Dec 4, 2011

High Speed Rail Study: Stage Two Begins

The second and final stage of the Gillard Labor Government’s landmark study into the economic merits and financial viability of an east coast high speed rail network is underway following the retention of AECOM, the lead author of the interim report.

Following a competitive tendering process, this leading global consultancy now has the opportunity to complete the work it started almost a year ago — and to do so it has assembled a consortium which brings together a broad range of expertise: KPMG, SKM, ACIL Tasman, Booz & Co, Hyder and Grimshaw Architects.

Over the next 12 months, the work done in Stage One and the findings contained in the interim report will be further tested and refined.

AECOM and its partners will determine with greater precision the alignment of the track and station locations, improve the accuracy of the costs associated with building and operating the network, re-evaluate patronage projections, and recommend financing options along with possible governance arrangements.

Since its release in early August, more than 316,000 copies of the interim report have been downloaded from my Department’s website—an indication of widespread community interest in this technology.

Indeed High Speed Rail could be a game-changer, with the potential to better integrate our regional and metropolitan communities, ease congestion on our roads and at our airports as well as provide a new foundation for a low carbon, high productivity economy.

However, this kind of monumental endeavour must take place in a deliberate, thoughtful manner. The work we’re undertaking is all about planning for Australia’s future, not just for the next five years but for the next five decades.

Copies of the interim report along with the Terms of Reference for the study can be downloaded from: www.infrastructure.gov.au/rail/trains/high_speed/.

Interim Report: Key Findings

Based on the preliminary work undertaken as part of the Study’s first stage, an eastern seaboard network connecting Brisbane to Melbourne via Canberra, Sydney and a range of regional centres would:

  • Cost between $61 billion and $108 billion to build and involve laying more than 1,600 kilometres of new standard-gauge, double-track.
  • Achieve speeds of up 350 kilometres per hour and offer journey times as low as 3 hours from Sydney to Brisbane, and just 40 minutes from Sydney to Newcastle.
  • Carry around 54 million passengers a year by 2036 including, for example, about half those who would have flown between Sydney and Melbourne—currently the world’s fifth busiest air corridor.
  • Offer competitive ticket prices, with one way fares from Brisbane to Sydney costing $75$177; Sydney to Melbourne $99$197; and $16.50 for daily commuters between Newcastle and Sydney.
  • Cut carbon pollution, with emissions per passenger a third of what a car emits and each full train—450 passengers—equivalent to taking 128 cars off the road.
Study Area