Labor will attempt again to revive a long-held ambition to build a high-speed rail network linking Canberra to the east coast capitals, by committing $1 billion to secure land for a corridor to make it happen if elected on May 18.
Labor infrastructure, transport, cities and regional development spokesman Anthony Albanese said that if elected, a Labor government would start work on establishing a High Speed Rail Authority to oversee planning for a route running from Brisbane to Melbourne, taking in Sydney, Canberra and a number of regional centres along the way.
The announcement echos Labor's thwarted 2013 pre-election commitment to spend $52 million over four years establishing a high-speed rail authority and to begin work securing a land corridor.
During the last Labor government, Mr Albanese, a long-time advocate of high-speed rail, committed $20 million in 2010 for a feasibility study that found a service could be profitable, but would require significant government investment towards the likely $114 billion construction cost.
He said if elected Labor would build on that study, published in 2013, with a goal to finally making the project a reality.
"As Australia's strong population growth continues in the coming years, the already established case for high-speed rail will become more compelling," Mr Albanese said.
"If we start to acquire the corridor now we will protect it from development and thereby minimise costs."
The 2013 study proposed a 1748km route connecting Canberra off the main line via a spur line with the preferred alignment running down the Majura Valley to Civic via a 3.6km tunnel under Mount Ainslie. Possible station locations identified included Dickson, Civic and Canberra Airport, and trains would travel up to 350km/h.
A spokesman for Mr Albanese said while the party intended to build on the 2013 work as a basis, any final decision on a route and station locations would be a matter for the new authority to assess.
Another 2012 study commissioned by Canberra Airport found 12 million passengers could be using a high speed rail service between Canberra and Sydney by 2036 and there would be a travel time between the two cities of approximately 57 minutes.
US company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies also recently pitched its vision for an "ultra high-speed", tube-based transportation system to a federal parliamentary inquiry into automated mass transit. It claims it could reduce that journey time to just 14 minutes.
Mr Albanese said if elected, a Labor government would work closely with Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments as well as international private sector proponents to finalise an updated business case in consultation with Infrastructure Australia.
He cited a 2017 Infrastructure Australia report that found securing a land corridor now could save the country billions in acquisition and construction costs in future years.
An east coast fast train service has been a long-held dream of successive federal governments since the 1980s and the subject of multiple studies. Extensive networks have been in operation in Europe and Asia for decades, but Australia's widely disbursed and relatively small population has seen the viability of the project repeatedly called into question.