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HSR study picks up pace

The first stage of the Federal Government’s $20m study into possible routes for a high-speed rail link between southeast Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne will be finished by July.

A consortia led by AECOM is conducting the feasibility study, with the first stage identifying possible route and station options, a process that the Federal Government says will provide the basis for determining indicative transit times and construction costs.

Once this is completed, the study’s second stage will determine an optimum route alignment identify patronage levels develop robust cost estimates and investigate financing options detailed patronage and revenue forecasts and consideration of preferred options in relation to other modes.

“In totality, our feasibility study seeks to build on the previous work that’s been done and once completed, will provide the basis for an informed public debate about whether this technology is an appropriate response to our nation’s future transport needs,” minister for infrastructure and transport Anthony Albanese said.

Given the high levels of interest in the study, Albanese said that the government is in the process of setting up a formal reference group to make sure the views of organisations such as the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and CRC for Rail Innovation as well as state and territory authorities are taken into account.

The study’s terms of reference says that as part of the core network element at the centre of the east cost corridor, the Newcastle-Sydney spine will be a central part of the study. Options for links northwards to Brisbane and southwards to Canberra and Melbouren are also being considered.

However, Greens leader Bob Brown – a strong advocate of HSR for Australia – is concerned that the government’s focus on Sydney-Newcastle could be too expensive and therefore less likely to win government support.

“Central to the study must be a per kilometre costing of the Melbourne-Sydney link,” Brown said,