A move by the Federal Government to investigate the implementation of a high speed rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne has been dubbed ‘visionary’ by the country’s peak planning body.

The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) said it fully supported the high speed rail proposal outlined in a ‘first stage’ report released today by federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.

PIA National President Dyan Currie said a high speed rail network linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne is bold thinking and good planning.

“Planning in the 21st century means looking further ahead than we might have in the past. We need to be better prepared to meet the growth challenges of the future,” Ms Currie said.

“High speed rail is good nation-building transport infrastructure and looking at it now rather than putting it on the back burner will help to address a number of planning issues.

“PIA has always fought for better public transport networks and the option of rail has a number of desirable outcomes including its obvious green credentials. High speed rail is even better with its proven efficiencies in other parts of the world.”

The initial report outlines the cost of the project at between $61 billion and $108 billion and would involve the laying of more than 1,600 kilometres of new standard-gauge, double-track.

The high speed trains would achieve speeds of up 350 kilometres per hour and offer journey times as low as 3 hours from Sydney to Brisbane, and just 40 minutes from Sydney to Newcastle.

The report outlines corridors and stations for investigation with initial stops at Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra and Melbourne.

Ms Currie said studies done by various institutions on the viability of rail have always demonstrated rail networks take cars and trucks off the road reducing road travel and carbon emissions greatly.

“US transportation economists Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl found electrified high-speed trains are about 9 times more energy-efficient than domestic jet travel and we must remember the Sydney – Melbourne air corridor the third busiest in the world.”

A report to be released at the National Press Club on the 10th August shows how greater investment in rail will help fight the current planning challenges of economic and environmental efficiency.

The Australasian Railway Association recently commissioned Access Economics to produce the report called The True Value of Rail. It shows one passenger train alone can take 525 cars off our roads and reduce accident costs by an amount that could fund 130 hospital visits, 505 hospital beds day or 6 doctors for one year.

Ms Currie said long term planning of major projects that take years to complete can be started almost immediately with preparatory work.

“A preferred route would first have to be determined and then there would be a process of putting planning controls in place along the route. That would take time.

“Taking early action on major projects such as this are better done now rather than when the need for such infrastructure is way overdue.

“Planning is about the management of growth and change in order to achieve liveable spaces and places that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and good planning has never been more important to Australia’s future. We fully support a comprehensive high speed rail network for Australia.”