The NSW Government is investigating potential routes for a fast rail network linking Sydney to regional networks.
Four potential routes have already been identified and High Speed Rail expert Professor Andrew McNaughton has now been appointed to confirm the most appropriate routes, train speeds and station locations.
The four routes identified by the Government are within 300km from Sydney and include:
- Northern Route including the Central Coast and Newcastle
- Southern Inland Route including Goulburn and Canberra
- Western Route including Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange/Parkes
- Southern Coastal Route including Wollongong and Nowra
The study will look at short-term improvements as well as long-term planning.
Fast rail requires modifications to existing rail infrastructure to allow for travel speeds of up to 200km/h.
High Speed Rail, which can reach speeds in excess of 250km/h, requires a dedicated rail corridor, increasing cost and time to deliver in comparison.
NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said a fast rail network will give people greater choice about where they live and how they commute to work.
“We know a fast rail network will transform NSW unlike any other project and we will make it a reality,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We need to make it easier for people to consider moving to regional NSW and there is no better way to do that than building a fast rail network.
“The expert will provide advice to government on what is possible and what would be involved.”
The delivery of fast rail on those routes has the potential to slash travel times by up to 75 per cent.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has welcomed the announcement with ARA CEO Danny Broad saying fast rail will reduce travelling times, allowing transformation of regional centres.
“It can facilitate decentralisation and revitalise regional centres, complementing effective integrated transport options within and between our cities,” Mr Broad said.
“Other key benefits include easing of road congestion, and reduction of carbon and other polluting emissions.
“Governments around the country have already committed to over $100 billion of rail projects
nationally over the next 10 years, consisting of city metros, light rail and Inland Rail. Fast Rail would naturally complement existing investments.”
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro, said a $4.6 million allocation from Snowy Hydro Fund to develop fast rail will further boost confidence in regional NSW.
“We need to do the work to gauge what is possible and when,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Making regional travel faster, safer and easier brings huge economic potential to NSW regional towns and cities by making it easier to invest, do business, build a lifestyle and visit our regional towns.
“We are delivering better water security, digital connectivity and freight connections from the Snowy Hydro fund and now developing game changing infrastructure to access regional NSW.”
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance, said the NSW Government has a proven track record of delivering infrastructure.
“We are delivering rail to North West Sydney, a second Sydney Harbour Rail Crossing, completing the M4 and finishing the duplication of the Pacific Highway – all projects the previous Labor Government promised, but failed to deliver,” Mr Constance said.
“A fast rail network is another project which will only happen under the NSW Liberals and Nationals.”
The advice from Professor McNaughton will pave the way for the NSW Government to take a new approach to the delivery of fast rail by identifying immediate improvements to existing rail corridors, while undertaking long-term visionary planning.
This approach allows for significant improvements in travel times for customers in the coming years, while at the same time delivering the building blocks for a high speed dedicated rail network.
“In the immediate future, faster rail would see upgrades along existing rail alignments and provide services of at least 200km/h, slashing travel times by one third,” Mr Constance said.
“Ultimately, in the long term, high speed rail would see the development of new alignments and lines, providing speeds of over 250km/h, with examples overseas travelling up to 350km/h and higher – giving the potential to cut travel times by up to 75 per cent.”