High-speed rail in Australia
|High-speed rail in Australia|
The Electric Tilt Train, the fastest train in Australia by maximum test speed
|Stations||Sydney & Canberra (proposed)|
|Operating speed||up to 350 km/h (220 mph). Current top service speed on Australian railways is 160 km/h (100 mph)|
High-speed rail in Australia has been under investigation since the early 1980s. Every Federal Government since this time has investigated the feasibility of constructing high speed rail, but to date nothing has ever gone beyond the detailed planning stage. The most commonly suggested route is between Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, which is the world's second busiest air corridor. Various corridors have been proposed for a potential high-speed line.
The Australian rail speed record of 210 km/h was set by Queensland Rail's Electric Tilt Train during a trial run in 1998. This speed is just above the internationally accepted definition of high-speed rail of 200 km/h (124 mph). Both the Transwa WDA/WDB/WDC class and XPT are capable of 200 km/h. However, these trains, as well as the V/line VLocity and Diesel Tilt Train, operate at a high of 160 km/h in passenger service.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 2.1 1970s–1980s
- 2.2 New South Wales XPT
- 2.3 1984 CSIRO proposal
- 2.4 Very Fast Train (VFT) joint venture
- 2.5 Tilting trains
- 2.6 Speedrail proposal
- 2.7 Queensland Tilt Train
- 2.8 Howard government (2000)
- 2.9 Transwa WDA/WDB/WDC class
- 2.10 Canberra Business Council study
- 2.11 Canberra Airport plan
- 2.12 Intrastate proposals
- 2.13 High Speed Rail Study (2011–2013)
- 2.14 Abbott government (2013–2015)
- 2.15 Beyond Zero Emissions Study (2014)
- 2.16 Turnbull government (2015–2018)
- 2.17 New South Wales (2018)
- 2.18 Victoria (2018-2019)
- 3 Speed records
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The construction of a high-speed rail link along the east coast has been the target of several investigations since the early 1980's. Air travel dominates the inter-capital travel market, and intra-rural travel is almost exclusively car-based. Rail has a significant presence in the rural / city fringe commuter market, but inter-capital rail currently has very low market share due to low speeds and infrequent service. However, travel times between the capitals by high-speed rail could be as fast as or faster than air travel – the 2013 High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report estimated that conventional High Speed Rail express journeys from Sydney to Melbourne would take 2 hours and 44 minutes, while those from Sydney to Brisbane would take 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Various studies and recommendations have asserted that a high-speed rail service between the major eastern capital cities could be viable as an alternative to air. Although such studies have generated much interest from the private sector and captured the imagination of the general public upon their release, to date no private-sector proposal has been able to demonstrate financial viability without the need for significant government assistance.
A mature high-speed rail system would be economically competitive with air and automobile travel, provide mass transit without dependence on imported oil, have a duration of travel that would compare with air travel or be quicker, and would reduce national carbon dioxide emissions.
The rail network has long been a target of proposals for improvement. The 1979 Premiers' Meeting proposed the electrification of the Sydney–Melbourne line to improve transit time from over 12 hours to under 10, but a senate committee found this was not justified on economic grounds. In 1981, the Institution of Engineers proposed the Bicentennial High-Speed Railway Project, which proposed to link the five capitals of south-eastern Australia (Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane) in time for the Australian Bicentenary. However, it proposed only the strengthening and partial electrification of the existing tracks, new deviations to bypass the worst sections, additional passing loops, and the purchase of new diesel-electric trains. It would offer only mild improvements on the existing travel times: Sydney to Canberra in 3 hours, and Sydney to Melbourne in 9; it cannot therefore be considered a true high-speed rail proposal.
New South Wales XPT
In January 1978 the Public Transport Commission invited tenders for 25 high-speed railcars similar to the Prospector railcars delivered by Comeng to the Western Australian Government Railways in 1971. The tender allowed bidders to suggest alternative types of high-speed train. Comeng submitted a tender for a train based on the British Rail designed High Speed Train which had entered service in the United Kingdom in October 1976. In August 1979, Comeng was announced as the successful bidder for an order of 100 vehicles. By the time the contract was signed in March 1980, the order was only for 10 power cars and 20 carriages, enough to form four five-carriage trains with two spare power cars.
The High Speed Train design was significantly modified, with the power cars being 50 cm (19.7 in) shorter, the Paxman Valenta engine downrated from 2,250 to 2,000 bhp (1,680 to 1,490 kW), gearing lowered for a top operating speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), suspension modified to operate on inferior track, and air filters and the cooling system modified to cater for hotter and dustier Australian conditions. A different light cluster was fitted along with three high-beam spotlights mounted to the roof. The passenger trailer cars were based on a Budd design, with the British Rail Mark 3 trailers considered unsuitable.
The XPT entered service in 1982. It set an Australian speed record for the time of 193 km/h (120 mph) on a test run in 1992. However, the train is not often used to its full potential, operating along winding steam-era alignments, and at times has had the top speed limited due to track condition and level crossing incidents. The XPT operates at a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph). However, it can theoretically reach speeds of 200 km/h.
1984 CSIRO proposal
The first true high-speed rail proposal was presented to the Hawke Government in June 1984 by the CSIRO, spearheaded by its chairman, Dr Paul Wild. The proposal was to link Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney via a coastal corridor, based on French TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) technology. The proposal estimated construction costs at A$2.5 billion ($7.0 billion in 2013), with initial revenue of A$150 million per annum exceeding operating costs of A$50 million per annum. The proposal attracted much public and media attention, as well as some private sector capital for feasibility studies.
