HIGH-speed rail advocate Tim Fischer yesterday backed a $52 million Labor promise to start preserving land for the project.
“It makes commonsense to go with corridor preservation,” he said.
“It is essential and I fully support this move.”
Mr Fischer said Labor’s announcement was in line with a report released yesterday by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, of which he is a member.
Labor backed the group’s stance that high-speed rail between Melbourne and Sydney should be ready by 2035, with stops in Albury-Wodonga, Shepparton and Wagga.
A second-stage would run from Sydney to Brisbane, taking the projected cost to $114 billion.
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said a Labor government would introduce legislation to preserve a 1748-kilometre corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane. It would also set up an authority to run the project.
The authority would finalise the track alignment and station sites with state governments.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, yesterday said a Coalition government would focus on road projects that could be started in its first term, rather than a rail project taking decades.
“I’d much rather spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow, rather than in 40 years’ time,” he said.
But Mr Fischer said not too much should be made of Mr Abbott’s comments.
“That’s perhaps the media position of Mr Abbott,” he said.
“The members along the corridor who will greatly benefit by decentralisation, the many Coalition members including my member for Farrer (Sussan Ley) who I voted for last week, will be strongly in support,” he said.
“If not, I will withdraw my support for her.”
Mr Fischer said the first step was to preserve the corridor.
“That is absolutely vital as a next step and then we’ll see, as the business case stacks up and other actions are approved, then away we’ll go from there,” he said.
Both Mr Fischer and the member for Indi Sophie Mirabella said Nationals Leader and Coalition infrastructure and transport spokesman Warren Truss would respond to the plan within a few days.
Mr Fischer said the Coalition had built the Adelaide-Darwin rail line, “which has run at an operational profit every year since 2004”.
Mrs Mirabella said the Coalition had always been a strong supporter of high-speed rail, but doubted Labor could deliver the project.
“I look at what Labor does and not what they say,” she said.
“We’ve had $700 million wasted on a substandard upgrade of the rail between Melbourne and Sydney.”