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Rudd promises high-speed rail network

Editorial
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Labor has promised to deliver high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne by 2035, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledging $52 million to get the multi-billion project up and running.

 Rudd said his government would introduce a bill to preserve a 1748 kilometre rail corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane, and set up a new committee to oversee the delivery of the infrastructure project.

"This is an exciting project for Australia's future," Rudd said.

The funding pledge comes on the back of a final report by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group which recommended completion of the first stage of a high speed rail network between Sydney and Melbourne, via Canberra, by 2035.

Once finished, a train journey between the two cities would take only two hours and 44 minutes.

The journey would stop in the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton.

Rudd said the 2035 rail plan would be cheaper than the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme, The Australian reported.

"Put that into context - what is more necessary for the nation's future?" Rudd told reporters.

"A high speed rail network which links these vital cities along Australia's east coast, or an unaffordable, unfair paid parental leave scheme?"

The second stage of the project, from Sydney to Brisbane, would be built via the Central Coast and Newcastle.

According to a pre-feasibility study released by the Labor government in April, a fast train rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane has an estimated price tag of $114 billion.

The study found the rail line was viable, with the possibility of returning $2.30 to the economy for every dollar invested.

The line could carry 84 million passengers a year, with 19 million trips between Sydney and Melbourne.

Although no money was handed down for the project in the budget earlier this year, the $52 million promised by Labor would be used to finalise the track alignment and stations locations with state governments.

It would also conduct market testing to identify private sector interest and capital cost estimates.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese talked up the economic benefits of the project.

"This is a project that stacks up," Albanese said.

"What's more it would lead to the creation of jobs, some 10,000 jobs during the construction phase."

Tony Abbott says a coalition government would focus on quick wins when it came to infrastructure funding.

"I'd much rather spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow, rather than in 40 years' time," he told reporters.

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