In September 1984, the Bureau of Transport Economics found that the probable construction costs had been underestimated by A$1.5 billion, and the proposal would therefore be uneconomic. The Minister for Transport, Peter Morris, rejected the proposal.
Very Fast Train (VFT) joint venture
Two years later in September 1986, the Very Fast Train Joint Venture was established, comprising Elders IXL, Kumagai Gumi, TNT and later BHP, with Dr Wild as chairman. They proposed a 350 km/h rail link from Sydney to Canberra via Goulburn, and then on to Melbourne via the coastal route (or alternatively the inland route). A feasibility study estimated to cost A$19 million ($39.5 million in 2013) was initiated by the group in 1988. In 1989, after talks with the Queensland Government, the joint venture group also performed a preliminary analysis of a coastal link to Brisbane. In 1990 the joint venture released the results of the major feasibility study, simply titled VFT – Project Evaluation. It proposed an inland route between Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, with intermediate stations at Campbelltown, Bowral, Goulburn, Yass, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga, Benalla, Seymour and Melbourne Airport. It was estimated to cost $6.6 billion ($11.9 billion in 2013) and take five years to construct, beginning in 1992.
The VFT was opposed by numerous groups, notably the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Democrats. Concerns centred around the environmental impact a coastal corridor would have on fragile ecosystems, noise pollution and the amount of public money that might be required.
After the release of the project evaluation, negotiations continued between the joint venture and state and federal governments. A favourable tax regime was sought, without which it was claimed that the project would not be economically viable. Premier of South Australia John Bannon was among the vocal proponents of tax breaks for major infrastructure projects such as the VFT. In August 1991, the Hawke Cabinet rejected the proposed tax breaks after it was claimed they would have cost A$1.4 billion. Subsequently the VFT Joint Venture folded.
During the 1990s there were several investigations into the use of tilting trains on existing tracks. In January 1990 it was reported that the NSW government was considering upgrading the existing state railway lines to utilise tilting train technology under development by Swedish-Swiss engineering giant ASEA Brown Boveri. This was at the same time as the VFT was under investigation, and there was concern that two fast railways could end up being built, which would then both be financially unviable. The tilt train concept could potentially reach speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph) while using the existing tracks.
After the breakup of the VFT joint venture, the NSW government continued to investigate tilt trains for a time. In 1995, CountryLink brought a Swedish Railways X 2000 trainset to New South Wales to conduct an eight-week trial on the Sydney-Canberra route. The X 2000 was pulled by a specially-modified XPT power car at all times, and had one on each end. The test highlighted the deficiencies of the existing track, with tight curvature and inadequate transitions. Speed improvements over existing times were modest, and the project was abandoned – it was a case of a "fast train on slow track".
In 1993, the Speedrail Consortium (a joint venture between Alstom and Leighton Contractors) made a proposal for a high-speed rail link between Sydney and Canberra. It was initially going to cost A$2.4 billion ($4.1 billion in 2013). After years of delays and more claims that massive government subsidies would be required, in March 1997 the Commonwealth, New South Wales and ACT governments formally invited expressions of interest; by July, six proponents had been shortlisted. In December 1997, the government received four proposals, all accompanied by the required A$100,000 deposit. The proponents were:
- Capital Rail, backed by ASEA Brown Boveri, Adtranz, SwedeRail, BT Corporate Finance, Ove Arup, TMG International, Ansett and Virgin Rail Group. Their proposal was a $1.2 billion upgrade of the existing line, which would allow a 1 hour 45 minute service using a more powerful 250 km/h variant of the Swedish Railways X 2000 tilting electric multiple unit, dubbed XNEC.
- Inter-Capital Express, backed by AIDC Australia, GHD Transmark, Lend Lease, Siemens, TNT and GB Railways. Proposed journey time and cost the same as for Capital Rail, using similar tilt-train rollingstock and alignment upgrades.
- Speedrail Consortium, Backed by GEC Alsthom, Leighton Contractors, SNCF, Commonwealth Bank, Qantas, and Baulderstone Hornibrook. Proposal involved construction of a new alignment from Glenfield to Canberra at a cost of $2–2.6 billion, and the use of the existing Sydney metro rail network to access Central station. TGV technology would be used, giving a travel time of 1 hour, 20 minutes.
- Transrapid, backed by ThyssenKrupp, BHP, Boral, John Holland, Pacific Dunlop, Siemens and Adtranz, made a radical proposal for a 60-minute magnetic-levitation service via Wollongong. Detailed cost estimates were not given, but government sources estimated the cost to be at least $4 billion.
On 4 August 1998, Prime Minister John Howard announced that Speedrail was the preferred party, and gave the go ahead for the project to move into the 'proving up' stage, on the understanding that if the project proceeded, it would be at "no net cost to the taxpayer". It was predicted that construction would cost A$3.5 billion ($5.4 billion in 2013), with 15,000 new jobs created during the construction period. It was planned that the line would use the East Hills line to depart Sydney, and then follow the Hume and Federal highways into Canberra. There would be stations at Central, Campbelltown, Southern Highlands, Goulburn and Canberra Airport. Nine eight-car trainsets would be used, departing from each city at 45-minute intervals, and running at a maximum speed of 320 km/h (199 mph) to complete the journey in 81 minutes. The line was to operate under a build–own–operate model, that would allow a private company to manage the network, but would then be transferred to government after 30 years.
In November 1999, Speedrail submitted a feasibility study to the government, claiming that the project satisfied all the government's requirements. However, the media still speculated that A$1 billion in government assistance or tax concessions would be required. In December 2000, the federal government terminated the proposal due to fears it would require excessive subsidies.
