From Sydney to Shepparton councils have thrown their support behind a high-speed rail network and pop-up cities.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on October 20, 2017

You could live in Canberra and work in Sydney or vice versa, or you could even commute into the Sydney CBD from Melbourne.

This is the future reality presented by private group Clara or Consolidated Land and Rail Australia.

CEO Nick Cleary has tabled a proposal for a high-speed rail network between Melbourne and Sydney, with a link to Canberra.

Using the Japanese superconducting magnetic levitation train as a guideline, the group says it would take just an hour and fifty minutes to travel between the Victorian and NSW capitals, and just 48 minutes between Canberra and Sydney.

On top of that, the group’s vision includes building three “second tier” cities (with populations of 400,000) between Canberra and Sydney, and two along a Melbourne and Greater Shepparton route.

The vision is a step closer to reality now, after Mr Cleary received written support from two councils along the Victorian corridor and three councils along the Sydney to Canberra stretch.

Who will pay for it?

The combined cost for the cities and rail network from Sydney to Melbourne is estimated to be $126 billion, but under the group’s private-based value capture model, taxpayers would not be lumped with the cost.

“The finance would come mainly out of Asia — we have interest from three different countries,” he said. “The funding mechanism comes out of the value creation from the cities.

“So, we’ve secured land in those regions on which to build our cities. When we turn that land from agricultural land to high-value residential, retail, commercial and industrial land — the value created from that is ample enough to give us the resources to offset the capital costs of the large scale infrastructure. This is the high-speed rail, but also the major infrastructure in each of our cities.

The value created from that is ample enough to give us the resources to offset the capital costs of the large scale infrastructure

“Each of our cities will have a capital investment of around $3 billion to provide major infrastructure such as water systems, waste systems, sporting facilities, arts and culture, emergency services, medical services and schools.”

Political support

Mr Cleary says the only obstacle for the project is getting political support on all levels.

In April this year, The Australian reported that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was sceptical of the concept. However, a spokesperson did say, “The NSW government would consider a proposal for high-speed rail if one was made, but support would depend on the financial viability.”

Mr Cleary also has the heavyweight support of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Liberal MP John Alexander, who chairs a parliamentary committee examining future transport options.

As The Australian points out, “the project cannot work without co-operation from the NSW and Victorian governments, which would be involved in construction regardless of private funding because of the need to “cut a trench” on rail property next to 30km of suburban train lines near CBD areas.

“Suburban trains would need to be shifted to new tracks during construction. State governments would need to approve large tracts of private land for a rail corridor in regional areas, and vet environmental impact studies.”

The group is looking to start construction on the Sydney to Canberra route in 2021 and believes its cities could be operational by 2026.