The NSW government has released two tenders for project management services for fast rail, suggesting that the first two routes for the state will be Sydney to Canberra and Sydney to Newcastle.
The tenders, available via the NSW eTendering site, outline that successful tenders will conduct the scoping phase investigation and deliver the final business case for the fast rail program.
“The NSW government’s commitment to develop a blueprint for the delivery of a fast rail network is a major piece of state-shaping work,” said a NSW government spokesperson. “This transformative vision will seek to link regional centres to each other and Sydney.”
In previous documents outlining the scope of the NSW government’s fast rail strategy, four routes had been identified; Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Canberra, Sydney to Nowra via Wollongong, and Sydney to Orange. The current tenders are the first fast rail tenders released publicly, indicating that the NSW government my be prioritising the routes to Canberra and Newcastle.
Each project will undergo the Infrastructure NSW Health Check, which requires demonstration of evidence of confidence in a project’s development. The scoping phase also includes an interim project definition report which will define the project’s interim ‘reference case’ based on the needs assessment, options development, and options assessment through the strategic business case.
The second phase of the tender covers the final business case of the project. This will involve delivery of a final business case that builds on the findings from the strategic business cases and scoping phase investigations. Tender documents outline that “a new approach will be needed” for the final business case to meet NSW Treasury requirements and Fast Rail Program objectives.
“Central to the success of the Final Business Cases will be the consideration of wider economic and social impacts, alongside traditional transport benefits.”
The release of these tenders highlights that fast rail projects in Australia are moving forward. At a national level, the National Faster Rail Agency has put forward 50:50 funding for fast rail businesses cases with state governments and the private sector, including the Sydney to Newcastle business case. Funding has already been committed to faster rail between Melbourne and Geelong.
Improving connectivity between Newcastle and Sydney was also a priority initiative added to Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List in 2016.
The NSW government has also launched the ‘A fast rail future for NSW’ strategy, with a plan to be delivered by Andrew McNaughton and an expert panel. The plan is reportedly complete, but has not yet been released.