Queensland Tilt Train
In March 1993 Queensland Rail issued a tender for the construction of two electric six-carriage tilting trains. In October 1994 a contract was awarded to Walkers, Maryborough with Hitachi to supply the electrical and tilting equipment.
After an extensive program, on 6 November 1998 Australia's first pair of tilting trains entered service on the Spirit of Capricorn between Brisbane and Rockhampton. With a journey time of seven hours, they shaved over two hours from the schedule operated by InterCity Express sets. In July 1999 a second daily service was introduced between Brisbane and Bundaberg.
Using traction equipment based on the JR Shikoku 8000 series trains, the Tilt Train set an Australian train speed record of 210 km/h (130 mph) north of Bundaberg in May 1999, a record that still stands. This makes it Australia's only train to exceed the common definition of high-speed rail, and also makes it the fastest narrow-gauge train in the world. The maximum speed of the Tilt Train in normal service is 160 km/h.
In August 1999 a contract was awarded to Walkers for two diesel tilting trains to operate services from Brisbane to Cairns. In contrast to the Electric Tilt Train, the diesel Tilt Train is a push-pull locomotive based train.
In October 2010 Downer Rail was awarded a contract to build a further diesel tilt train with two power cars and 12 carriages to replace locomotive hauled stock on The Sunlander. The existing two diesel sets will be overhauled and extended to 10 carriages. All work was performed in Maryborough. The first refurbished set entered service in October 2013. The third and brand new set was delivered and entered service in 2014.
Howard government (2000)
In December 2000 in the wake of the termination of the Speedrail proposal, the Howard Government commissioned TMG International Pty Ltd, leading a team of specialist subconsultants, including Arup, to investigate all aspects of the design and implementation of a high-speed rail system linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. The East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study – Phase 1 was released in November 2001 and cost A$2.3 million to prepare. It dealt with high-speed rail technologies, corridor selection, operating performance and transit times, project costs, projected demand, financing, and national development impacts. Although the preliminary study did not undertake a detailed corridor analysis, it recommended the selection of an inland route between Melbourne and Sydney, and a coastal route between Sydney and Brisbane.
The report concluded that although a high-speed rail system could have a place in Australia's transport future, it would require years of bipartisan political vision to realise (construction time was estimated at 10–20 years), and would most likely require significant financial investment from the government – up to 80% of construction costs. Construction cost estimates indicated a strong dependence on the chosen design speed; the construction costs for a double-track east coast high speed railway would be (2001 A$):
- 250 km/h: $33 – $41 billion
- 350 km/h: $38 – $47 billion
- 500 km/h (maglev): $56 – $59 billion
These numbers do not include rollingstock or the cost of setting up the operating company. The report noted that these costs could be reduced somewhat upon detailed corridor analysis (especially the lower speed options) if sections of existing rail or highway corridor could be utilised.
In March 2002, the Government decided not to go ahead with phase 2 of the scoping study due to the finding that an enormous amount of public funding would be required for the massive infrastructure project.
Transwa WDA/WDB/WDC class
In December 2000 Westrail awarded a contract to United Goninan, Broadmeadow for nine railcars to replace the 1971 built WAGR WCA/WCE class railcars. Seven were for The Prospector and two for the AvonLink service.
The first entered service on 28 June 2004. Power is provided by Cummins engines. The new railcars are capable of 200 km/h (120 mph), but track conditions restrict their top speed to 160 km/h (99 mph).
Canberra Business Council study
In April 2008 the Canberra Business Council made a submission to Infrastructure Australia, High Speed Rail for Australia: An opportunity for the 21st century. The submission detailed:
- Improvements in technology, competitiveness and supply over the previous decade.
- Travel demand on the East Coast. The Melbourne – Sydney air route is the fourth busiest in the world and Sydney—Brisbane ranks seventh in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Increased standard of living.
- Use for freight. High-speed freight trains are in use in France and soon to expand across Europe.
- Environmental sustainability and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
- Energy efficiency.
- Better social outcomes, quality of life, and reduced social disadvantage for regional centres on the rail line.
Canberra Airport plan
In 2009, Canberra Airport proposed that it would be the most appropriate location for a Second Sydney Airport, providing a high-speed rail link was built that could reduce travel times between the cities to 50 minutes. Given the existing development within the Sydney basin, a HSR link will probably be required whatever site is chosen, yet the Canberra option save up to A$22 billion which would be needed to develop a greenfields airport site at Badgerys Creek or Wilton. In June 2012, Canberra Airport unveiled plans to build a A$140 million rail terminal at the airport if the high-speed link goes ahead.
At various times, state political parties and others have proposed schemes involving fast trains in other localities that included the potential to achieve speeds above the 200 km/h threshold.
In 2004, the Government of New South Wales proposed a A$2 billion privately funded underground and above-ground train line Western FastRail that would link the Sydney CBD with Western Sydney. The concept was re-proposed in December 2006 by then federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd during a visit to Penrith, as part of the Australian Labor Party's election platform. The plan received approving comments by the NSW State Government. The line was also backed by a consortium led by union leader Michael Easson, which includes Dutch bank ABN AMRO and Australian construction company Leighton Contractors. Elements of the proposal were incorporated into the Government's West Metro and CBD Relief Line projects. However, these plans were abandoned following the election of the O'Farrell government in 2011.
In 2008, Transrapid made a proposal to the Government of Victoria to build a privately funded and operated magnetic levitation (maglev) line to serve the Greater Melbourne metropolitan area. It was presented as an alternative to the Cross-City Tunnel proposed in the Eddington Transport Report, which neglected to investigate above-ground transport options. The maglev route would connect Geelong to metropolitan Melbourne's outer suburban growth corridors, Tullamarine and Avalon domestic and international terminals in under 20 minutes, continuing to Frankston, Victoria, in under 30 minutes. It would serve a population of over 4 million people, and Transrapid claimed a price of A$4 billion. However, the Victorian government dismissed the proposal in favour of the underground metropolitan network suggested by the Eddington Report.
