A who’s who of leading business and political leaders are behind a private sector consortium that has launched a high-speed rail proposal that will span Sydney to Melbourne, and which would require no public finance to deliver.

The proponents, Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), said that if the latest HSR trains were used, commuters would have travel times between Sydney and Melbourne of around two hours.

A crucial part of the plan involves constructing new cities along the route that could take the pressure off Sydney and Melbourne regarding affordability and sprawl.

The project aims to finance the $200 billion venture through value capture, by developing new cities and using the uplift in value of the land generated by the new infrastructure to fund the rail project.

According to information at the CLARA website, the plans include developing two new cities in regional Victoria and a further six in NSW.

The aim is to design and develop them as smart, sustainable cities that have high connectivity – including data connectivity – and minimal environmental footprints.

“The eight cities project can deliver critical mass in passenger numbers for the HSR network, as well as unlock the significant financial benefits to the Australian economy of inland city development,” the website said.

Deals have already been made for the acquisition of almost half the land required for both the rail corridor and the new cities, ABC news reported.

The first phase of the project is a planned high-speed link from Melbourne to the Greater Shepparton region. It estimates this phase could start within five years, and both the rail and two new cities in northern Victoria online within a decade.

The venture was founded by former vice chairman of the NSW Nationals and businessman Nick Cleary, and wealth advisor and property developer Jay Grant. Mr Cleary is CLARA’s chairman and Mr Grant managing director.

Former Minter Ellison and Sparke Hellmore lawyer Clayton Davis is the in-house counsel, and the advisory board includes former Victorian premier Steve Bracks; former partner and owner of Chicago’s Kenny Construction Phillip Kenny; former US Transportation secretary Ray Lahood; chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia Niels Marquardt; former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell; former Coalition minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb; US infrastructure finance expert Lois Scott; and founder of Empower Gas and Electric David Wilhelm.

The working group for the venture is also stellar, and includes RMIT’s Professor Ralph Horne and Dr Martin Hook; AECOM’s Joe Langley; GE Australia head of strategy and growth Suzana Ristevski, GE global growth and operations head Martin Kennedy; DLA Piper Australia partner John Gallagher; principal of SGS Economics and Planning Dr Marcus Spiller; senior research scientist CSIRO Land and Water Flagship Dr Neil Lazarow; professor of public policy and director of CSIRO’s National Outlook Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds; and commercial director of CSIRO’s Land and Water Flagship Scott Keyworth.

While the proposal has generated significant attention and praise, the Greens warned that the value capture proposal, which they said could “play a role”, might not be in the best interest of the community, with government involvement wise for a project of such magnitude.

Greens spokesperson for transport Senator Janet Rice said there were still many questions to be answered, with much of the information absent from the launch due to commercial in confidence considerations.

“Being asked to ‘just trust us’ is not good enough for a project of this scale,” she said.

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  1. There is clearly a lot to be worked out. But good on them bringing a consortium together to enable this project. I feel there will be foreign capital seeking such projects in the future, so it is important to get started now setting up the project and locking in easements.

  2. Yes, Fail. It’s a pie in the sky idea. No1, we cannot support the population we have already. We have trashed the nation’s natural capital beyond capacity.
    No2] It’s not going to solve our transport problems now. By the time it’s ready the whole nature of our economy will be different, probably sooner.
    No3]We are overdue for a economic correction, one we cannot avoid. And we will never get over it as we don’t have cheap resources as before. Remember our world is finite. this project relies on ramping up BAU. Sorry, cannot happen!
    No4]If we continue to trash our natural capital, by exporting materials and cutting down the forests and degrading soils, we will be a poor country. Unable to finance the line.
    No5] to make it profitable when all the signs are against such an outcome is not good business. The government will be forced to step in and buy it. It can easily do so but will be very unpopular.

  3. Filippo read carefully…….Line 2 “which would require no public finance to deliver”

    It has to happen, high speed rail is the way forward for people between cities. The movement of goods by existing but enhanced freight infrastructure is important too.

  4. If new cities on the route are built we need to learn lessons from the past, they should be “No Car Cities” with fast public transit pre built inexpensively on vacant land. Neighbourhoods built around transit hubs. Shopping and office developments on top of shopping at transit hubs, tall apartments at the hub out for the first 250 meters, 3 floor walkups out to 750 meters and 2 story row houses Terraces out to 1500m from transit hubs. Nothing built more than 1500m from a transit hub. Goods would also be transported at night on the transit system unloading facilities built at all hubs. All commercial, shopping and services to be fully integrated in residential areas. Industrial sites also located no more that 1500 meters from transit.
    All public services like hospitals to be at transit hubs.
    Services built in pre laid conduit with easy access from the surface, water sewer, electricity and broadband, gas supply would be ended.
    compulsory in all development, Solar Hot water, full roof solar panels.

  5. Fail. The Design does not take into account the existing environment. It is creating entities that are dependent on an Independent system. There is no symbiotic congruency with existing factors, as such it is artificial and will have a very limited life. It is not viable and sustainable. Not my tax money!