26 November 2019

Fast rail strategy but high speed service still a way down the line for Goulburn

| Maryann Weston
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Local Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman

Local Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman met with Professor Andrew McNaughton recently. Profesor McNaughton chairs the NSW Government’s expert panel and is overseeing the development of a Fast Rail Strategy for NSW. Photos: Supplied.

Transport infrastructure and rail times in the Goulburn region were key issues in the closely fought battle for the seat of Goulburn in March, and with the NSW Government’s Fast Rail Strategy expected to be delivered before the end of 2019, all eyes are on what it might contain for the ACT and Goulburn region.

The Southern Corridor, which includes Canberra and Goulburn, has been identified by the government as among rail routes for investigation into a NSW fast rail network with a prediction that delivery of fast rail has the potential to slash travel times by up to 75 per cent. However, it’s unlikely this region will see substantial improvement in travel times in the shorter term.

While the NSW Government has committed $295 million over four years to begin early works on the fast rail network, money going to new rail alignment is primarily being spent in the outer Sydney regions on the north and south coasts, planning a route to the Central West, and to preliminary work on a new straightened track to high speed standard between Menangle in the Macarthur region and Yerrinbool in the Southern Highlands.

While it could be argued that major centres like Goulburn on the Southern Corridor would benefit from time savings on a faster journey from Menangle to Yerrinbool, the four-year funding cycle means that unless additional funding is announced, passengers can only anticipate ‘incremental’ improvement in travel times.

Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman recently met with the chair of the expert panel developing the strategy, Professor Andrew McNaughton, an international fast rail expert advising the government on the delivery of a fast rail network. Professor McNaughton has also been meeting with organisations, agencies and councils in the region.

“I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Professor McNaughton to share my views on the benefits fast rail would deliver for local job growth, business activity and community access to services and social opportunities,” Mrs Tuckerman said.

“The NSW Government looks forward to receiving the Fast Rail Strategy … and is committed to identifying immediate improvements to existing corridors that deliver incremental benefits to customers, while building towards a fast rail network that delivers transformational journey times.”

Experts agree on the economic benefits to communities located along fast rail corridors and, equally, regional rail lobby groups agree on the need for faster train services.

Charles Sturt University Associate Professor Ian Gray, whose research has focused on the link between rail services, regional development, and social issues, believes a train service that is attractive to commuters can make a big difference to communities’ access to employment, health and other services. Smaller towns and villages along the line can also benefit, as well as larger population centres.

train station locations

A key election issue, towns like Goulburn on the Southern Corridor will be eagerly awaiting recommendations on train station locations for future fast rail service.

Mrs Tuckerman acknowledges large-scale transport infrastructure projects take time.

“International experience shows that fast rail projects are complex and aren’t delivered overnight. It requires a bold vision for improved connectivity that clearly articulates where and when fast rail investments should be made to maximize benefits for communities,” Mrs Tuckerman said.

Despite the complexity of delivering a fast rail infrastructure, the NSW Government’s Fast Rail Strategy is to be welcomed, providing it is implemented over successive funding cycles and potential government changes. To date, limited progress has been achieved on high-speed rail in Australia.

“Professor McNaughton will identify the preferred alignment of the rail line, recommended train speeds and station locations. This work will also inform potential improvements to existing rail corridors in the short to medium term,” Mrs Tuckerman said.

The NSW Government is also replacing its aging regional rail fleet of XPT, XPLORER and Endeavour trains. The new trains will improve safety, accessibility, amenities and reliability for commuters travelling from Sydney to the regions, as well as Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Planning and detailed design work have already begun for the new fleet with the first of the new trains expected to be running from 2023.

In the meantime, towns and larger regional centres along the Southern Corridor are anticipating what the Fast Rail Strategy might say about possible locations for train stations and how they might eventually benefit from faster rail times.

And local MPs in regions across NSW, some in marginal seats, will continue to face commuter and regional development pressure for fast rail services.

You can find out more about the NSW Government’s Fast Rail Strategy here.

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When the tracks are affected by +40 deg heat, there will never be fast rail

Capital Retro2:19 pm 29 Nov 19

I think the consortiums intrested in big infrastructure deals like this proposal seek out tax and other concessions similar to what the ACT governmnet has passed on to some multinational retailers and service providers who have set up shop in Canberra.

Capital Retro9:56 pm 27 Nov 19

“In the meantime, how about just replacing the xpt?”

I think the Canberra train is the Explorer and the XPT never ran on the route. Both were never suited to the constraints of the rail track however.

XPT ran to Canberra as one of the first interstate XPT services. Was changed over to an explorer service when the Riverina (Albury) service started to run right through to Melbourne.

Capital Retro5:56 am 29 Nov 19

Thanks Joe.

HiddenDragon7:35 pm 27 Nov 19

Sounds like a much more practical use (of a much smaller amount) of money than the mirage of an east coast high speed rail line.

Stephen Saunders10:19 am 27 Nov 19

The responses are on to it. Gladys’ “Fast Rail” plan mimics Scott’s “Faster Rail” plan. Lip service. We do infrastructure very late and very grudgingly in this country. Goulburn will continue to enjoy the very best of 19th century rail for some decades yet.

Capital Retro10:06 am 27 Nov 19

Jose Vega rightly states the fast times of the Spanish AVE between Madrid and Cordoba (which carries about 4 million passengers a year) as compared to our existing, slow service between Canberra and Sydney. But in reality, comparisons can’t be made.


The major infrastructure Australia needs right now is the harvesting and inland diversion of high coastal rainfall in Queensland. Forget fast trains.

Deary me….. rightfully takes a pot shot at rail investment that is probably marginal in its payback, but then suggest an even crazier scheme that has been shown, time and time again, to be so far from cost effective its not funny…

Capital Retro6:33 pm 28 Nov 19

If you want to preserve the standard of living you have been enjoying so far, think about where our extra water is going to come from as Australia doubles it population over the next 30 years. Already, there is barely enough to go around. The ridiculous “environmental flows” will be the first thing to go and bans on new dams in national parks (like the Welcome Reef one) will soon follow.

The last “pot shot” at a major infrastructure Australia attempted was the NBN which will be sperceded before it is completely rolled out. You are a bit optimistic if you think a fast train investment will be “marginal in its payback”.

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