15 May 2023

Experts look to 'Fastrack' high-speed rail concepts

| Andrew McLaughlin
Join the conversation
High-speed trains

Le Frecce high-speed trains stand ready at Rome’s Termini Stazione. Photo: Andrew McLaughlin.

A not-for-profit organisation has proposed a multi-stage plan to resurrect the concept of a high-speed rail network in Australia’s south-eastern states.

Fastrack is a group of three planners and consultants who claim high-speed rail could become a reality that could transform travel between and settlement patterns around Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne if it is built in manageable stages.

Retired transport and urban planner and Fastrack founder Dr Garry Glazebrook, retired consultant and member of the Town and Country Planning Association in Victoria Dr Ross Lowrey, and Syd Herron, a semi-retired aviation consultant who is a member of a number of transport advocacy groups, have released several reports in recent years, the most recent in May 2023.

They say the reports – the latest of which is titled Implications of high speed rail for Canberra and the Capital Region – have been produced with help from experts in engineering, planning, economics and transport systems, to provide solutions into specific aspects of high-speed rail in Australia.

READ ALSO All aboard? How Canberra could become a test case for high-speed rail

The latest report comes after the Federal Government established the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) as a statutory agency in November last year to advise on, plan, consult with states and territories, and construct a high-speed rail system.

In February this year, the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Katherine King started the recruitment process for the HSRA board.

The Fastrack report says a high-speed rail line from Sydney to Canberra would stimulate growth and economic development in Canberra and the Capital region. They say the Canberra line would be part of one of eight major stages, and could even be a viable project in its own right.

The eight stages of Fastrack’s Sydney to Melbourne plan are:

  • An underground link from Sydney Olympic Park to Campbelltown, with the option to run fast trains on standard lines to Central
  • A line from Campbelltown to a station south of Goulburn via Mittagong and Moss Vale on a new route that parallels the Hume Highway, and includes an option to cross over onto standard tracks to go into central Goulburn itself
  • The line from Goulburn to a station north of Yass, which would include the spur line from Gunning to Canberra
  • The line from Yass to a point southeast of Wagga Wagga, which includes an option to cross over into central Wagga Wagga
  • The line from Wagga Wagga to Albury with a future option to bypass Albury
  • The line from Albury to Shepparton
  • Shepparton to Craigieburn on Melbourne’s northern outskirts via Seymour
  • An underground section that goes into central Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station via Campbellfield
map of parts of NSW and Victoria

A map showing Fastrack’s proposed high-speed route from Sydney to Melbourne. Image: Fastrack.

Compared with the current XPT, which takes more than four hours to travel from Canberra to Sydney, Fastrack says an InterCity train running on a new Canberra spur line to the existing line at Gunning and travelling the rest of the way on the existing line would reduce that time to three hours, while an InterCapital high-speed rail service running all the way on a new dedicated line could drop that to as low as 90 minutes.

Rather than using the current rail corridor to Canberra from Goulburn, which involves negotiating Molonglo Gorge, the new spur line would run from Gunning via Gundaroo and Sutton, roughly parallel to Gundaroo Rd and Sutton Rd, cross into the ACT near Eaglehawk, and run down the Majura Valley parallel to the Majura Parkway before terminating between Canberra Airport and Duntroon.

The report cited regional cities of about 150,000 along high-speed rail lines in Italy (Novara), France (Avignon) and Spain (Lleida) as examples of areas where tourism, education, industry and development have been stimulated by better access afforded by a high-speed rail corridor.

READ ALSO High-speed rail is still important but fix the track so we can first have a faster trip to Sydney

To this end, the report says the Canberra region contains all the elements required for regional growth associated with new high-speed rail services.

The report’s authors said that, despite criticisms that high-speed rail for Australia is impractical due to our lack of population density compared with countries such as France and Japan, if the network is restricted to the southeast corridor between Brisbane and Melbourne, the population density supports the economics.

