Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

High Speed Rail

A high speed rail (HSR) passenger network connecting Melbourne to Brisbane through Sydney, Canberra and other regional centres along our east coast, is a topic of considerable interest to many Australians.

Internationally, HSR is contributing positively to national economies and urban and regional development. HSR on the east coast of Australia has the potential to positively impact the development of urban centres and regional communities.

The Australian Government has received two reports (The High Speed Rail Study Phase 1 and The High Speed Rail Study Phase 2) from the strategic study on the implementation of a HSR network on the east coast of Australia. The reports provide analysis on the feasibility of HSR and advice on the next steps for HSR in Australia:

  • The High Speed Rail Study Phase 1 report identified corridors and station locations, potential patronage and provided an indicative cost to build the HSR network.
  • The High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 report built on the work of the Phase 1 report and refined many of the estimates, particularly around demand and costs, and refined the preferred HSR route identified in the Phase 1 report. This report also identified important next steps in staging a future HSR network in Australia.

Next steps to develop HSR

The HSR Phase 2 Report identified early preservation and protection of a preferred HSR corridor is the next important and critical task.

The Australian Government is currently consulting with the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT on the best approaches to protecting a corridor for a future HSR network and other considerations for HSR.

Background Resources

On 31 October 2010, the Terms of Reference were released for a strategic study on the implementation of high speed rail (HSR) on the east coast of Australia.

The study, managed by the Department, was established to inform the Australian Government, the ACT and state governments' consideration of next steps for HSR in Australia. The study was undertaken in two phases.

HSR Phase 1 Report

cover image of High Speed Rail Study report The HSR Phase 1 Report was launched on 4 August 2011. The report identified corridors and station locations and potential patronage, as well as providing an indicative estimate of the cost to build an HSR network.

HSR Phase 2 Report

cover image of High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 report Work on Phase 2 of the study commenced in late 2011 and culminated in the release of the High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report on 11 April 2013.

The Phase 2 study built on the work of Phase 1, but was considerably broader and deeper in objectives and scope, and refined many of the Phase 1 estimates, particularly the demand and cost estimates.

The report found that:

  • The HSR network would comprise approximately 1,748 kilometres of dedicated route between Brisbane-Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne.
  • The preferred alignment includes four capital city stations, four city-peripheral stations, and stations at the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.
  • Once fully operational (from 2065), HSR could carry approximately 84 million passengers each year, with express journey times of less than three hours between Melbourne-Sydney and Sydney-Brisbane.
  • The optimal staging for the HSR program would involve building the Sydney-Melbourne line first, starting with the Sydney-Canberra sector. Subsequent stages would be Canberra-Melbourne, Newcastle-Sydney, Brisbane-Gold Coast and Gold Coast-Newcastle.
  • The estimated cost of constructing the preferred HSR alignment in its entirety would be around $114 billion (in 2012 dollars).
  • The HSR program and the majority of its individual stages are expected to produce only a small positive financial return on investment. Governments would be required to fund the majority of the upfront capital costs.
  • If HSR passenger projections were met at the fare levels proposed, the HSR system, once operational, could generate sufficient fare revenue and other revenue to meet operating costs without ongoing public subsidy.
  • HSR would substantially improve accessibility for the regional centres it served, and provide opportunity for—although not the automatic realisation of—regional development.

The report on the Phase 2 study is available to download in individual parts, or as the full report:

High Speed Rail Advisory Group

A High Speed Rail Advisory Group was established in April 2013 to advise on key industry and community issues arising out of the report on Phase 2 of the study.

The Advisory Group's report (On Track; Implementing High Speed Rail in Australia) is available for download: PDF: 5698 KB ReadSpeaker

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Last Updated: 8 December, 2014