High-speed rail plans to be put on track

·2-min read

Fast trains connecting Sydney to Newcastle and Melbourne to Brisbane could be more than a pipe dream under a plan announced by the federal government.

A proposal to establish a high-speed rail authority tasked with starting the major, long-term infrastructure project was presented to parliament on Thursday.

A high-speed national network would allow passengers to travel between major cities and significant regional cities at more than 250km an hour.

A board made up of rail and infrastructure sector experts will oversee the new authority, which will provide independent advice to governments on planning and delivery.

It will also be the lead agency to co-ordinate the project with states and territories.

But its first priority will be to plan a Sydney to Newcastle link, backed by an initial $500 million federal commitment, Infrastructure Minister Catherine King says.

"The time is now, we need to stop procrastinating and start taking action to actually deliver high-speed rail," she told parliament.

"This is a long-term project with significant benefits and it's not just about a political cycle but rather a focus on Australia's future."

Initially working with the NSW government on the Sydney to Newcastle section, the authority will also plan for fast trains connecting Brisbane and Melbourne with stops in Canberra, Sydney and regional centres.

"A high-speed rail network along the east coast of Australia will truly be a transformational project that has the ability to touch the lives of all Australians," Ms King said.

But the government must ensure any plans for high-speed rail also integrate housing affordability and infrastructure policy, a peak body representing the property development industry said.

"High-speed rail plans have to be carefully tuned to ensure we link future cities (and) have well thought out, strategic plans that map the housing, jobs and amenities well ahead of any transport rollout," Urban Development Institute of Australia president Maxwell Shifman told AAP.

"This can all be achieved, but it needs careful planning involving government, industry and business to ensure the plan builds a better future."