An international expert in high speed rail says the "stars are aligning" for Australia to make a decision on building a line to link Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
Torkel Patterson, vice-chairman of the International High Speed Rail Association, will tell a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Tuesday "it's time" for Australia to act.
"Australia's flirted with it for a long time, I think this is the time to make a decision on this," he told Fairfax Media before his appearance before the House of Representatives standing committee on infrastructure, transport and cities.
Mr Patterson is also a director of the Central Japan Railway Company, operator of the iconic bullet train.
The committee is conducting an inquiry into value-capture mechanisms to sustainably fund transport infrastructure and is looking at international experiences with capturing the value of high speed rail infrastructure, and the impact of high speed rail on urban and regional development.
Committee chairman John Alexander said Japan has had great success with its network of high speed rail corridors over the last 60 years.
With more than 2,300 kilometres of rail track and more than 100 million people using Japan's high speed rail each year, Australia could learn a lot about the technology behind it and its potential application, he said.
Former trade minister Andrew Robb said this week Australia should grab the opportunity of very low interest rates to build the very fast train now along the east coast.
Mr Patterson said he agreed with Mr Robb's assessment, saying Japan had successfully used the strategy.
"In Japan, there's definitely been land price increases, in anticipation [of high speed rail] and after the fact, substantial profit, over and above the normal growth," he said.
"If you think about Australia's future, it has been a successful economy based on resources but as you move to a more knowledge-based and services based-economy, the central focus of that is the south east quarter of Australia.
"Whereas in the past Melbourne and Sydney tried to compete with other, really being a competitive global economic nation is the future of Australia.
"Secondly, you have a need to spread the population between these two centres as the population grows and they're all going to move to Sydney or Melbourne.
"The infrastructure can't sustain that so you need to spend tens of billions of dollars improving that, such as adding new runways to the airports, or you do something different.
"Also, your countryside is withering as your cities are prospering.
"High speed rail allows a solution to that by connecting Sydney to Melbourne, within two to three hours [travel time] depending on the technology chosen, and you change the dynamic equation for the in-between region.
"Minister Robb said recently that the timing is right given the price [of money] around the world."
Mr Patterson said he had been following the "ups and downs" of high speed rail in Australia, during the term of the Labor and Coalition Governments.
"I think now there is a lot of open mindedness at the federal level to pursue this so that's why we've made the trip," he said.
"If you do nothing, the cost of solving the infrastructure problems that the country will have as the population grows, will be greater than the cost now of doing something that would address these issues.
"Given that global interest rates are low or negative, I think it's a good time to finance that as well.
"Australia is considered a safer haven, Australia is looking very competitive and strong and infrastructure is a good bet.
"People are going to keep coming to Australia, so I think the stars are aligning."