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$114 billion high-speed rail link from Melbourne to Brisbane

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 11, 2013

  • High-speed rail link would cost as much as $114b
  • Minister says high-speed rail is a “game changer”
  • Said “success elsewhere in the world” defies critics
  • 40 years to complete

THE long-held dream of a high-speed rail link from Melbourne to Brisbane would cost as much as $114 billion to build and the clearing of a corridor 200m wide and 1600km long.

RailThe daunting costs and land requirements are contained in the Federal Government’s first report on an implementation study promised at the election, to be released today.

But the potential of a very fast train service also were covered.

The trains could reach speeds of 350 km/h and offer trips such as three hours between Sydney and Brisbane, and 40 minutes between Sydney and Newcastle, said the report by a consortium of private consultants.


By 2036, the network could sell 54 million tickets a year, half of them to people who otherwise would have flown between Sydney and Melbourne, the world’s 5th busiest air route.


Ticket prices might range from $75 to $177 for the Brisbane-Sydney route; $99 to $197 for Sydney to Melbourne; and $16.50 for a Newcastle-Sydney commute.


“High-speed rail could be a game changer. That’s why the Gillard Labor government has put it back on the national agenda,” said Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.

“There are of course critics of high-speed rail, but its success elsewhere in the world says otherwise.”

Greens MP Adam Bandt has made clear he wants the Government to pursue the project.

Mr Albanese said the study would be considered and “refined” over the coming 12 months, while tenders had been called for a final report.

The 350-page preliminary report does not directly condemn the ambition of a rapid rail track through Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, and suggests possible regional stops at the Murray River border of Victoria, at the NSW Illawarra and central coast and Newcastle.

Terminals would be in the center of the city – Roma St or Southbank in Brisbane, Central, Homebush or Parramatta in Sydney, North Melbourne or Southern Cross – and there would be no security processing as at airports.

There could also be broader advantages:

Carbon emissions per passenger would be a third of those of a car; every 450 passenger would be the equivalent of taking 128 cars off the road.

States would be under less pressure to build more roads and would have to repair existing highways less often as vehicle traffic was reduced. And there could be a drop in road accidents requiring admission to hospitals, and so fewer hospitals services might be needed.

The Melbourne-Brisbane line would link two-thirds of the Australian population.

However the cost of the line would be beyond private enterprise because it could take decades to become commercial.

The Government would have to fund the project and the cost could be from $61 billion to $108 billion.

Properties would have to be resumed to make way for the track and access to Brisbane city alone would cost $3 billion and a further $2 billion for a makeover of the station to cater for the new service. It would cost up to $10.8 billion to build a line into Sydney to Central, and a $3 billion improvement to the station.

In Melbourne, access to Southern Cross or North Melbourne would cost $3.3 billion with $2 billion to be spent on the station.

A mature high-speed rail system would be economically competitive with air and automobile travel, provide mass transit without dependence on imported oil, have a duration of travel that would compare with air travel or be quicker, and would reduce national carbon dioxide emissions.

Melbourne–Sydney Sydney–Brisbane Sydney–Canberra
Rhumb-line distance:s.1 p.5 730 km 770 km
Existing rail distance:s.1 p.5 963 km (32% greater) 988 km (28% greater)
Existing average speed:s.1 p.5 92 km/h 73 km/h
Existing travel time:s.1 p.5 10:30hrs 13:35hrs 4:19hrs
Existing rail services (daily, each way):s.1 p.5 2 1
Air travel time (CBD to CBD*):s.1 p.5 3:00hrs 3:05hrs
Air services (daily, each way) 118 84
HSR travel time (max. 350 km/h (220 mph)):s.7 p.4 4:06hrs 4:24hrs

NOTE: Air travel time includes travel from CBD to airport, waiting at terminal, gate-to-gate transit, and travel to destination CBD.

In 2010, the Australian government announced a A$20 million detailed feasibility and corridor study to determine the economic viability of, and identify potential routes for, a high speed rail network on the east coast of Australia. The first phase of the study was completed in 2011, and projected that an east coast High Speed Rail would cost between $61 and $108 billion ($2011), depending on which route and station combination was selected. High-speed train: Sydney to Melbourne in three hours at 400km/h


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