Address to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s Partnerships 2011 Conference – High Speed Rail : Interim Report Released
Hilton Hotel, Sydney
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Infrastructure & Transport
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
4 August 2011
It is a great pleasure to be invited to speak to you here today.
Tomorrow it will be one year since I stood before IPA’s 2010 Partnerships Conference and put high speed rail firmly back on the national agenda.
Then, I announced that a Gillard Labor Government would invest $20 million for a study that would investigate how to make a network along our east coast a reality.
There have been some suggestions that this study was a condition on which the Greens would support us to form Government.
Let me make it clear: this was one of our key 2010 election commitments – being delivered as promised Labor.
The first stage of the study has just been completed and I am pleased to be here today to release it.
Work has progressed well under the oversight of a dedicated High Speed Rail unit in my Department.
We are now looking at an east coast high speed rail network that has the potential to connect almost 65 per cent of Australians and provide a foundation for a low carbon, high productivity economy.
There are three crucial factors to this study.
How many people would use it? Where it will go and what are the travel times? And the all crucial, what will it cost?
In this first stage, work has been undertaken to get to the core of these issues.
Let’s look first at the early findings around usage and forecast patronage.
The study shows that in twenty-five years time we could have up to 54 million passengers using an east coast high speed rail service each year.
It predicts that the Newcastle, Central Coast and Sydney trip could be seeing around 15 million passengers a year. Five million of these would be commuters.
Some eight million passengers could travel between Sydney and Melbourne and 3.5 million passengers between Brisbane and Sydney.
That is approximately half the forecast estimate for the air market.
When you look at the statistics here, it is worth nothing that nearly 25 million domestic air trips were made within the study area during 2010.
The Sydney-Melbourne air corridor and the Sydney-Brisbane air corridor are currently ranked fifth and sixteenth busiest in the world.
If you could get city centre to city centre in the same, or less time with high speed rail, new possibilities open up.
This brings me to the travel times canvassed in this first stage.
What is now more than a two hour car trip between Newcastle and Sydney would become a 40 minute train ride.
Canberra to Sydney could go from three hours in a car to one hour on a train.
Melbourne to Sydney could be achieved in three hours, city centre to city centre. As could Brisbane.
These are the projected travel times for a train travelling at 350 km an hour in regional areas and 200 km in the city corridors.
And let’s bear in mind the technology is developing fast – and faster trains mean further reductions in travel time.
Where Would It Go
As I have just outlined the key city-to-city routes are clear.
At this stage of the study, broad corridors and indicative station locations have been identified.
- The coastal corridor between Brisbane and Newcastle, with potential variations around coastal cities and the Gold Coast.
- The Central Coast corridor between Newcastle and Sydney.
- The Hume and Princes Highway corridors between Sydney and Canberra, potentially via Wollongong.
- The Hume corridor between Canberra and Melbourne, via Riverina, Murray, and with a potential route option via the Goulburn Valley.
As we progress into the second stage, these corridors will be further refined. We will look at feasibility, cost and further develop patronage data along each of these routes.
This leads me to the question of cost.
It is clear that different options come with different cost implications.
The work done to date put the construction cost of the entire network somewhere between $61 billion and $108 billion in today’s dollars.
The Sydney to Newcastle route is estimated between $11 and $18 billion.
- Sydney to Canberra between $11 and 25 billion.
- Canberra to Melbourne between $20 and $26 billion.
- Brisbane to Newcastle between $20 and $41 billion.
Land acquisition alone is estimated at around $6 billion in today’s dollars and we know it is not going to get any cheaper or any easier the longer we wait.
As with all big nation building projects, the capital cost upfront is large, but the long term benefits for the nation are evident.
We are also starting to get an early picture of the fares – which would be almost on par with the airfares.
One way fares between Brisbane to Sydney range between $75 and $175.
Sydney to Melbourne between $100 and $200.
Newcastle to Sydney fares could range from $60 for the occasional business traveller down to $16.50 commuter – reflecting a potential subsidy.
Let me turn to what will happen over the next twelve months in Stage Two.
The tender process for the work to be undertaken in the second stage is already under way.
Stage Two of the study will seek to:
Pin down a preferred alignment and station options
Assess commercial viability
Examine potential funding sources
Advice on a management model to plan, construct and operate the rail system
I touched earlier on the aspect of long term nation building.
As Australia grows, we need to look at what is needed to start developing the nation’s next-generation transport network.
No government should base its national policy solely on today’s needs it’s our job to look at, and plan for, the future.
If we are being serious about High Speed Rail, we need to look forward and determine what we need to do in the next five, ten and fifteen years to make it a reality.
As we move towards a low carbon economy, it is worth noting that the CO2 emissions per HSR passenger would be around one third of those emitted if they were travelling in a car.
Looking at other countries that have introduced High Speed Rail, it is also clear to see that it can have enormous economic benefits.
Take Japan who started its network in 1964 with the Bullet Train which opened in time for the Tokyo Olympics.
It changed the way Japan works.
It revolutionised the transport system.
It drove productivity and vastly strengthened Japan’s economy.
The Government now firmly has Australia’s eyes set upon the possibility of high-speed rail for our nation.
This forms part of our whole of Government approach to tackling climate change.
The first stage that I’m launching here today is first part of a larger investigation.
This is exciting work which will further educate the debate that we need to have around Australia’s future transport network.
Commuters, employers, transport operators, in fact the broad community, need to get the opportunity to have a thorough look at the facts and figures on high-speed rail.
The cost and construction challenges are high.
We know that compared with Europe and Japan, let alone China, we have a smaller population spread over a longer distance.
This first stage of the study has now been uploaded onto my department’s website so that everybody can see where we are at today.
There will now be an open consultation process running for two months.
The merits of High Speed Rail should be considered as part of our economic development.
But we must look at it carefully, understand all the implications, and make sensible, informed decisions as a community.
Let me leave you with this thought.
I wonder what one of our most revered leaders, Ben Chifley a former train driverwould make of high speed rail?
As one of the greatest nation builders of the 20th century, I am confident he would have seen its potential and the possibilities it could bring.
I look forward to the national conversation about high-speed rail.
It’s a conversation the Government wants to have with the community.
It is well and truly a reality across the globe let’s now work together to advance the debate about it here in Australia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.