Faster and higher-speed rail

The 2017–18 budget includes a commitment to investigate improvements to the rail connections between our cities and surrounding regional areas through $20 million in funding to support the development of business cases.

This measure will support the continued economic success of cities and their surrounding regions by investigating options for faster travel times, rail and rolling stock upgrades, and new infrastructure.

There have been a number of proposals in recent years put forward for faster rail connections between our cities and surrounding regional areas. This is an opportunity to investigate some of those proposals and encourage new thinking about making improvements elsewhere.

The process will involve:

  • issuing a prospectus
  • a call for initial proposals by September 2017
  • the awarding of funding by the Commonwealth for up to three business cases
  • finalised business cases assessed by Infrastructure Australia
  • decisions by the Commonwealth about potential project funding in future budgets.

The prospectus will be published on this website in mid 2017.

The Australian Government is continuing to engage with State and Territory governments about their priorities for rail planning, projects and investment, including faster and higher-speed rail.

A high speed rail passenger network connecting Melbourne to Brisbane through Sydney, Canberra and other regional centres along our east coast was studied between 2010 and 2013. The Australian Government has received two reports (The High Speed Rail Study Phase 1 and The High Speed Rail Study Phase 2) from the study process:

  • 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.

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 was completed in two phases, managed by the Department, by a consortium led by AECOM.

HSR Phase 1 Report

cover image of High Speed Rail Study report The HSR Phase 1 Report was launched on 4 August 2011. It identified potential corridors, station locations and 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. The High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report was released 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: 9 May, 2017