Don't ignore Albury-Wodonga

High-speed rail has gone from pipe-dream to a serious consideration in recent years, though of course that doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen.

The sheer cost of a Sydney to Melbourne line – in the tens of billions of dollars, plus some – means it is something that would require many years of planning.

And even before detailed planning gets under way, it has to be clearly determined that this is a viable project for a whole range of reasons.

Given that the Sydney to Melbourne run is one of the busiest air routes in the world it would be reasonable in the first place to assume high-speed rail would attract enough users.

But one of the major issues to be determined will be the path the train would take.

A recent study found that a preferred route would take a high-speed service past Albury-Wodonga, which would be one of a handful of stops.

Given that this is the route used for rail and road freight, it certainly makes sense at an economic level.

There are always going to be noises from elsewhere – other regions jostling to have their voice heard on the benefits to the project (and primarily, the economic boost to their towns) from a decision being made to have a different route.

Seemingly it would make a lot of sense though to take the busiest route, which in turn would allow for considerable economic benefits from a stop in such a major regional centre as Albury-Wodonga.

But part of the debate over high-speed rail has included a recent proposal for such a mammoth project to effectively be funded by land speculation.

The idea is that parcels of land would be bought up cheaply for a different route, which in turn would be developed into all-new communities. The considerably marked-up cost of land for these new frontier residents would offset the huge cost.

This though is an idea that the mayors of both Albury and Wodonga say is fundamentally flawed and totally “unfair”.

Their argument, put in a joint submission to the federal inquiry into the Australian government’s role in the development of cities, basically argues that it makes no sense to not make the most of what we have already got.

It is indeed, as councillors Speedie and Mack argue, a folly to skirt around those regions that are already doing it all so well.