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Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the money would begin corridor acquisition and planning as a first step towards high-speed rail.
Mr Albanese addressed a gathering of around 100 Labor Party members at Cooks Hill Surf Club this morning.
He said a Labor government would "prioritise" fast rail between Sydney and Newcastle as a first step towards high-speed rail.
"If I'm elected prime minister, I want ours to be the first government that actually gets work underway on high-speed rail," he said.
"My vision is for high-speed rail that runs from Brisbane to Melbourne.
"Under a Labor government I lead, the High-Speed Rail Authority will make the corridor from Newcastle to Sydney, which includes stops at the Central Coast, its first priority.
Mr Albanese toured Hamilton Railway Station during his visit.(ABC Newcastle: Liz Farquhar)"We'll start with a fast-rail corridor but we'll plan and build for the move to high-speed rail.
"Faster rail would see travel times from Newcastle to Sydney cut to just two hours, and once high-speed rail is up and running, this journey would only take 45 minutes."
Mr Albanese promised that Labor would set aside $500 million in its first budget to begin corridor acquisition, planning and early works for fast rail.
Want more local news? Sign up to ABC Newcastle's weekly email newsletter.Focus on fast rail welcomeBusiness Hunter chief executive Bob Hawes welcomed the announcement, saying it brought the focus on the need for such infrastructure.
"I think COVID has shone a light on this regionalisation of people moving away from capital cities to regional areas," he said.
"There's been enough studies done now to emphasise how important fast rail is for better connectivity.
Bob Hawes welcomes the focus on the need for faster rail journeys.(ABC Newcastle: Garth Russell )"I don't think there's any doubt about the benefits, the issue now is that it's a very costly project no matter which way we look at it.
"To get some federal government focus on it and put it higher up the ranking of importance would be welcome from both sides of government."
Mr Hawes was more philosophical about the likelihood of getting high-speed rail in the Hunter region.
"To go to high-speed rail, that's another orbit again," he said.
"The difficulty that the region faces in getting that to stack up against other priorities across the nation is always going to be an interesting exercise.
"But it's one that generally has support from this region so that connectivity between these big markets on the east coast of Australia can be improved."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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