A $100 MILLION passenger train could get commuters from Brighton to Hobart in 30 minutes and it wouldn't cost the State Government a cent to build, say proponents.
The Government has been urged to apply for federal funding for the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail project, which would use the existing railway between Brighton and Hobart.
Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown and Greens Federal Denison candidate Anna Reynolds yesterday fuelled debate on the proposal, which was first suggested in 2009.
They told a Legislative Council inquiry into Integrated Transport Options for Southern Tasmania that the Government was too focused on road infrastructure projects when applying for federal funding.
Ms Reynolds said it showed a "lack of strategic thinking" from the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources.
"Its approach has missed opportunities for funding public transport, in particular the Northern Suburbs Light Rail Project," Ms Reynolds said.
She said that "unsurprisingly" submissions for road upgrades had not received the desired funding from Infrastructure Australia.
"IA would have looked more favourably at a more financially modest submission that presented the northern suburbs railway in a long-term, strategic planning framework," she said.
Ms Reynolds said a State Government cost of living study found northern suburb residents spent $128 a week or 16.9 per cent of their household expenditure on the cost of transport -- above the national average of 15.6 per cent. Dr Brown said it would be cheaper to build the rail network (estimated to cost between $80 million and $100 million) than fund $280 million worth of proposed upgrades to the Brooker Highway.
Stations need to be built along the rail line and Dr Brown said it was possible that Infrastructure Australia funding could cover the entire cost of the project.
He urged the State Government to prepare an application for the next round of funding, in August.
"The six months ahead are critical in this city's future, if we want to get a light rail project up and running," he said. "We need a whole-of-community approach and we need [the] business [sector] to be much more vocal as well."
The Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group also made a submission to the Legislative Council inquiry last month.
President Ben Johnston said there was strong community support for the idea, which promises commuters could travel between Brighton and Hobart CBD in 30 minutes. He said trains would depart from the nine proposed stations every 12 minutes.
In July, Sustainable Transport Minister Nick McKim announced the State Government would review DIER's business case for the project.
A spokeswoman for Mr McKim said the State Government would wait to see the outcome of the review before it considered applying for Infrastructure Australia funding for the rail proposal.