Any proposal to build a Very Fast Train from Sydney to Melbourne should be passed straight to Infrastructure Australia for a thorough cost-benefit analysis, said the managing director of the Australian Logistics Council Michael Kilgariff.
Mr Kilgariff was commenting on a reported proposal by Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLRA), an Australian-based consortium that says it has secured almost 20,000ha for new development sites along the rail corridor. CLRA says it will present an unsolicited bid to the Prime Minister within the first half of this year, funded by “value capture”.
Mr Kilgariff said infrastructure funds were too scarce to commit to any significant project unless it had the full scrutiny of Infrastructure Australia.
“There is a real risk that funds that ought to be devoted to worthwhile projects, such as Inland Rail, will be squandered on the VFT project.
“ALC firmly believes that major projects need to have an independent detailed cost-benefit analysis,” he said.
“To date, all VFT proposals have failed any rigorous cost-benefit analysis. If anything, the VFT case will become weaker in the light of the approval of Sydney’s second airport.”
“Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List has identified Inland Rail as a Priority Project, noting the long-term benefits to potential users of the project, users of alternative infrastructure, and the broader economy.
“The trouble with committing to a VFT is that it would divert funds from more worthwhile projects, such as Inland Rail, at a time when the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne passenger corridor is reasonably well-served.”
Mr Kilgariff said there were also grounds for caution and scepticism about plans to “value capture” increases in land prices to fund infrastructure – as shown in the ALC submission to last year’s Federal Government Discussion Paper Using Value Capture to Help Deliver Major Land Transport Infrastructure.
“Proponents often couch big infrastructure proposals as “no cost to government”, but inevitably taxpayers are asked to contribute and they are entitled to demand value for money and wise allocation of resources,” he said.