Is High Speed Rail the new NBN?

The National Public Toilet Map - East Melbourne

The Federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, released the Terms of Reference on the weekend for the High Speed Rail (HSR) study promised during the election campaign.

I’m very disappointed with Mr Albanese’s approach. He says the first phase of the study, which will be completed by July 2011, will:

focus on identifying possible routes, corridor preservation and station options, including city-centre, city-periphery and airport stations. This will provide a basis for route development, indicative transit times and high-level construction costs.

That reads to me like a straight up and down business plan. The key questions it seeks to answer are nothing more than: is there a feasible route? is it affordable? and, where will the money come from?

This is most definitely not a cost-benefit analysis. We already know that HSR will never work without a heap of taxpayer’s money. Yet there’s no suggestion here that it should first be established whether or not it’s a good idea – do we need to do it? Why would we want to do it? What will the consequences be for other industries?

Since when did it become accepted wisdom that HSR is such ‘a good thing’ that it’s not necessary to make a case for it? Read the rest of this entry »

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