High Speed Rail for Australia - a fast track to the future or just the same old pipe dream?

Parliament house flag post

High Speed Rail for Australia - a fast track to the future or just the same old pipe dream?

Posted 28/01/2014 by Moira Coombs

High Speed Rail (HSR) has been talked about for many years in Australia but has never progressed beyond the study and report stage. However, on 9 December 2013, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, introduced a private member’s bill — the High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill 2013. The Bill proposes setting up a High Speed Rail Planning Authority which, as the second reading speech notes, is designed to provide critical ‘long-term Commonwealth leadership to progress the project’ and to ‘maintain the momentum generated by the recent strategic studies’. The other objective of the Bill is to secure the rail corridor, which will run through a variety of landscapes including city, suburban and rural, in order to prevent future encroachment on these areas.

The proposed Authority will consist of eleven members. Five members will be appointed by the Minister; one member each from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland nominated by their respective governors; one member from the ACT, nominated by the Chief Minister; one member nominated by the Australian Local Government Association; and one member nominated by the Australasian Railway Association.

The Authority’s major functions will involve land use planning for the HSR corridor and directing the HSR’s development and construction. The Authority will also consider specific measures related to environmental impacts; ensure that the HSR system provides a safe, regular, efficient and cost-effective rail transport system; and consult with interested bodies and the public on matters related to the HSR system generally.

High Speed Rail Study Phases 1 and 2

In October 2010 the Gillard Government released the terms of reference for a strategic study to be conducted on the implementation of high speed rail on the east coast of Australia. The study had two phases. The Phase 1 report was released on 4 August 2011 and focussed on identifying corridors, station locations and potential patronage. It also provided an indicative estimate of the cost to build a HSR network. Phase 2 of the study commenced late in 2011 and the High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 report was released on 11 April 2013. It refined many of the Phase 1 estimates, particularly the demand and cost estimates.

The Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss stated in November 2013, in a speech in given to the AusRAIL 2013 Conference: Driving the Costs out of Rail, that the Government:

is considering what role high speed rail could play as part of Australia’s long term transport planning, which we will do as part of a broader approach that looks at the preferred options across all transport modes and in consultation with eastern state governments…This is not just innocent drawing lines on a map. It will be a major multi-billion dollar commitment. You cannot designate a corridor through our cities, suburbs, towns and rural landscapes without being willing to purchase the affected lands and that will be expensive and without an immediate return.

The Government will consult with the affected states and the Australian Capital Territory ‘to ascertain their support for the proposal and their willingness to begin the next step —reserving the corridor for a future high speed rail line’.

The system proposed in the High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 report would comprise approximately 1,748 kilometres of dedicated route with four city centre stations (including Canberra), four city-peripheral stations (one in Brisbane, two in Sydney and one in Melbourne) and 12 regional stations. The estimated cost is $114 billion in 2012 terms. The proposed route includes 144 kilometres of tunnels. The Phase 2 report proposes that the Sydney-Canberra link would commence construction in 2027. Estimates of travel time between city centres are:

  • Sydney—Canberra: 64 minutes
  • Sydney—Melbourne: 2 hours 44 minutes
  • Newcastle—Sydney: 39 minutes
  • Sydney—Brisbane: 2 hours 37 minutes

After the release of the Phase 2 report, a High Speed Rail Advisory Group was established to advise the Government on key industry and community issues arising from the report. (The Group was abolishedin November 2013.) The Group’s August 2013 Report found that HSR had the potential to be an integral part of Australia’s future. The Group’s consultations revealed that generally people were supportive, with most wanting HSR delivered cheaper and much sooner than proposed. The Group further noted:

The evidence is clear. It would build capacity and resilience into the major east coast transport networks, alleviate pressure on the busiest intercity air services, and thereby allow growth of international and new domestic aviation operations, and help diversify infrastructure investment into more energy efficient technology. More fundamentally, high speed rail would contribute to national productivity and open up greater opportunities for regional development, help shape transport planning for cities, and improve service provision, connectivity and accessibility.

A recent study, co-authored by the clean energy group Beyond Zero Emissions, considers that the cost of HSR will be less than indicated in the Phase 2 report. Another recent report, High Speed Rail: Benefits that add up, commissioned by the Australian Greens, focuses on, and attempts to quantify, the benefits of HSR.


  • 4/06/2014 6:45 PM
    A.D.Moses said:

    I come from a different branch of Engineering. However some basic calculations leave me very concerned about the safety of trains travelling at speeds like 200 and 350 kph, assuming that the wheels will still be the same simple flange, non-captive, arrangement, I would welcome the chance to air my concern with a relevant person. Thankyou,Tony Moses.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

We welcome your comments, or additional information which is relevant to a post. These can be added by clicking on the ‘Add your comment’ option above. Please note that the Parliamentary Library will moderate comments, and reserves the right not to publish comments that are inconsistent with the objectives of FlagPost. This includes comments that are not relevant to the article, factually incorrect or politically partisan, as well as spam, profanity and personal abuse. We will close comments after three months.

Generate a new image
Type characters from the image:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration climate change Australian foreign policy Parliament elections social security welfare reform welfare policy school education Australian Defence Force health financing indigenous Australians women Private health insurance higher education emissions trading taxation people trafficking Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics Middle East Employment illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Medicare disability Sport United Nations Asia politics criminal law Afghanistan income management health forced labour Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health Australian Public Service constitution Australian Electoral Commission WADA transport aid child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system OECD ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme banking International Women's Day corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senate Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers Census Electoral reform High Court skilled migration UK Parliament election results voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability Papua New Guinea youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping crime health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy political parties firearms public policy Population violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining military history employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing by-election European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water productivity health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia United Kingdom GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top