Greens put fast rail back on track

After 25 years of planning, high-speed rail between Newcastle and Melbourne may become reality after the newly empowered Greens pledged to make it a key issue when they assume the balance of power in the Senate next year.The new NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon told the Herald that fast trains, running at up to 350 km/h between Sydney and Melbourne, had been one of the party’s most prominent policies during the election campaign.The Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, announced the policy in April and his colleague, Scott Ludlam, repeated it in July, during the federal campaign. ”There wasn’t a speech that Bob gave that didn’t mention high-speed rail as a priority,” Ms Rhiannon said.”Bob said we are not demanders – and we’re not going to say that you have to give us this if you want that – but this has been a clear and consistent commitment from the Greens and we will pursue it.”The Sydney-Melbourne corridor is the fourth-busiest route for passenger aircraft in the world and the Australasian Railway Association believes the population growth in both cities will boost the market for a service directly between the Sydney and Melbourne central business districts.Ms Rhiannon – who, as a NSW MP, campaigned for improved urban public transport – said the Greens would consider amending any legislation dealing with infrastructure that came before the Senate. ”If the opportunity comes up in the context of legislation, the Greens would inject that [a clause or amendment on high-speed rail],” she said.During the campaign, the federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, announced a $20 million, 18-month study into the viability of high-speed rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The Nationals leader, Warren Truss, also committed the Coalition to high-speed rail.The new Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, whose support will be crucial in forming a minority government, has also committed to a fast link between the two major cities. ”It was very much a part of his campaign,” a Greens spokeswoman said.If the Gillard government retains office, Ms Rhiannon said the Greens would campaign for the rail plan in Mr Albanese’s inner Sydney electorate of Grayndler.
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