High-Speed Rail needed between Sydney and Canberra: NSW Premier

Development of a rail link between Sydney and Canberra will have widespread benefits for the region, NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell has told an audience at CEDA’s State of the State event in Sydney.

Development of a rail link between Sydney and Canberra would have widespread benefits for the region, NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell has told an audience at CEDA's State of the State event in Sydney.

Giving his annual address to CEDA about the state of NSW's economy and the government's blueprint for the future, Mr O'Farrell made it clear he supports plans for high speed rail.

"Certainly if you built high-speed rail whether it be from Sydney to Melbourne … or Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, it would fundamentally change population growth in the nation and deliver enormous benefits," he said.

He also criticised the Rudd Government's failure to spend money on rail infrastructure in 2008.

"Building a link between Sydney and Canberra would have been beneficial during the GFC instead of some of the money we spent elsewhere," he said.

The building of rail between the two cities may also decrease air travel and help ease the strain on Sydney Airport which is highly congested.

"I would normally argue (a link) would have freed up slots at Sydney airport that are currently occupied by planes travelling between Canberra and Sydney," he said.

Mr O'Farrell denied he thinks Canberra should be Sydney's second airport site.

"I never said Canberra should be our second airport," he said.

Federal and state relations were also discussed during the CEDA event as Mr O'Farrell touched upon COAG and the economic issues facing Australia.

"I don't think COAG is doing anything about probably the single biggest issue facing our nation which is productivity," he said.

"Productivity hasn't been high on the agenda of COAG in the time I've been attending."

Mr O'Farrell said under the first Rudd government, COAG was dysfunctional and he is hoping it will again meet before the next election.

There are key issues facing a range of states including infrastructure and school funding and Mr O'Farrell said he hopes to help create borderless services.

"We are determined to make the most of Service NSW's capability not just in NSW, but across borders," he said.

"We think we can offer services in collaboration with other states - a Victorian truck driver could renew their licence in Albury - or a NSW business person could register a NSW land title while interstate."

Infrastructure is another priority for the NSW state government which delivered a comprehensive 20 year Strategic Infrastructure Plan last year, Mr O'Farrell said.

"By far our biggest challenge in coming to office - and a continuing one - is the need to address the State's infrastructure backlog," he said.

Mr O'Farrell said the government needs to have community support for reforms and infrastructure projects to be successful.

Using the example of Sydney's ferry services, Mr O'Farrell highlighted the benefit of a public, private partnership that works. The city's ferries are run by a private operator but the government still sets the timetables, fares and routes, he said.

Mr O'Farrell said he is optimistic about the future of NSW and said the government is committed to making the state number one again.

"The creativity and energy of the people of NSW now has a stronger foundation on which to build their own plans for growth and opportunity," he said.