by 2050.
The company will lodge an unsolicited bid for the $200 billion fast rail project to the NSW, Victorian and Federal Governments by August.
It is vying for a slice of the State’s $20m allocation to assist three business cases for faster rail connectivity. Mr Kettle expected Spanish high-speed rail company, Talgo, would also apply. Talgo wants to run tilt trains between Sydney and Canberra, halving the four-hour journey.
“CLARA fully supports the work the NSW Government is doing with Talgo in improving train services between Sydney and Canberra,” Mr Kettle said.
“It’s great that that everyone is ramping up the conversation about faster connectivity.”
Meantime, Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor Bob Kirk said the council could only protect the corridor so much.
“High speed rail has been talked about forever but they’ve never identified a route,” he said.
“...It would be very helpful from a planning point of view, whether that’s CLARA’s project or another, to know where it’s going to go.”
He did not see a conflict with the council’s bid to entice outer Sydney business, saying a fast train could run either side of Goulburn.
Cr Kirk said he wouldn’t get excited until something happened but he found the prospect of a 30-minute trip to Sydney “hugely exciting” and of benefit to Goulburn.
He and council general manager Warwick Bennett have met with Mr Cleary several times.