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Australia's labor party plans $18 million study into high-speed rail line

(Bloomberg News circulated the following story by Robert Fenner on August 5, 2010.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Australian government will conduct a feasibility study into construction of a high-speed rail network along the nation’s east coast if the incumbent Labor party wins this month’s election.

The 18-month study will start later this year and cost as much as A$20 million ($18 million), Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said in a e-mailed statement today. The network would run from Brisbane to Melbourne and include Sydney, linking the nation’s three largest cities.

While countries such as China, France and Japan have extensive high-speed networks, successive Australian governments have balked at the cost of a system that serves only half the nation’s 22 million people. The 90-minute Sydney to Melbourne flight is Australia’s busiest, while a train trip between the two cities on the existing network takes about 11 hours.

“High-speed rail has the potential to cut travel times for people commuting between capital cities like Sydney,” Albanese said in the statement “We are committed to supporting our major cities and tackling the increasing productivity costs of urban and traffic congestion.”

More than 7.5 million passengers traveled by air between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities, in the 12 months through May, according to government data.

The Labor government of Bob Hawke rejected a high-speed rail network in the 1980s as uneconomic while a similar plan was shelved by the Liberal-National party government under John Howard, who lost power in 2007.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

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