Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) today welcomed discussions by both major political parties on a high-speed rail project connecting regional capital cities to Melbourne and Sydney.
RCA Chair, Mayor Shane Van Styn said this once in a generation project is exactly the sort of investment needed to grow Australia’s regional capital cities and also a key piece of infrastructure required to ease the squeeze in Melbourne and Sydney.
“A high-speed rail would dramatically improve the accessibility to regional and rural regions, and appeal to a mobile workforce that can commute to capital cities while enjoying the lifestyle of regional areas,” Van Styn added.
Infrastructure Australia has endorsed this position, estimating that congestion in the major metropolitan cities will cost the Australian economy $53 billion by 2031. The authority has also recongised that fostering long-term population growth by investing in Australia’s smaller cities will ease congestion in the five metropolitan cities.
“We commend both sides of politics for recognising the growth potential of our regional capital cities and look forward to further discussions and clearer commitments from our political leaders on this issue,” Mayor Van Styn said.
Regional capital cities contribute $225 billion to the national economy, or 15 per cent of all national activity.
Regional capital cities act as hubs for economic growth and jobs, and offer a quality of life that cannot be replicated in metropolitan cities.
Mayor Van Styn said that while the proposed high-speed rail was a strategic and innovative approach to growth and a big step forward for regional economic outcomes, the rail corridor connecting Melbourne and Sydney is not a growth fix all for regional capital cities.
“The discussion to bring connectivity to regional Australians should not be limited to a single rail line.”
Regional centres that are effective at attracting population have the infrastructure – transport, culture, recreation and digital technology – to attract new residents to their communities.
“NBN and mobile technology and digital infrastructure not on the rail corridor were required to make regional capital cities more competitive and liveable,” said RCA Chair Mayor Shane Van Styn.
Equally, infrastructure projects that have the ability to attract new business into our cities will be key.
In the lead up to the election and to meet the challenges of today, Regional Capitals Australia are calling on both sides of politics to:
Create a Regional Capitals Productivity Fund to fund productivity-improving projects in regional capitals,
Prioritise regional capitals in the delivery of the Mobile Blackspot Reduction Programme to enable full telecommunications access for vital economic and services nodes, and
Ensure all regional capitals have Full Fibre to the Premises (FttP) by 2021.
“RCA recognises there is much long-term strategic planning that needs to be done to get a commitment for the high-speed rail project; however, a commitment and funding from both parties on these three actions will ensure that population and economic growth outcomes for regional cities are achieved in the short-term,” Mayor Van Styn said.
Regional Capitals Australia Secretariat
P: 03 9614 7302
M: 0422 067 858
About Regional Capitals Australia
Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) is an alliance of regional capital local governments across the nation representing Australia’s regional cities. Our mission is to provide a formal platform to champion the continued growth and sustainable development of regional capitals around the nation. To learn more about our work visit http://www.regionalcapitalsaustralia.org.