Major topic: 


Public and active transport are wonderful things when done right.  They make fast, efficient transport available to everyone, they keep our streets and suburbs free from congestion, they insulate us from the steadily and inevitably rising price of fuel, they help protect our climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they save us the aggravation of sitting in grid-locked traffic, and they keep us healthy when we travel about under our own steam.

Despite these benefits, in Queensland we persist with throwing money at expensive and ineffectual road projects, while neglecting the sustained investment in public and active transport thats' required if we expect people to choose these options over their cars.  In the past ten years, Queensland has spent more than twice as much on roads as we have on railways, harbours and bridges combined[1].  And some of this expenditure has been counter-productive – the Go Between Bridge, for example, has increased some motorists' travel time by six minutes at a cost of $338 mil[2].  Clem 7 has gone broke.  Any benefits from the various other tunnels under construction remain to be seen.

At the same time, we encourage urban sprawl, creating new urban areas that are far from services, expensive to service adequately with new public transport links, and where residents have no option but to drive.

So it is small wonder that many of us find ourselves living in areas where public transport services are too infrequent, or too slow and indirect, or full during peak times, or there's no adequate cycling infrastructure that permits us to cycle safely out of traffic.

The Greens would turn all of this around.  We take a long-term view of transport solutions and would rebalance public expenditure on transport in favour of public and active transport.  We would introduce more transport links that move around the city, rather than always requiring passengers to travel into the city and then back out.  Our urban development policies would contain urban sprawl and ensure development occurs along transport corridors.  If road charges are necessary, we would apply them to the roads that are congested rather than the roads that are supposed to ease congestion as occurs presently.

Of course, existing roads need to be maintained and some rural and regional areas can't sensibly be serviced by public transport.  But let's not continue making cars the focus of our transport expenditure in our urban areas where we can do so much better.

Further information on our latest initiatives:

High Speed Rail  

Toowoomba - High Speed Rail Initiative with Libby Connors, Frida Forsberg and Trevor Smith  see also file attachments.

High Speed Rail Video with Adam Bandt and Adam Stone.

It is of critical importance that this phase of the study does not focus just on the economic costs of building a high speed rail network, that it is not limited to a narrow set of commercial returns such as fare revenues but include the broader benefits to society I have been discussing today. We need a close examination of the benefits – social, economic and environmental to the broader Australian community. This must not become an exercise where– to paraphrase Oscar Wilde - we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

There are of course other matters that also need to be considered, such as

  • Funding the network: despite some of the rhetoric out there Australia has very low government debt, both historically and internationally and we can afford this
  • ownership: as monopoly with externalities, we lean towards government ownership as more appropriate.
  • the operational and governance framework of the network
  • The Australia Greens have put high speed rail back on the agenda and we are determined to see it through.

Benefits of high speed rail

  • Accessible fast, reliable, ecologically sustainable transport for 75% of Australia’s population.
  • Would remove congestion on high demand routes and increase transport safety.
  • Basis for future regional development.
  • Opportunities for freight.
  • Job creation.
  • Reduce Australia's dependence on oil, especially given that global oil production is expected to peak soon.
  • A high speed train would cut carbon pollution, with emissions per passenger a third of that of a car. Each full train of 450 passengers would be equivalent to taking 128 cars off the road.
  • A 2006 comparison of greenhouse gas emissions by travel mode, released by the Centre for Neighbourhood Technologies, found that HSR lines in Europe and Japan released 30-70 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre, versus 150 grams for automobiles and 170 grams for airplanes[1].
  • Rail is more environmentally friendly than road, partly due to some basic physics and partly due to how it tends to be used. A steel wheel on a steel rail has one-seventh of the friction of a rubber tyre wheel on a bitumen surface.
  • A typical train carriage conveys far more people than the two or three cars that take up the same space.
  • A recent study of conventional rail commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association concludes that each passenger journey made by rail rather than road reduces costs to society by $3 to $8.30.
  • Those currently flying between Sydney and Melbourne, the world's fourth busiest route, will benefit from a more reliable service with comfortable seats, phone and internet access. Business people may not need to wait until they reach their destination: the Eurostar trains have conference room cabins. Allowing for the time taken to go out to the airport, wait in queues and then get back into the city centre at the destination it will also often be quicker to go by HSR than fly.
  • Over time more people will live and work in the catchment areas of a high speed train, enjoying both wider employment opportunities and improved quality of life.


  • Funding the network: despite some of the rhetoric Australia has very low government debt, both historically and internationally and we can afford this investment.
  • Ownership: as a monopoly with externalities, we lean towards government ownership as more appropriate.
  • The operational and governance framework of the network.
  • HSR brings a multitude of benefits but many of these do not accrue to the operators of the train. Indeed many of them accrue to people who never use the trains. This is a challenge to the evaluation and financing of such projects.
  • Considering more than just the economic costs of building a high speed rail network – the broader benefits to society of high speed rail must be considered: social, environmental and economic.


[1]Australia's public transport: investment for a clean transport future, Australian Conservation Foundation, April 2011.

[2]'Go Between Bridge junction creates traffic bottlenecks on busy roads', Courier Mail, 29 September 2010.

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