The dream of Canberra being linked to east coast capitals by high-speed rail is a step closer to reality with the announcement of a new multi-sector consortium’s bid to build the massive infrastructure project.
Private group Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) said the consortium – which includes Japanese company Hitachi, infrastructure services company Cardno and the CSIRO – would deliver its proposal in response to the Federal Government’s Faster Rail Initiative Prospectus, which is seeking submissions for the co-funding of up to three business cases for faster rail initiatives.
CLARA plans to use the land value capture model along the route to fund and build eight inland ‘smart’ cities in conjunction with a high-speed rail network connecting Sydney and Melbourne via Canberra. It did put a cost on the project but estimates show that it would be more than $100 billion.
CLARA believes the 35-year eight cities project can deliver critical mass in passenger numbers for the HSR network, as well as unlock the significant financial benefits to the Australian economy of inland city development.
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It says it is agnostic about technology and will choose the best on offer if its proposal is accepted. CLARA says research shows that there are at least four viable, currently available technologies that would enable CLARA to achieve its faster rail projections, including magnetic levitation and traditional systems.
CLARA’s proposal has three distinct stages which it says are commercially viable in their own right. The first two to be built concurrently are Melbourne to Greater Shepparton with two CLARA cities and then Sydney to Canberra with three CLARA cities.
The Sydney to Canberra corridor will deliver 501,000 new dwellings over 35 years, accommodating about 1.2 million people. The Melbourne to Shepparton corridor involves 334,000 new dwelling allotments accommodating 801,000 people.
The entire project will include the construction of stations in each of the eight new cities as well as high-speed rail platforms being developed for Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra.
CLARA says that in the construction phase alone more than 55,000 jobs will be created in the Sydney to Canberra corridor and over 45,000 jobs in the Melbourne to Greater Shepparton corridor.
It is also working with ‘employment sponsors’ from the United States and Asia who will provide the initial 5,000 to 10,000 jobs in each of the new cities and attract small to medium enterprises that will provide true job generation as the city evolves.
CLARA CEO Nick Cleary said the CLARA Jobs Plan would ensure there was organic growth within the cities from day one.
“This is not a traditional development, no one will move into our cities without the major infrastructure, including the high-speed rail, already being in place. There will be no waiting for schools, shops, and health care – they will be there from day one.”
Mr Cleary said Australia was facing a choice. “We either do nothing and continue the overcrowded megacity model, leading to a more fractured society, where people see little of their families and do not even know their neighbours, where housing prices of ‘The Australian dream’ are out of reach of the average Australian, leading to a further disintegration of the social fabric, or we can take a deep breath, hit the ‘pause button’ on our largest cities and provide a master plan that not only provides a smart choice for the region, the state, and the nation, but also to develop communities that reflect the best of Australian capability, and our aspirations in the 21st century.”
The consortium also includes DLA Piper, McCrindle Research, Slattery QS and Advisory, Roberts Day, Clarke Hopkins Clarke, V2i, Power Ledger, The Space Agency, SilverSun Pictures and New Best Friend graphic design.
Financial modelling will be undertaken by PwC, who will join the CLARA team as it progresses past stage 1 of the prospectus process.