Government will not commit to high speed rail before August 2018

The $140 billion high speed rail project earmarked to pass through Forest Hill this week rattled through parliament without stopping.

Shadow transport and infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation supporting the much-hyped train for the fourth time in three years.

Mr Albenese said high speed rail would “turbo-charge the economic development of regional centres along its route”, including Wagga, the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Shepparton.

Federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester on high speed rail

“We need to take pressure off the capital cities in particular and grow the regional cities along the route,” Mr Albanese said. 

“High-speed rail's greatest strength will be its contribution to regional development.”

Former Riverina Labor candidate Tim Kurylowicz – who stood cheek-by-jowl with Mr Albenese at the proposed site of Wagga’s station back in July – railed against suggestions the project was too costly.

“We have a flat-lining economy and low interest rates, which makes it the perfect time to invest in infrastructure that will boost productivity,” Mr Kurylowicz said.

“All we need is the Coalition to have a change of heart on this one, but they don't support investment in large scale infrastructure projects.

“Labor will keep going on this, it's inevitable, the Coalition can't drag their feet forever.”

Mr Kurylowicz renewed a well-worn argument about the possible educational benefits, declaring “our school kids would be going on school excursions to opera house”.

Riverina-based former deputy prime minister and dedicated rail supporter Tim Fischer said it was “time to get on with it”.

“I believe Australia is capable of having high speed rail on the corridor between Melbourne and Sydney, through the Riverina,” Mr Fischer said.

“(Science minister) Greg Hunt came back from South Korea and Japan about a month ago and said we really do have to get serious about high speed rail.”

While in Wagga on Friday, federal infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester said the government didn’t have the money to lay tracks for a very fast train.

“I'm afraid the infrastructure investment portfolio has been fully allocated in terms of major projects in this term of government (late 2018),” Mr Chester said.

“That's not to say we don't talk to the private sector, if they have ways to fund it themselves, we're happy to have those conversations.”

In July a private firm floated the idea of a $200 billion high speed rail plan linking Sydney and Melbourne, with stops earmarked near Henty and Gundagai.

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