Australia could soon have some sort of high-speed rail network connecting the capitals on the east coast – at least we’ll have a dedicated agency to think about building extra tracks for fast trains.
Transport Minister Catherine King on Thursday introduced a bill to parliament to create the High-Speed Rail Authority, which, in her words, will be an “independent body to advise on, plan and develop the high-speed rail system in Australia”.
The High-Speed Rail Authority would be tasked with all the policy, planning and advisory work required to develop a network of high-speed trains, and assuming the relevant states and territories are all on board, it will oversee the construction or extension of railways.
The first priority will be to speed up the journey between Sydney and Newcastle.
“A high-speed train network will revolutionize interstate travel in Australia, significantly reducing travel time between capital cities compared to other modes of transport,” King said in her speech introducing the bill.
“Imagine a high-speed train connecting capital cities from Melbourne, to Canberra, to Sydney, to Brisbane, through our regional centers, through our semi-urban population, straight to our international hubs with journeys lasting just three hours.
“We will no longer lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to land infrastructure and technology.”
Japan built its first high-speed line in 1964 and since then lines have been built at speeds over 200 km/h – and in some cases over 300 km/h – in Europe, China and the US.
Australia’s own ambitious high-speed train never quite came to fruition.
Indeed, the Gillard administration began investigating high-speed trains that proposed a route connecting the eastern capitals with an estimated journey time of less than three hours from Brisbane or Melbourne to Sydney, at a cost of $114 billion.
A pair of studies on high-speed trains culminated in the creation of a high-speed rail advisory group that Abbott’s government shut down within three months of the government’s formation in 2013 in the name of cost-cutting.
Shortly after, a certain courageous Shadow Transport Minister named Anthony Albanese introduced an ultimately doomed private member account above all to establish a High Speed Rail Planning Authority.
“High-speed trains are about vision, it’s about transforming our regions, it’s about reducing our emissions and it’s about being able to travel effectively from our capitals along the east coast,” Albanian said in 2013.