In 2010, Western Australia's Public Transport Authority completed a feasibility study into a high-speed rail link between Perth and Bunbury. The route would follow the existing narrow gauge Mandurah line to Anketell, then the Kwinana Freeway and Forrest Highway to Lake Clifton, including 140 km (87 mi) of new track. It would replace the existing Transwa Australind passenger service, the route of which is under increasing use for freight traffic. The proposed service would have a maximum speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), at which the travel time from Perth Underground to a new station in central Bunbury would be 91 minutes. The corridor would allow for future upgrade to 200 km/h (120 mph).
In the lead-up to the 2010 Victorian state election, Liberal leader Ted Baillieu promised to spend A$4 million to set up a high-speed rail advocacy unit, with the goal of ensuring Melbourne hosted Australia's first high-speed trains. He expressed support for an east coast link, and extensions west of Melbourne to Geelong and Adelaide.
The 2010 Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report identified Noosa-Brisbane-Gold Coast as a potentially viable high-speed rail link, and a possible precursor to a full east-coast system. The report predicted that a 350 km/h (220 mph) system would reduce travel times between Cooroy (22 km west of Noosa) and Brisbane to 31 minutes (currently 2:08 hours), capturing as much as 84% of the total commuter market. Travel time between Brisbane and the Gold Coast would be reduced to 21 minutes, capturing up to 27% of commuters.
Soon after winning the 2011 NSW state election, the incoming Liberal premier Barry O'Farrell advocated high-speed rail lines to Melbourne and Brisbane instead of a second Sydney airport, saying of a new airport site in NSW: "Whether the central coast, the south-west or the western suburbs [of Sydney], find me an area that is not going to end up causing enormous grief to people who currently live around it".
High Speed Rail Study (2011–2013)
Rudd/Gillard government (2008–2013)
In December 2008, the Rudd Government announced that a Very Fast Train along the Sydney–Melbourne corridor, estimated to cost A$25 billion, was the government's highest infrastructure priority. On 31 October 2010, the Government issued the terms of reference for a strategic study to inform it and the New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory governments about implementation of HSR on the east coast of Australia between Melbourne and Brisbane.
The $20 million study was undertaken in two phases. The report of phase 1, released on 4 August 2011, identified corridors and station locations and potential patronage, and gave indicative estimates of the cost. The first phase of the study was completed in 2011, projecting a financial cost for high-speed rail of between $61 and A$108 billion, depending on the route and station combination that was selected.
The phase 1 report found that an HSR corridor between Brisbane and Melbourne could:
- cost between A$61 billion and A$108 billion (2011 dollars)
- involve more than 1,600 kilometres of new standard-gauge, double-track
- achieve speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour and offer journey times as low as 3 hours between both Brisbane and Sydney and Sydney and Melbourne, 40 minutes from Sydney to Newcastle, and 1 hour between Sydney and Canberra
- carry about 54 million passengers a year by 2036
- offer competitive ticket prices.
The report noted that acquiring, or otherwise preserving the corridor in the short term could reduce future costs by reducing the likelihood of additional tunnels as urban areas grow and preferred corridors become unavailable.
Work on phase 2 of the study started in late 2011 and culminated in the release of the High speed rail study phase 2 report on 11 April 2013. Building on the work of phase 1, it was more comprehensive in objectives and scope, and refined many of the phase 1 estimates, particularly demand and cost estimates.
In 2013 the Australian government released a study on the implementation of high-speed rail on the east coast of Australia, linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, and Brisbane. Some have advocated extending the network to Adelaide or as far as Perth on the west coast.
The phase 2 report found that:
- the corridor would comprise about 1,750 kilometres of dedicated route linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne
- the preferred alignment included four capital city stations, four city-peripheral stations, and stations at the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton
- once fully operational (from 2065) [sic], the corridor could carry about 84 million passengers a year
- express journey times would be less than three hours between Melbourne and Sydney and between Sydney and Brisbane
- optimal staging for the HSR program would involve building the Sydney–Melbourne line first, starting with Sydney–Canberra, followed by Canberra–Melbourne, Newcastle–Sydney, Brisbane–Gold Coast and Gold Coast–Newcastle
- the estimated cost of constructing the corridor in its entirety would be about A$114 billion (2012 dollars)
- the HSR program and the majority of its individual stages would be expected to produce only a small positive financial return on investment. so governments would need to fund the majority of the upfront capital costs
- if passenger projections were met at the fare levels proposed, the HSR system could generate sufficient revenue from fares and other activities to meet operating costs without ongoing public subsidy
- HSR would substantially improve accessibility for the regional centres it served and provide opportunity for – although not the automatic realisation of – regional development.
Also released alongside the phase 2 report were 280 detailed maps showing the preferred alignment identified in the study. They resolve the various earlier alternative routes outlined in the Wikipedia article Corridor selection history for Australian High Speed Rail.
|Rhumb-line distance||730 km||770 km||250|
|Existing rail distance||963 km (32% greater)||988 km (28% greater)||Unknown|
|Existing rail average speed||92 km/h||73 km/h||Unknown|
|Existing rail travel time (h:min)||10:30||13:35||4:19|
|Existing rail services (daily, each way)||2||1||3|
|Air travel time (CBD to CBD*) (h:min)||3:00||3:05||0:55|
|Air services (daily, each way)||118||84||Unknown|
|High-speed rail travel time (max. 350 km/h)||2:45||4:24||1:04|
NOTE: Air travel time includes travel from CBD to airport, waiting at terminal, gate-to-gate transit, and travel to destination CBD.