The report authors have recommended an action group be formed to lobby the Commonwealth for a high-speed rail link to Canberra. They say the group should develop a strategic plan on how a link would be implemented, how population growth along the corridor would be managed, and how the regional economy could be stimulated.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
TruthinMedia5:45 am 22 May 23

I am a transport expert (self-proclaimed just now) and here is my much more feasible report. High Speed Road Network for SE of Australia. Government kicks all private transport off the Hume Highway now only to be used by self-driving electric semi-trailers and coaches at speeds of 150km/hr, coaches for people and semi’s for freight. Interchange with legacy rail/road etc at Campbelltown, Goulburn, Canberra, Albury etc. want to drive your own car, take the Pacific Highway or you book it onto one of the EV car carriers now plying the Hume and jump on one of the EV coaches.

The XPT could never achieve the gazetted speeds it is capable of. What would change with high speed rail? Our hot summers will still affect the rails

We don’t need a very fast train or high speed rail. All we need is conventional fast rail (200kph). That would bring Canberra/Sydney to 2 hours and Sydney to Melbourne around 5/5.5 hours,,

There’s always talk of High Speed Rail (HSR) but nothing ever eventuates. Meanwhile China which accesses cheap fossil fuels because the UN regards it as a developing country, owns the largest HSR system in the world, with a total operating high-speed rail network of 40,000 kilometers in 2021. This stands over three times the HSR distance of the European Union’s. China also has nuclear weapons and a space station. Australia has none of these and is winding back it’s use of fossil fuels to save the planet from the climate. Wake up Australia, you are being played by the leftist UN and are going nowhere.

@Mark R
You actually forgot one critical fact with regard to HSR in China – population density. On 2022 population figures, China had 147.14 per sq km as opposed to Australia’s 3.33 per sq km. Even if only 1/10th of Chinese travel by HSR, that’s still over 3 times the population density of Australia.

Crap, maybe the boss not the worker

Large scale infrastructure projects simply aren’t viable in Australia due to the enormous labour costs involved. Construction workers are on $300k a year average and the reason is quite simply because the dole is too high. No one wants to do dirty back breaking labour so why do it when you can get $730 a fortnight from the government for free. In third world countries this is close to what they earn annually through back breaking labour.

Construction workers are on $300k average?

Where on earth did you source that factoid from Sam?

chewy I run an accounting firm and that is average amongst my builder clients’ gross income before tax deductions. In most cases they are able to reduce actual taxable income to $100k or less due to several investment properties and business claims.

Capital Retro10:37 pm 15 May 23

The “lollipop” crews on the roadworks earn over $100K a year.

P “フィル” C11:43 am 16 May 23

I mean you could just put those long term people on the dole to work building the tracks… The term public servant actually stems from prisoners they brought over on the boats when they started colonising…. They could even sweeten the deal with free on site housing and bam your solving 2 problems with one stone. Mind you it’s because of a work for the dole scheme I’ll never be able to run or do heavy lifting again… Half my knee is practically broken apart thank you an injury I suffered “volunteering” and due to non liability waivers I got nothing in return not even help to recover

Don’t be tedious. It is irrelevant what people earn in developing countries (BTW, the term third world is offensive) because the costs of food, housing etc is very different there. Have you ever tried living on $730 a fortnight in Australia? It does not even cover essentials. Nobody lives on that level of income by choice.

Megsy, yeh “irrelevant”. Since cost of living is higher in Sydney than in Alice Springs perhaps you’d support higher Jobseeker rates in Sydney compared to elsewhere in the country?

Dear Futureproof-I am a firm believer of segrated transit, keeping any fast rail above the traffic. Of course Wuppertal Schwebebahn is one such example as is this one in Saudi Arabia – worth a look We need to get with the program, not keep using old tech to solve our problems

Money is no object in Saudia Arabia. Then again, maybe the ACT government should pay for it, as money grows on trees with them

Never going to happen – endless committees, EIS, new species of seven legged grass hopper discovered, Green activism, union, strikes. 20 billion dollar budget turns into 100 billion over night. Then if the Voice gets up – demarcation over which tribe owns which land

Nick Stevens3:45 pm 15 May 23

No doubt…true to all of above.

Capital Retro9:12 am 15 May 23

They are enthusiasts, not experts.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.