High speed rail could once again be on the table, with federal Labor transport spokeswoman Catherine King describing the project’s potential as an “economic game changer” for Australia after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In comments reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, King said that building a high-speed rail network along the eastern seaboard would be able to cut travel times.
“High-speed rail has the potential to revolutionise interstate travel, allowing travel between capital cities in as little as three hours,” King told the Herald.
With regional areas also reeling from the impact of the bushfires earlier in 2020 and late 2019, King noted that the project has the potential to inject economic activity into regional economies, as Inland Rail is currently doing.
“If the government is interested in creating jobs and boosting regional economies, it should seriously consider investing in high-speed rail now,” said King.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, told the Herald that the government was not looking into high speed rail at this time.
“While I have long been an advocate for high-speed rail in Australia, given the significant costs outlined in the reports conducted between 2010 and 2013, my focus is currently on delivering the inland rail and faster rail proposals which the federal government has committed to,” said McCormack.
In 2019, Labor took to the election a $1 billion promise to set aside land for an East Coast high speed rail corridor.
Between 2010 and 2013 the Australian government looked into the possibility of a 1,748km route from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra. With a speed of 350km/hr this would make the travel times between Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane below three hours, the threshold for passengers to swap from air to train travel according to the Australasian Railway Association.
The route alignment mapped out in 2013 also included regional stops such as in Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga, Shepparton, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, and Grafton. The cost of linking Sydney and Melbourne with high speed rail would be roughly $50bn and the total cost would be $114bn in 2012 dollars, however with a positive return on investment.