The major issues preventing the adoption of high-speed rail include, according to Philip Laird:
- a high level of competition in domestic air travel, resulting in highly affordable fares.
- excessive domestic air transport subsidies.
- that the great inter-city distances exceed those for which high-speed rail can compete effectively against aircraft.
- a perception of cheap car travel.
- a lack of tolls on the majority of inter-capital roads.
Abbott government (2013–2015)
On 8 November 2013 the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, charged with part of the planning for a very fast train between Brisbane and Melbourne, was one of 20 government committees and councils identified to be wound up as part of the newly elected Abbott Government's initial efforts to cut costs and "ensure that the machinery of government is as efficient and as small as possible".
However, the following month, former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced that the Coalition was committed to acquiring the land corridor identified by the previous government's study, and that he was personally seeking the co-operation of the premiers of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and the Chief Minister of the ACT.
The Labor Party indicated it would support the move.
Beyond Zero Emissions Study (2014)
In 2014, the low-carbon advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions released a detailed study in response to the Rudd government's Phase 2 report. Prepared in collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre, the study used many of the same cost assumptions but proposed a modified route to minimise construction expense. Although slightly longer (1799 km compared to 1748 km), the length in tunnel was reduced by 44%, and the length on bridges by 25%. Much of the reduction came through making greater use of existing transport corridors for metropolitan access; the government study took the politically uncomplicated but extremely expensive option of simply tunnelling to the terminal stations. Project author Gerard Drew also criticised the Phase 2 Report's 45-year construction timeline, calling it "laughable". Drew also suggested that there was significant "gold plating" evident in the government report's cost estimates. BZE forecast that the high-speed railway would cost $84.3 billion and take 10 years to construct.
Turnbull government (2015–2018)
When leadership of the Liberal Party changed to Malcolm Turnbull, a noted rail enthusiast, the Federal Government revived talk of high-speed rail proposals for Australia, with a focus on private-sector proposals and value-capture funding models.
In March 2016 the government received an unsolicited proposal from a group called Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), proposing a very fast railway (500 km/h class) between Sydney and Melbourne. Rather than serving existing population centres, the proposal centred on creating 8 new inland cities as commuter towns for Sydney and Melbourne, with construction of both the cities and the railway to be funded by land sales. Clara claimed to have already secured purchase options for 40% of the land required for the cities.
In April 2017, Spanish rollingstock manufacturer Talgo presented an unsolicited proposal to the NSW government, in which it was proposed to utilize passively tilting diesel rollingstock, capable of speeds up to 200 km/h, to increase speeds on the Sydney-Canberra line. With minimal modifications to the existing track, Talgo claimed a travel time as low as 2-2.5hrs could be achieved. The manufacturer offered to bring a Talgo trainset to New South Wales for testing at no cost.
In the May 2017 Federal Budget, the federal government announced $20 million in funding, matching that provided by state/territory or private proponents, for the development of up to 3 business cases focusing on delivering high-speed rail links between capital cities and regional Australia. Submissions will be appraised by Infrastructure Australia, with the funds to be allocated to the successful proponents. Further funding would be considered following completion of the business case(s).
New South Wales (2018)
In late 2018, the New South Wales State Government announced a new high speed rail network connecting Sydney and regional NSW. The government is spending $4.6 million on investigating four identified potential routes. These are Sydney to Port Macquarie, Orange/Parkes, Nowra and Canberra. The proposal offers the following travel times (in hours):
|Journey||Current journey time||At 200 km/h||At 250 km/h|
Short to medium-term upgrades to and optimisation of existing routes as well as a new fleet will provide speeds of at least 200 km/h. These improvements include junction rearrangements, curve easing, deviations, passing loops and level crossing removals to allow trains to run faster, more reliably and more comfortably. A dedicated, purpose-built high speed rail network would provide possible speeds of over 250 km/h in the medium to long-term. The Liberal government aims to begin work on the system next term, if reelected.
In September 2018, the Victorian State Government announced a Fast Rail Reference Group of technical advisors for a high speed rail line to Geelong. This followed an allocation of $50 million for planning for the line in the 2018 state budget. The fast rail link formed part of the Labor Government's Western Rail Plan announced before the 2018 Victorian state election. The plan would see regional trains run to Geelong and Ballarat at speeds up to 250km/h, an increase on the current 160km/h limit of V/Line VLocity trains. This would lead to a travel time between Geelong and Melbourne of 45 minutes and less than an hour to Ballarat. To achieve this, rail lines would electrified and quadruplicated to Wydnham Vale and Melton to separate regional and metropolitan services. The new fast lines would likely utilise a new Sunshine-CBD rail tunnel to be built as part of the Melbourne Airport rail link, and could use new electrified rolling stock. Under the plan, Sunshine railway station would become a key interchange for high speed rail and metropolitan services in Melbourne's west. Planning for the high speed rail will occur alongside the business case for the Airport Rail link, and all projects will likely take a decade to complete, with construction set to begin by 2022.
The plan expands upon current duplication and improvement works to regional passenger rail lines by the State Government's $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival project.
In March 2019, the Federal Coalition Government pledged $2 billion for a fast rail line to Geelong, promising a maximum speed of 200km/h, an average travel speed of 160km/h and a travel time of 32 minutes. The Federal Government claimed this project would have a total cost of $4 billion. The Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan welcomed extra federal funding but dismissed some of the claims about the project, arguing it would cost between $10 to $15 billion, would require the removal of 14 level crossings, and that the federal pledge did not include the cost of new rolling stock.
