NSW Government announces major high-speed rail network plan

Posted: 11th Dec

We’ve been talking about it for decades but high-speed rail could finally be coming to Sydney and regional NSW.

That’s because the state’s government has laid out a bold vision for four routes within 300km of the Harbour City, including a proposed map and artist impressions.

Here’s what it is proposing:

 A northern route: including the Central Coast, Newcastle, Taree and Port Macquarie

 A southern inland route: including Goulburn and Canberra

 A western route: including Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange

 A southern coastal route: including Wollongong and Nowra.

Trains on these routes would reach speeds of at least 200km/h and slash journey times by up to 75 per cent, according to the government, which announced the plans this morning.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters she was sick of waiting around for other governments to make decisions and said the massively expensive project was vital for the state’s future.

She also denied it was a stunt to win votes as she is preparing for an election in March and two separate opinion polls have pointed to a possible Liberal defeat.
There are four proposed routes in the government’s plans.
The NSW Government has issued ghostly artist impressions of the new service. Picture: NSW Government

The NSW Government has issued ghostly artist impressions of the new service. Picture: NSW GovernmentSource:Supplied

“We know a fast rail network will transform NSW unlike any other project and we will make it a reality,” she 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.”

Here are some of the proposed journey times (in hours):

Sydney to Canberra

Current time: 4:07

Faster rail (up to 200km/h): 3:00

High speed rail (over 250km/h): 1:00

Sydney to Goulburn

Currently: 2:31

Faster rail: 1:45

High speed: 0:30

Sydney to Newcastle

Currently: 2:35

Faster: 2:00

High speed: 0:45

Sydney to Gosford

Currently: 1:19

Faster: 1:00

High speed: 0:30

Sydney to Wollongong

Currently: 1:25

Faster: 1:00

High speed: 0:30

Sydney to Nowra

Currently: 2:39

Faster: 2:00

High speed: 0:45

The government has taken the first step towards this vision today by appointing high-speed rail network expert Professor Andrew McNaughton. He told reporters there would be geographical challenges to the immense project, but added there was no reason why NSW couldn’t enjoy high-speed rail.

His expertise 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 planning for the project.

The government unveiled the plans at Sydney’s Central Station this morning. Picture: NSW Government

The government unveiled the plans at Sydney’s Central Station this morning. Picture: NSW GovernmentSource:Supplied

The government says this allows for significant improvements in travel times 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,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew 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.”


The announcement comes as a YouGov Galaxy poll showed newly installed NSW Labor leader Michael Daley is leading the government by 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, while a UComms/Reachtel poll had the Coalition trailing Labor 49 to 51.

Despite this, Ms Berejiklian denied the rail plans were announced with an eye on the March election.

“Far from it,” she told reporters. “This is an government getting on with what it does well, that is providing for the future of its citizens.”

Malcolm Turnbull has stirred up the issue at a Federal level, saying he was concerned waiting until May would hurt the “outstanding” Berejiklian government.

The former prime minister has suggested his successor Scott Morrison call an election before NSW voters head to the polls on March 23 to help save Premier Gladys Berejiklian from defeat.

Mr Turnbull said he intended to go to the polls on March 2 before he was ousted. He pointed to heavy Liberal party defeats in the Victorian election and state and federal by-elections as evidence of “brand damage”.

“I am very concerned - as many members of the NSW Liberal Party are - that (there) .. has been considerable damage to the Liberal Party’s brand,” he told reporters on Monday.

“I am very concerned that this will put at risk the Berejiklian government.

In July, NSW Labor said it would commit to funding for a study into reducing the four-hour train journey time between Sydney and Canberra if it was elected to government at the state election in March.

The government has appointed a high speed rail expert. Picture: Ben Graham

The government has appointed a high speed rail expert. Picture: Ben GrahamSource:news.com.au

A report from the federal government’s infrastructure advisory agency last year found high-speed trains could run between Canberra and Sydney within 15 years.

It added that governments must act quickly to avoid cost blowouts.

However, our obsession with expensive high-speed rail between the east coast’s major capitals has been labelled a “pie in the sky” idea by Professor Rico Merkert, from the University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, who previously told news.com.au we should instead focus on connecting our largest cities to regional centres.

No specific costing for the project has been set in stone yet. Picture: NSW Government

No specific costing for the project has been set in stone yet. Picture: NSW GovernmentSource:Supplied

“We’ve been talking about high-speed rail in Australia since the 1980s and nothing ever happens. So maybe it’s time to look at more affordable options,” he said.

Victoria, Queensland and NSW have all expressed their desire to get fast rail in their states for years.

In October, the Council of Mayors of southeast Queensland released information from a feasibility study.

The Council of Mayors, made up of 10 councils representing more than three million people, first looked into whether the region could host an Olympic Games last year.

The region is hoping to host the 2032 Olympic Games — a global event that the council says would pair perfectly with a high-speed rail network linking all of southeast Queensland’s towns and cities.


Ben Graham