Federal Labor: High-Speed Rail Between Sydney and the Hunter

On Sunday 2 January, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese announced that a Labor Government will begin building High-Speed Rail (HSR) between Sydney and Newcastle. Labor will allocate $500 million in its first budget to begin corridor acquisition, planning and early works, and will make this section of the eventual Sydney to Brisbane HSR line a priority of a new High-Speed Rail Authority.

The high-speed rail route will delivery speeds of over 250km/h and is expected to cut travel time between Sydney and Newcastle to 45 minutes, down from the current two and a half hours.

Anthony Albanese has long supported a HSR network. In 2013, when he was Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Albanese released the Phase 2 Report of its High-Speed Rail Study.

The report found that:

  • The Newcastle-Sydney stage of the line would take 8 years from the commencement of main construction for the line to be operational.
  • The Newcastle-Sydney line would cost $18.9b ($2012) in total capital costs, excluding the cost of train sets.
  • With a discount rate of 4%, the economic benefit cost ratio of the entire HSR network is 2.3. Meaning that every $1 invested in high-speed rail is expected to generate $2.3 in benefits to the economy.

The Sydney-Newcastle line will be the first of a much larger network of fast rail between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, and Brisbane.

Labor has committed to working cooperatively with the states and territories on the development of HSR.

NSW State Government

In 2018, the NSW Government commissioned Professor Andrew McNaughton, a British rail expert, to produce a report into four possible faster and high-speed rail routes:

  • Sydney south to Wollongong and Nowra
  • North to the Central Coast and Newcastle
  • West to Lithgow, Bathurst and Parkes
  • South-West to Goulburn and Canberra.

His report has not been released publicly.

At the 2019 NSW State Election, Gladys Berejiklian promised that her government would start work on a faster rail network in this term.

The options being investigated by the NSW Government for fast rail services to regional centres:

  1. Faster rail: speeds of 160-200km/h, requires track improvements on existing routes.
  2. Fast rail: speeds of 200-250km/h, requires new rolling stock on a mixture of new and upgraded track sections.
  3. High-speed rail: speeds surpassing 250km/h, requires new dedicated and purpose-built line.

Infrastructure Australia

Infrastructure Australia, the nation’s independent infrastructure advisor, has advocated for governments to engage in protection and early acquisition of key infrastructure corridors. Infrastructure Australia Chairman, Mark Birrell has identified the east coast high speed rail corridor as the “most urgent priority for protection”. This is due to the corridor’s proximity to major population centres.

Corridor protection and early acquisition can reduce the costs of major projects and minimise the need for underground tunnelling.

Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan recommends that the Australian Government invests in faster rail, fast rail and high-speed rail infrastructure. It is also recommends that the Commonwealth takes the lead on confirming the long-term interoperability requirements for fast rail, faster rail and high-speed rail lines that cross state and territory borders. This will ensure consistency across jurisdictions on technical standards for tracks, operator training and communication and signalling systems.

Further Information

For more information, please contact Simon Banks, Managing Director on +61 419 638 587.

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