The only time a train in Australia has exceeded 200 km/h was during a test run of the Electric Tilt Train. Modifications to the tracks were required to achieve the record speed of 210 km/h.
An attempt was made on an XPT test run to reach 200 km/h, although the maximum speed fell slightly short at 193 km/h.
The following is a list of rail speed records in Australia:
|30 April 1934||Creamy Kate||Between Douglas Park and Menangle, south of Sydney||75 mph (120.7 km/h)|||
|17 November 1937||Spirit of Progress||Between Werribee and Laverton, Victoria||79.5 mph (127.9 km/h)|||
|6 September 1981||XPT||Between Table Top and Gerogery, southern NSW||113.7 mph (183.0 km/h)|||
|18 September 1992||XPT||Between Table Top and Yerong Creek, southern NSW||119.9 mph (193.0 km/h)|||
|23 May 1999||QR Electric Tilt Train||Between Meadowvale and Avondale, near Bundaberg, Queensland.||130.4 mph (209.9 km/h)|||
- AVE (Alta Velocidad Espanola ) especially the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line
- NTV Italo
- Peak oil
- High-speed rail
- Rail transport in Australia
- Corridor selection history for Australian high-speed rail
- Williams 1998.
- Crikey – BZE: How we found high speed rail to be commercially viable
- "World's fastest on narrow tracks - National - www.smh.com.au". www.smh.com.au. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
- General definitions of highspeed, International Union of Railways, archived from the original on 28 July 2011, retrieved 10 October 2012
- "To find out what the XPT can do". Canberra Times. 13 June 1981.
- "Prospector Product Sheet" (PDF). UGI Rail. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
- "Australian transport statistics" (PDF). Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. June 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
- "Peak Oil and Australia's National Infrastructure" (PDF). Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. October 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
- High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report 2013.
- Laird, P.; Michell, M.; Adorni-Braccesi, G (2002). Sydney–Canberra–Melbourne high-speed train options (PDF). 25th Australasian Transport Research Forum 2–4 October. Canberra.
- May, Murray (2006). "Aviation meets ecology—redesigning policy and practice for air transport and tourism". Transport Engineering in Australia. 10 (2): 117–128.
- Brunello, Lara R; Bunker, Jonathan M.; Ferreira, Luis (2006). Investigation to Enhance Sustainable Improvements in High Speed Rail Transportation (PDF). CAITR, 6,7,8 December 2006. Sydney.
- May, Murray; Hill, Stuart B. (November 2006). "Questioning airport expansion—A case study of Canberra International Airport". Journal of Transport Geography. 14 (6): 437–450. doi:10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2005.10.004.
- Brunello, Lara R; Bunker, Jonathan M.; Ferreira, Luis; Ferrara, Renzo (2008). Enhancing Sustainable Road and Rail Interaction. Transport Research Arena Europe 2008: Greener, Safer and Smarter Road Transport for Europe, 21–24 April 2008. Ljubljana, Slovenia.
- "A Fast Railway for the East Coast". Railway Digest. 44 (8). August 2007.
- "Fast Future or a Slow Death". Railway Digest. 44 (9). September 2007.
- "Fast Freight and Passengers". Railway Digest. 44 (10). October 2007.
- "Mixing Fast Freight and Passenger Trains". Railway Digest. 44 (11). November 2007.
- "Costing a 21st Century Railway". Railway Digest. 44 (12). December 2007.
- "Fast Trains – Profit or Loss". Railway Digest. 45 (1). January 2008.
- "Fast Trains – Financially Viable". Railway Digest. 45 (2). February 2008.
- "Fast Trains – External Benefits". Railway Digest. 45 (3). March 2008.
- Colin Butcher. "(Submission)Towards a National Land Transport Plan : A Response to the Green Paper on AUSLINK" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2012.
- Laird 2001.
- High Speed Rail for Australia: An opportunity for the 21st century 2008.
- East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study: Phase 1 – Preliminary Study Final Report 2001, section 1, page 1.
- Steketee, Mike (26 July 2008). "Greenhouse plans went off the rails". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Archived from the original on 30 July 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
- Thistleton, John (26 November 2008). "Very fast train tops develops' wish-list". The Canberra Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 1 March 2009.[permanent dead link]
- "Immigrants 'to fund fast rail'". The Border Mail. 17 April 2012. Archived from the original on 28 August 2013.
- "NSW gives country passengers a break" Railway Gazette International March 1979 page 210
- "HST begets XPT" Railway Gazette International June 1980 pages 511/512
- Cooke, David (1984). Railmotors and XPTs. Australian Railway Historical Society NSW Division. ISBN 0 909650 23 3.
- Marsden, Colin (2001). HST Silver Jubilee. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0 711028 47 8.
- "XPT Australia's train of tomorrow" Rail Enthusiast September 1982 pages 40-42
- "Australian rail speed records". www.railpage.org.au. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
- Philip Laird (2001). Where Are We Now: National Patterns and Trends in Transport. Back on Track. UNSW Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-86840-411-X.
- WORRALL, BRAD (3 August 2011). "Slow the XPT, say drivers". The Border Mail. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- Section, Transport for NSW, Customer Experience Division, Customer Service Branch, Customer Information Services. "XPT Regional Trains". transportnsw.info. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- "WILD John Paul". Obituary. ATSE, reprinting article from Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008.
- East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study: Phase 1 – Preliminary Study Final Report 2001.
- Boyd, Tony (5 February 2009). "On the wrong track". Business Spectator. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012.
