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Fast track to high speed rail

POLITICIANS representing the Northern Rivers have mixed reactions to a renewed push for high speed rail on Australia's east coast.

Federal Labor's Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development spokesman Anthony Albanese introduced a private member's bill to parliament calling for the establishment of a High Speed Rail Authority.

"It is time to stop talking about high-speed rail and to start working on the project,” Mr Albanese said.

"Once fully operational across the Brisbane to Melbourne corridor, high-speed rail could carry approximately 84 million passengers a year,” Mr Albanese said.

"At speeds of 350kmh, people would be able to travel from Melbourne to Sydney, or Sydney to Brisbane, in less than three hours.”

High speed rail "will transform these regional communities”, he said, but response from politicians representing the Northern Rivers has been mixed.

Page MP Kevin Hogan said: "This will transform the way we move freight around the country, and take trucks off the Pacific Hwy.

"As a member of the Infrastructure Committee we are discussing with state governments appropriate rail corridors and looking at alternative funding options.”

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said: "It's very difficult to work in a country like ours with a scattered population. "It's a competitive market but let's look at cost, how many people would use it (and the) benefit to regions.”

Richmond Valley Mayor Robert Mustow said the council had always been a strong supporter of any initiative which would boost economic development.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot said: "This would create more local jobs and boost our regional economy (and) further enhance our area as a first class tourist destination.”

Ballina MP Tamara Smith said she supported a plan for high speed rail "provided the environmental impacts of building such a rail line were properly assessed and mitigated”.

Lismore MP Thomas George was unavailable for comment.

Mr Albanese urged politicians to take a bi-partisan approach to high speed rail. "The project would cover a period longer than the life of any particular government,” he said.

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