High speed rail can be tourist bonanza

HIGH-speed rail could generate more than a million tourist and commuter visits a year to Albury-Wodonga, a new report says.

High Speed Rail: benefits that add up was commissioned by Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt and released yesterday.

The party said the report revealed significant gains for the Border across several areas.

These included greater work options, a boost to tourism, better access to metropolitan health and welfare services and a strengthening of Border universities, hospitals and businesses.

Albury-Wodonga was confirmed as an essential stop on a Melbourne-Brisbane line in a federal government report released last year.

Trains would travel at up to 350km/h on the $100 billion route, although the $20 million study assumed the 1600-kilometre line would not start until 2036.

The Greens’ report, prepared by a former partner at Deloitte, was intended to be “an important precursor” to a second-phase study, Mr Bandt said.

He said while there had been much discussion of the financial costs of high-speed rail, “there has been little discussion about the financial benefits”.

“The report shows that, over 30 years, the benefits make up over half the cost of high-speed rail.”

Greens transport spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said the report predicted high-speed rail would bring families to Albury-Wodonga, including people who could commute to jobs in Melbourne and Canberra.

“People are attracted to the idea of living in regional towns like Albury-Wodonga, but finding employment is difficult,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“High-speed rail could mean that someone living in Albury could commute to the Melbourne central business district in one hour and five minutes.

“By bringing regions and towns closer together, Albury-Wodonga residents would have improved access to jobs as well as health services.”

Senator Rhiannon said students being able to commute from greater distances would strengthen the viability of La Trobe University and Charles Sturt University.

The Greens said the report’s author, Naomi Edwards, was a highly regarded member of the environmental investing community.