- "New fast train proposal tilts at VFT". The Canberra Times. 19 January 1990. p. 5. Retrieved 21 June 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- "XP Class frame". www.railmotorsociety.org.au. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
- Philip G. Laird; Peter Newman; Mark Bachels; Jeffry Kenworthy (2001). Back on Track : Rethinking Transport Policy in Australia and New Zealand. UNSW Press.
- Philip Laird (2001). The Institutional Problem. Back on Track. UNSW Press. pp. 107–108. ISBN 0-86840-411-X.
- John Howard; Mark Vaile (4 August 1998). "News release: "It's Speedrail!"". Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 5 September 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Mark, David (11 December 2000). "A history of the Very Fast Train". PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
- "Tilt EMUs Ordered for Brisbane - Rockhampton Run" Railway Digest November 1994 page 14
- Beattie, Peter (1 November 1998). "All aboard Australia's first Tilt Train". Ministerial Media Statements. Queensland Government.
- "Australia enters the Tilt Train era" Railway Digest December 1998 pages 22-25, 40
- Bredhauer, Stephen (30 December 1998). "Australia's Biggest Rail Investment". Ministerial Media Statements. Queensland Government.
- "Bundaberg Day-Return Tilt Service Commences" Railway Digest August 1999 page 15
- QR Limited (1999). Annual Report June 1999 (PDF). Brisbane: QR Limited. p. 53. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2009.
- "QR Tilt Train Sets Australian Rail Speed Record" Railway Digest June 1999 page 15
- "World's fastest on narrow tracks - National - www.smh.com.au". www.smh.com.au. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
- "travel up to 160 kilometres per hour". www.queenslandrail.com.au. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- "Bundaberg Tilt Service Hits Airline as Cairns Tilt Contract Signed" Railway Digest September 1999 page 16
- World class trains for Queensland supporting 800 Maryborough jobs Minister for Transport 27 October 2010
- Spirit of Queensland Archived 18 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine Queensland
- Queensland's famed Sunlander gets makeover Archived 28 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine Rail Express 21 August 2013
- Anderson 2001.
- East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study: Phase 1 – Preliminary Study Final Report 2001, preamble, page 5.
- New 'world-class' Goldfields and Avon trains move closer Government of Western Australia 7 December 2000
- Gray, Bill; May, Andrew (2006). A History of WAGR Passenger Carriages. Perth: Bill Gray. pp. 338–341. ISBN 0-646-45902-3.
- "WA Short Lines" Railway Digest February 2001
- Prospector enters new era The Golden Mail 2 July 2004
- Prospector Product Sheet UGL Rail
- Jano Gibson (10 February 2009). "Sydney to Canberra in 50 minutes: fast tracking second airport". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- John Thistleton (18 June 2012). "$22b savings seen in high-speed rail link". Canberra Times. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Hildebrand, J. Rudd's road and rail cash. Daily Telegraph 19 December 2006
- Smith, A. Parramatta to city in 11 minutes: now that's a fast train. Sydney Morning Herald 15 March 2005
- Hast, Mike (3 August 2008). "Rapid train could slash travel times". The Cranbourne Journal. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
- "Melbourne Concepts – E Page 3: Maglev's relevence(sic) to Western Melbourne". Archived from the original on 12 May 2013.
- Paul Fisher. "Perth Bunbury Fast Train Feasibility study and route selection". Archived from the original on 13 October 2012.
- Clay Lucas (23 November 2010), Baillieu pushes high-speed rail links, Melbourne: The Age, archived from the original on 6 November 2012
- Baillieu, Ted (23 November 2010). "Coalition to push for high-speed rail" (PDF) (Press release). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 August 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- Tony Moore (19 November 2010), High-speed rail plan: Brisbane to Gold Coast in 21 minutes, Brisbane Times, archived from the original on 8 October 2012
- Jacob Saulwick and Kelsey Munro (6 April 2011). "O'Farrell calls for high-speed trains instead of second Sydney airport". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012.
- Peter Veness (20 December 2008). "Melbourne-Sydney very fast train tops wish list for Rudd Government". news.com.au. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2009.
- "Very fast train has merits: Albanese". ABC. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2009.
- Needham, Kirsty (1 November 2010). "Study will examine cost of fast rail". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
- Lucas, Clay (23 April 2010). "Greens to push A$40bn fast-rail link to Sydney". The Age. Melbourne. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
- High Speed Rail Study Phase 1 2011.
- Albanese, Anthony. "Moving forward with high speed rail". Anthony Albanese MP. Archived from the original on 9 March 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- High speed rail study underway, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2 February 2011, archived from the original on 12 November 2012
- Saulwick, Jacol (28 September 2010). "High speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne too expensive". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
- "High Speed Rail". Department of Infrastructure and Transport. Archived from the original on 14 August 2013.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
- Russell, Christopher (31 January 2011), Adelaide must be in high-speed rail loop, archived from the original on 1 July 2012
- Wright, Matthew (27 August 2009). "Fly by rail – Zero Emissions transport capital to capital". Beyond Zero Emissions campaign. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011.
- East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study: Phase 1 – Preliminary Study Final Report 2001, section 1, page 5.
- Saulwick, Jacob (15 August 2012). "Tilt trains seen as way to lure users to rural rail". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
- "OAG reveals latest industry intelligence on the busiest routes (Press release)". OAG (UBM Aviation). 21 September 2007. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
- Jacob Saulwick (26 August 2013). "High-Speed Rail back on track". Canberra Times.
- John Thistleton (26 August 2013). "Canberra-Sydney high-speed rail link backed in advisory group's report". The Examiner.
