ACT could join high speed rail ‘value capture push

FEBRUARY 7 2017

Doug Dingwall

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The ACT could join neighbouring states in raising funds to build a high-speed rail link connecting Sydney to Melbourne under ‘value capture’ models proposed in a federal government report tabled on Tuesday.

In funding the high-speed rail system, which would pass through Canberra under proposals put forward to the standing committee that studied the development, state and territory governments could play a role in collecting funds by taxing or levying increases in values along the rail route.

The report said agreements between federal and state/territory governments should choose “value capture” methods, and determine the funds each state and territory involved could raise.

“Value capture” has grown in favour among proponents of high speed rail connecting east cost cities as governments look for funding sources that ease the public’s cost burden for a project previously estimated at $114 billion.

 

As the project re-entered public debate before last year’s federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave fuel to hopes for a link when he proposed using “value capture” to kickstart the decades-old dream of building a high-speed rail line along Australia’s eastern coast.

Infrastructure, Transport and Cities committee chairman and Liberal MP John Alexander tabled its report in parliament on Tuesday after completing the study into the need for better transport infrastructure in urban and regional areas, and how to fund it using “value capture”.

High-speed rail could improve connectivity between major cities and create new centres along the route connected to them, encouraging greater settlement in regional centres, raising their property values, the report said.

“The committee believes the time has come for the Australian Government to seek expressions of interest for the development of high speed rail in eastern Australia.”

It recommended the federal government move to consider proposals for a high speed rail network and to assess whether a planning authority was needed.

While the committee did not prefer either public or private sources to drive funding, it said projects such as high speed rail risked not proceeding without “value capture”.

Increased values brought by high speed rail could be leveraged through capital gains tax, stamp duty, council rates, land tax, company tax or levies.

In a submission to the committee’s study, former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer rejected a plan for ‘dead-end’ spurs along the rail route, saying tunnels through the Brindabellas would let the line pass directly through Canberra.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has previously said Canberra should be on the main route of any high-speed rail link, not on a spur line.

Under a plan from Consolidated Land and Rail Australia, the route would include Goulburn and Yass, with a direct line to Canberra that would see some services operate directly to it, and others bypass the city.

Source : The Canberra Times

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