Forum puts case for high-speed trains

THE dream of building an inter-capital high-speed railway will be discussed at a Wodonga Council one-day conference.

Speakers will include former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, NRMA president Wendy Machin and a Australian-based official of the Central Japan Railway Company, Gen Okajima.

Mayor Mark Byatt has invited interested parties to attend the $75-a-head function at The Cube from 10.15am to 4pm on Friday, February 8.

Also on the speakers’ panel is Bryan Nye, who heads the Australasian Railway Association; Siemens’ executive manager for rail systems Matt McInnes; and Liberal federal MP John Alexander.

Mr Fischer last night said the conference would bring a focus to the route most likely to be chosen for high-speed railway.

He said Mr Okajima, represented a company that had run such trains for 50 years without a fatality.

Mr Alexander, a former professional tennis star and Davis Cup player, is a passionate advocate of fast trains.

Last year, he told Parliament: “High-speed rail from Melbourne to Sydney, just like the Harbour Bridge of 80 years ago, will open up proportionately greater tracts of land to allow for unimaginable growth now and for years to come.

“At the same time, it will release the pressure valve now choking our major cities and my community (Bennelong on Sydney’s North Shore).”

The council has long supported the concept of a 1600-kilometre high-speed railway linking Melbourne with Sydney and Brisbane.

In 2011, the federal government’s Phase One HSR Report favoured Albury-Wodonga over Shepparton as a stop, although it said any Border station would probably have to be built several kilometres to the west of the twin cities.

However, one suggested route would follow the Hume Highway and link to Canberra.

The federal report assumed such a railway wouldn’t be started until 2036 and would require massive private investment as well as public support.

More studies are continuing for the federal government.