The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has said any proposal for a “very fast train” between Melbourne and Sydney should undergo a cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia.
The comments are in response to a proposal by Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), an Australian-based consortium that says it has secured almost 20,000ha for new development sites along the rail corridor.
CLARA says it will present an unsolicited bid to the Prime Minister within the first half of 2017, funded by ”value capture”.
Managing Director of the Australian Logistics Council, Michael Kilgariff, said infrastructure funds were too scarce to commit to any significant project unless it had the full scrutiny of Infrastructure Australia.
“There is a real risk that funds which ought to be devoted to worthwhile projects, such as inland rail, will be squandered on the very fast train (VFT) project,” Mr Kilgariff said.
“ALC firmly believes that major projects need to have an independent detailed cost-benefit analysis.
“To date all VFT proposals have failed any rigorous cost-benefit analysis. If anything the VFT case will become weaker in the light of the approval of Sydney’s second airport.
“Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List has identified inland rail as a priority project, noting the long-term benefits to potential users of the project, users of alternative infrastructure, and the broader economy.
“The trouble with committing to a VFT is that it would divert funds from more worthwhile projects, such as inland rail, at a time when the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne passenger corridor is reasonably well-served.”
Mr Kilgariff said there were also grounds for caution and scepticism about plans to “value capture” increases in land prices to fund infrastructure – as shown in the ALC Submission to the 2016 Federal Government Discussion Paper Using Value Capture to Help Deliver Major Land Transport Infrastructure.
“Proponents often couch big infrastructure proposals as “no cost to government”, but inevitably taxpayers are asked to contribute and they are entitled to demand value for money and wise allocation of resources,” Mr Kilgariff said.