The Australian government has committed its support and $52 million to developing plans for the country’s first high-speed rail line.

Announcing the government’s decision to fully-adopt recommendations set out by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group Report in its ‘On Track: Implementing High Speed Rail in Australia’ report, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd revealed that he would be supporting the first section of the line which will link Sydney and Melbourne via Canberra.

More than $50 million will be earmarked to protect the preferred route of the line and a new High Speed Rail Authority will be established to oversee the project’s development.

The report stated that the “first and most important conclusion is that high-speed rail must be an integral part of Australia’s future”.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) chief executive Bryan Nye said: “The jury has made its verdict. Australia needs a high-speed rail network and we need to act now.

“The ARA has, for a long time now, been a strong advocate for high-speed rail.

“This report outlines the immediate reasonable steps that can be taken now to ensure this visionary project becomes a reality, not another feasibility study. Our decision makers in government have a serious responsibility to listen and then act on these recommendations.

“Our cities cannot take this pressure, our airways and our roads cannot take this pressure, our economic productivity cannot take this pressure and most importantly nor can the Australian people.”

Infrastructure Australia will now explore financing options for the line, including PPP opportunities to cover the estimated $114 billion cost of the full Melbourne-Brisbane system.

The High Speed Rail Advisory Group’s study addresses the issue of cost, in particular what it describes as the ‘headline’ $114 billion figure’ and concludes that the first section cost could be around $23 billion.

The reports sets out a series of key milestones over the next three years. It aims to establish the new authority by February 2014, have protection in place for the route by June 2015.