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Business leader Maurice Newman has become the first corporate heavyweight to throw their weight behind a high-speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne.
Dr Newman said the high-speed rail link was an “idea whose time had come” and it could be achieved using Japanese technology and capital.
Mr Newman, who heads the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, said the journey from Sydney to Newcastle by rail was now slower than it was under steam.
A $110 billion high-speed rail link would tackle the “diseconomies of scale” in traffic-choked Sydney and Melbourne while providing a boost for regions along the route.
“I am an extremely dry and hard-nosed person when it comes to government projects … but the time that you waste in a car or a bus between your place of residence and your work, that has a cost, and that cost is clearly rising,’’ the former ASX and ABC chairman said.
Mr Newman recently visited Japan as a guest of the shinkansen (bullet train) operator Central Japan Railway Company and said the company’s maglev technology, being rolled out between Tokyo and Nagoya, allowed speeds of up 600km/h.
The company, which has a branch office in Sydney, is interested in building high-speed rail in Australia and believes the project can stack up even without government funding, providing the tickets are priced akin to a business-class airfare between Melbourne and Sydney, one of the busiest and most lucrative air routes in the world.
“Clearly the Japanese railway companies would be interested in providing their expertise,’’ Dr Newman said. “In this case there’s a likelihood you would get significant funding because, if we are talking about the Japanese, the Japanese government has its development bank.”
The Bank of Japan’s monetary easing and the Abe government’s outward-focused export policies mean government and corporate lenders in Japan have piles of cash to lend at low rates.
The Australian has previously revealed Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb is a supporter of high-speed rail in Australia, although he believes it must be done with little or no input of taxpayers’ funds.
Dr Newman, when asked whether Tony Abbott was convinced of the merit of high-speed rail, said it “it’s not a question of being convinced”.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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