High speed rail study overlooks the need for population growth

31 October 2010

Todays terms of reference for a strategic study on a high speed rail link misses one of the most important issues, according to the Urban Taskforce.


The Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the governments own internal documents show that a big boost in population is crucial to the success of high speed rail.


Were surprised that the terms of reference seem to take existing population levels for granted, Mr Gadiel said.


Its almost setting the project up to fail.


A report for the Federal Government, prepared in March this year, said the population to justify a Sydney-Newcastle-Canberra high speed rail link simply wasnt there. The details of the report were made public in September, following a Seven Network News freedom of information request.


The report went onto to say that the projects viability would be improved by policies to boost the size and density of key population centres.


The report said that a high-speed rail network would require a minimum of six million passenger movements a year to be viable, but the briefing said 12 million to 20 million movements were more typical.


Its well understood that the best way to ensure people use public transport infrastructure, is for them to live or work within a close distance to it, Mr Gadiel said.


Massive investments in public transport will fail if there is no accompanying land use plan.


This means government efforts to support strong population growth in any region to be served by the high speed rail.


The terms of reference do not explicitly refer to the need to support increase population, or urban densities, in the regions to be served by high speed rail.


The recent federal debate on population growth seemed to entirely miss the point that new infrastructure cannot be sustainably funded without such growth.


These terms of reference have fallen into the same trap.


This is a serious oversight that should be addressed quickly.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


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