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High-speed rail study poses Canberra's 64-minute question

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Renewed push for high speed rail

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says there is a demand for high speed rail which could see passengers travel from Melbourne to Sydney in under three hours.

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A high-speed train into Canberra would travel through a tunnel under Mount Ainslie and terminate at a station to be built on the eastern fringe of Civic, according to a study commissioned by the federal government on Thursday.

Passengers on the high-speed rail network could travel from Canberra to Sydney in 64 minutes, with an expected five million trips to be made between the two cities each year.

The report, released on Thursday by Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, identifies a preferred route and says the very fast train could carry an estimated 84 million passengers each year, with express journey times of less than three hours between Melbourne and Sydney and between Sydney and Brisbane.

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The link between Canberra and Sydney would be built first, with passengers riding the high-speed train as early as 2030, and the line then pushed on to Melbourne and later extended from Sydney to Brisbane.

If the go-ahead was received, a decade would be needed for planning and another five years for preconstruction and buying land for what would be one of the largest infrastructure programs undertaken in Australia.

By 2065, high-speed rail could attract more than half of the air travel market on the Canberra-Sydney, Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane routes.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It would run one service an hour in each direction on the Canberra-Sydney leg, and increasing to five an hour on the Sydney-Melbourne route as demand grew.

However, the proposal to run trains at speeds up to 350km/h would be a ''monumental endeavour'' with ''very real'' technical, logistical and financial challenges.

''That's why we must take a deliberate, thoughtful approach and this report provides a comprehensive analysis on which an informed public debate is now possible,'' Mr Albanese said. He will begin public consultations on the role high-speed rail could play.

The report refines demand and cost estimates from the first phase of the study and says the proposed 1738-kilometre rail network would cost $114 billion in 2012 terms.

The most significant cost element of the project would be tunneling required for access to major city centres, including a 4 kilometre tunnel to be built under Mount Ainslie in Canberra.

The majority of the cost would have to be borne by the federal, ACT, NSW, Victorian and Queensland governments.

''The potential to attract private finance is limited,'' the report says.

The passenger demand is estimated to be between 46 million and 111 million a year if the network was built by 2065 but the report settled on a forecast of 83.6 million.

Despite forecasts of high demand, the Sydney-Canberra leg is expected to be the only sector of the network to operate at a loss.

The report talks up the benefits of the project, saying it would have a ''transformative impact on how the majority of Australians live, work and travel''.

It would deliver discernible benefits along the eastern seaboard where about two thirds of Australians live.

''HSR could produce significant economic benefits - a return of $2.30 to Australia's economy for every dollar invested and will greatly improve opportunities for urban and regional development,'' it says.

The preferred route follows a coastal alignment between Brisbane and Sydney and then inland between Sydney and Melbourne, with connections to Canberra and the Gold Coast.

Stations would be at Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, as well as the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the central coast, southern highlands, Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

''HSR will offer a unique travelling experience with airline-type seating, full catering and computer facilities,'' the report says.

The project is being promoted as a way to better connect regional communities and capital cities, which would emit less carbon on a per passenger basis than car or plane transport, and would help enhance Australia as an international tourist destination and improve domestic tourism opportunities.

The report estimates that if the passenger projections were met at the fare levels proposed, the rail system could operate without ongoing public subsidy.

''HSR fares adopted for the study have been assumed to be comparable to air fares on the inter-capital routes, and it would appear HSR could sustain higher fares,'' it says. ''It is not expected that airlines would respond to HSR competition by reducing fares on a sustained basis.

''It has been assumed, in line with international experience, that airlines would quickly reduce capacity.''

with Hamish Boland-Rudder

25 comments

  • This would do so much for the economy, people in country towns as a lot of people in Canberra would move if they had a way of getting here and owning land themselves at a rate that won’t burry them…I don’t know why they are so reluctant to kick this off. We waste so much money elsewhere.

    Commenter
    LuvBerra
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    April 11, 2013, 8:35AM
    • How is the fast train going to help people commute from "country towns" to Canberra ? It won't stop at any of them.

      Commenter
      enno
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 12:31PM
  • We have just lost twenty years talking. All we need now is for the opposition to come up with a steam train version.

    Commenter
    amro
    Date and time
    April 11, 2013, 8:40AM
    • You have to laugh. It's been talked about for the last 20 years and they will still be discussing it in 20 years time. Those wheels are turning very slowly.

      Commenter
      Betty
      Location
      Calwell
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:51AM
      • A $2.30 return! Build it now.

        Australia is in desperate need of good infrastructure, it's been ignored for a couple of decades now by both sides of politics at the State and Federal levels. Do Australia a favour, put the politics aside and build HSR.

        Commenter
        Shush
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        April 11, 2013, 8:56AM
        • Just wonder what the tickets would be worth. I lived in Japan for almost 5 years and never took the Shinkansen for two reasons. 1) too slow compared to air 2) too expensive compared to air.

          Their trains have been a great success but is this because of the time it takes to get to airports in major hubs like Tokyo and Kyoto?

          IMHO, i dont think Australia is quite there yet. 2 and 1/2 hours to Melbourne is very tempting though.

          Commenter
          AC
          Date and time
          April 11, 2013, 9:25AM
          • I lived in central Tokyo for 8 years and took the shinkansen to lots of places (as far afield as Kyoto and Sapporo and to inner Honshu) in cheaper economy class. Never flew domestic because of the hassles getting to and from airports and the greater convenience of the shinkansen which services more places than domestic airports (and stops in the heart of those places) and didn't have the security hassles of airports. If AC never took the shinkansen I can't understand how he/she can draw an accurate comparison.

            Commenter
            Gaijingirl
            Date and time
            April 11, 2013, 10:02AM
          • I live in the demographic heart of Sydney, near Parramatta. I can drive to any location in Canberra, in two and a half hours. I can then drive to any other location in Canberra, as I please. I can come back when I please, without having to wait for a train that only runs every couple of hours.

            Travelling to downtown Sydney to catch a fast train is not convenient. There is no parking there. There is no parking near my closest Sydney suburban stations. There is almost no public transport in Canberra to get around on ( unlike Japan ! ). Air-line style fares are uncompetitive with the cost of driving to Canberra, particularly if there are two or three of us going there. It costs two or three times more on the train, costs the same when driving.

            A point to point journey to my friends' place in Canberra would take about 5 hours by public transport, and that is assuming that the fast train part can be achieved in 70 minutes, which I doubt it can.

            The fast train plan does not stand up, without the supporting transport infrastructure at either end.

            Commenter
            albert
            Location
            sydney
            Date and time
            April 11, 2013, 12:21PM
        • And under the coalition (if the NBN proposal is anything to go by) they will build it cheaper by having the train stop 20 kilometres from any city and providing hard carts to passengers to complete the journey.
          Hopefully at some stage we stop having feasibility studies and actually start building the high speed rail - connected regional areas would grow and businesses could decentralise.

          Commenter
          Dee2
          Date and time
          April 11, 2013, 9:36AM
          • Just do it

            Commenter
            Woz
            Location
            Civic
            Date and time
            April 11, 2013, 9:43AM

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