By Tott News
It is a bold vision: Eight new smart cities to be developed across the east coast of regional Australia, all connected by a state-of-the-art high-speed rail network.
In the following, we explore the full story of CLARA’s high-speed rail plans in Australia, including initial proposals and government submissions, The CLARA Plan, the ‘bushfire accelerator’, smart city conspiracy and deeper questions behind the narrative.
AUSTRALIA’S HIGH-SPEED VISION
High-speed rail has lurked in the background of Australian infrastructure policy since the early 1980s, but with new developments in advancing technologies, the vision is quickly becoming a reality.
Previous efforts under Labor to investigate the cost of a high speed rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane found the bill to taxpayers could be as high as $114 billion. It was shortly abandoned.
However, the plan would soon rise once again from the ashes, and this time the resurfacing would be accompanied with substantially more support and interest behind it.
In 2017, a bipartisan committee backed a new vision for high-speed rail, this time beginning from Melbourne to Sydney, and recommended proposals for a link between the two major cities and ways to raise private capital for the project.
The plan, as described by reports, will be used to “decentralise Australia’s urban population” by “opening up cheaper housing under a radical plan endorsed by a parliamentary committee”.
Under this model, instead of the Australian government sourcing new ways to raise revenues for the project, major infrastructure will be privately funded by the increase in land values that accompany the “creation of new or larger cities made possible by that infrastructure”.
The plan, which began planning in the first half of 2017, proposes running a rail line from Melbourne to Shepparton as the first stage of the overall development (more on this below).
On 20 September 2017, the Australian government released a Faster Rail Initiative Prospectus, seeking submissions for the co funding of up to three business cases for faster rail initiatives.
It was announced as part of this plan that $20 million would be allocated to the initiative during the opening phases, with policy objectives outlined in the budget summary:
Ease pressure off capital cities.
Boost regional economies.
Open up land for more housing.
Executives from Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) and Hyperloop One — the US-based project that plans to take commuters between the two cities via supersonic tubular capsules in under an hour.
Both companies submitted evidence to a Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities shortly after in Sydney. The rest, as they say, is history…