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High speed rail


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, managed by the Department, was established to inform the Australian Government, the ACT and state governments' consideration of next steps for high speed rail in Australia. The study was undertaken in two phases.

The Phase 1 report was launched on 4 August 2011. The report identified corridors and station locations and potential patronage, as well as providing an indicative estimate of the cost to build an HSR network.

Phase 2

Work on phase 2 of the study commenced in late 2011 and culminated in the release of the High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report 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 is available to download in individual parts, or as the full report:

Detailed preferred alignment

280 detailed maps show the preferred alignment identified in the study. Click on the map for detail of a particular geographic area.

Report by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group

A High Speed Rail Advisory Group was established in April 2013 to advise the Government on key industry and community issues arising out of the report. The Advisory Group comprised:

  • Ms Lyn O'Connell PSM (Chair and Deputy Secretary; Department of Infrastructure and Transport).
  • The Hon Tim Fischer AC (Former Deputy Prime Minister and former Ambassador to the Holy See).
  • Professor Sue Holliday (Professor of Planning Practice, Urban Policy and Strategy, University of NSW; Member Urban Policy Forum).
  • Professor Peter Newman (Distinguished Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute; Board member Infrastructure Australia).
  • Ms Jennifer Westacott (Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia).
  • Mr Bryan Nye (Chief Executive Officer, Australasian Railway Association);
  • Mr Bob Nanva (National Secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union) and
  • Cr Jenny Dowell (Mayor of Lismore City Council; President of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils).

The Advisory Group's report to the Government (On Track; Implementing High Speed Rail in Australia) is available for download: [PDFPDF: 5698 KB] [ReadSpeaker]

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Last Updated: 20 September, 2013