- Marr, Sid and Crowe, David (8 November 2013). "Tony Abbott keeps focus by cutting bodies past use-by date". The Australian. Sydney. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
- Abbott, Tony (8 November 2013). "Media release: "Press conference, Melbourne"". Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
- Murphy, Katharine (11 February 2016). "Barnaby Joyce wins Nationals leadership, Fiona Nash named deputy". The Guardian. Australia. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- Gartrell, Adam (11 February 2016). "Parliament pays tribute to retiring deputy PM Warren Truss ahead of Barnaby Joyce elevation". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- Keany, Francis (11 February 2016). "Barnaby Joyce elected unopposed as new Nationals leader". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- Ross Peake (2 December 2013). "Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss gets high speed rail on track". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Gerard Drew, Earth to moon in 8 years, Melbourne to Brisbane in 45, Beyond Zero Emissions, retrieved 1 March 2015
- Jake Sturmer (29 November 2013), High-speed rail network $30 billion cheaper than first thought: study, ABC, retrieved 1 March 2015
- "Is this secret meeting with the PM about a speed rail link for Australia?". NewsComAu. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- High speed rail proposal raised by Malcolm Turnbull 7.30 11 April 2016
- Steven Trask (10 April 2017). "Andrew Leigh urges NSW government to support Canberra to Sydney highspeed train". Canberra Times. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
- Tony Vermeer (10 May 2017). "ScoMo's big boost for planes, trains and automobiles". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
- Cole, David (5 December 2018). "New fast rail network for NSW announced". Goulburn Post. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- "NSW Premier announces high-speed rail options ahead of election". www.9news.com.au. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- "A Fast Rail Future for NSW". NSW Government. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- "Sydney public transport: NSW Government unveils high speed rail plan". www.news.com.au. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- "Geelong's High-Speed Rail On The Fast Track". Premier of Victoria. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Jacks, Timna (15 October 2018). "Geelong to Melbourne in 45 minutes under Labor's regional rail plan". The Age. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "Fast Rail to Geelong". metrotunnel.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Jacks, Timna (15 October 2018). "Geelong to Melbourne in 45 minutes under Labor's regional rail plan". The Age. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Build, Victoria's Big (1 November 2018). "Western Rail Plan". bigbuild.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Willingham, state political reporter Richard (16 October 2018). "New Melbourne rail link plan makes Sunshine a 'super hub'". ABC News. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Build, Victoria's Big (1 November 2018). "Western Rail Plan". bigbuild.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "Fast Rail to Geelong". metrotunnel.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "Andrews unveils Western Rail Plan as Federal Labor commit to Suburban Rail Loop". Urban. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "Regional Rail Revival". regionalrailrevival.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Koob, Simone Fox (21 March 2019). "Fast rail between Melbourne and Geelong would slash travel time in half". The Age. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Koob, Simone Fox (21 March 2019). "Fast rail between Melbourne and Geelong would slash travel time in half". The Age. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Carey, Timna Jacks, Simone Fox Koob, Adam (21 March 2019). "Morrison 'can't deliver' Geelong rail plan for $4b, minister claims". The Age. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "NEW RAIL MOTOR'S SPEED". The Labor Daily (3246). New South Wales, Australia. 1 May 1934. p. 7. Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Victoria's New Express Makes 79 Miles An Hour". The Age. Melbourne: David Syme & Co. 18 November 1937. p. 1.
- "Australian rail speed records". Railpage. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
- AECOM; Booz and Co; KPMG; Hyder; Acil Tasman; Grimshaw Architects (April 2013). "High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report" (PDF). Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Transport. Libraries Australia ID 50778307. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2013.
- AECOM; Grimshaw Architects; KPMG; SKM (July 2011). "High Speed Rail Study Phase 1" (PDF). Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Transport. Libraries Australia ID 47757259. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2013.
- Anderson, John (26 March 2001), Government ends scoping study on East Coast very high speed train network (Media Release), Parliament of Australia, retrieved 8 August 2010
- Arup-TMG (November 2001). "East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study: Phase 1 – Preliminary Study Final Report" (PDF). Australian Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2013.
- Brown, Lester R. (17 February 2009). "Restructuring the U.S. Transport System: The Potential of High-Speed Rail". The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012.
- Canberra Business Council (April 2008). "High Speed Rail for Australia: An opportunity for the 21st century" (PDF). Canberra Business Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2013.
- CSIRO (January 1985). VFT – A Fast Railway Between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne: a CSIRO Proposal. Canberra: CSIRO.
- de Rus, Ginés; Nombela, Gustavo (March 2006), Is Investment in High Speed Rail Socially Profitable? (PDF), Department of Applied Economic Analysis, University of Las Palmas, archived from the original (PDF) on 20 February 2012
- Infrastructure Partnerships Australia; AECOM (2010). "East Coast High Capacity Infrastructure Corridors". Infrastructure Partners Australia. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
- Laird, Philip (2001). Where Are We Now: National Patterns and Trends in Transport. Back on Track. UNSW Press. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-86840-411-X.
- McLennan, David (29 March 2002). "Fast train shelved by lack of vision: Stanhope". The Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 21 October 2009.
- Sarre, Alastair (January 2002). "Looking down the track at very fast trains". Australian Academy of Science. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012.
- Teutsch, Danielle (6 April 2008). "Planes versus trains". Melbourne: The Age. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012.
- Wild, J.P.; Brotchie, J.F.; Nicolson, A.J. (1984), A proposal for a fast railway between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne : an exploratory study, CSIRO Australia
- Williams, Paula (April 1998), "Australian Very Fast Trains – A Chronology", Background Paper 16, Parliamentary Library, archived from the original on 7 February 2012