Labor makes its first big pitch to Sydney with promise of new fast-rail link to Newcastle

Fast rail linking Sydney and the Hunter will be prioritised under a Labor government, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says.

A first step towards high-speed rail linking major cities, the route would deliver speeds of more than 250 km/h, cutting the journey time from Sydney to Newcastle to 45 minutes, down from two-and-a-half hours.

The most recent report into high-speed rail found the Sydney to Newcastle route should be the first component of an eventual line to Brisbane.

Mr Albanese will announce his government would make the works a key priority for a new High-Speed Rail Authority, and also provide $500 million funding in its first budget to begin corridor acquisition, planning and early works.

At a speech to be given in Newcastle on Sunday, Mr Albanese will outline a vision for high-speed rail between Brisbane and Melbourne.

“Australia is the only inhabited continent on earth not developing high-speed rail,” a Labor statement said.

“Fast and high-speed rail will be an important element of Labor’s smart regionalisation plan that recognises that decentralisation is critical for Australia.”

The opposition leader will also announce his government would reverse $500,000 of funding cuts to the Hunter’s GP Access After Hours service.

“The prime minister has refused to rule out supporting a recommendation for a further funding cut, which if approved would end this vital service,” a statement said.

“This is a devastating blow to the Hunter community, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Almost every Hunter family has used this vital service.”