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Coalition pulls brakes on Labor’s fast-rail plans


Chugging towards a federal election, Labor has pulled out all stops in the Hunter by promising a new fast-rail link to Sydney.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says the party will prioritise the link, which could eventually see travel time between Sydney and Newcastle cut to 45 minutes.

But, the coalition pulled the brakes before the train got going, branding the plan “too expensive”.

Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said Labor needed to explain where the money would come from.

“It is $200 to $300 billion on any credible estimate,” he explained.

“That has to be paid for – and that means higher taxes.

“Mr Albanese also needs to explain why when he had six years as transport minister he didn’t deliver this project.”

However, the Labor frontman kept on track, outlining his vision for high-speed rail between Brisbane and Melbourne at a speech in Newcastle on Sunday.

The route would deliver speeds of more than 250km/h.

The most recent report into high-speed rail found the Sydney to Newcastle network should be the first component of an eventual line to Brisbane.

Mr Albanese said his government would make the works a key priority for a new High-Speed Rail Authority, and also provide $500 million funding in its first budget to begin corridor acquisition, planning and early works.

“Australia is the only inhabited continent on earth not developing high-speed rail,” he added.

“You’ll be able to jump on the train at 6.30pm and be at Sydney Olympic Park for the start of the Knights game.”

The move to buy up land in the rail corridor has been welcomed by the urban policy think tank Committee for Sydney, with CEO Gabriel Metcalf saying it would give people more choice about where they work and live.

“Better connections across this region … means we would effectively work like a bigger global city, with more economic gravitational pull,” he stated.

Mr Albanese’s speech gave some insight into how Labor thinks it can come out on top in a region marked by marginal seats, with a focus on community anger over vaccines being diverted to Sydney during the last lockdown and the controversial PEP-11 offshore petrol exploration permit.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would refuse PEP-11 in mid-December after residents’ backlash.

The coalition is also pouring resources into the Hunter, spruiking Labor’s more ambitious climate policy as a risk to local coal mining jobs.

Labor is defending its narrowly held Hunter seat with incumbent Joel Fitzgibbon stepping down at the next election.

The party is also fending off a coalition campaign in the neighbouring Hawkesbury-based seat Macquarie, the Maitland-based seat Paterson and in the Central Coast seat Dobell.

But, it’s hitting back at the Liberal-held, Gosford-based seat Robertson.

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