$140bn construction plan to develop Australia with high-speed rail

18 July 2016

A visionary international consortium has launched an ambitious plan to urbanise the interior of south-eastern Australia by building a 917-km high-speed rail system to connect Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and to pay for it by building eight sustainable cities along the route.

They say the plan would ‘restart’ the continent, given that 46% of Australians live in just two cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and are suffering from congestion, long commutes and unaffordable housing.The group, Consolidate Land & Rail Australia, or Clara, believes that the entire cost of the project can be met by the uplift in land values that the cities would trigger. The company argues that $900m worth of rural land can be sold for $140bn once “sustainable, compact smart cities” have been built on them.

According to Clara, that can begin within five years, with the high-speed rail connection and first stage of the new cities completed within a decade. Nick Cleary, the chairman of Clara, said the land for the cities in Victoria and New South Wales could be bought for $760 a lot and sold for about $100,000. He told reporters in Melbourne: “That uplift gives you the capacity to fund the rail and civil infrastructure.”

He added that the plan was aimed at sustainable development rather than high-speed rail, but that the link was essential to its success. As a group, Clara draws in notable figures in finance and politics from Australia and the US. Its advisory board includes former US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood, and the former American diplomat Niels Marquardt, as well as former premiers of the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria, which the proposed new rail network would straddle.

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