This report addresses two key assumptions that have killed the implementation of high speed rail in Australia. Change those assumptions and you get greater numbers of people settling in regional areas connected by vastly improved passenger and freight services. The result is higher productivity which more than compensates for the significant investment in rail infrastructure.
The first assumption is that high speed rail is completely separate infrastructure from conventional rail. It is not. Some early adopters have not followed this principle because their conventional lines have a completely different rail gauge, like Japan and Spain. Otherwise, most countries implement high speed rail as an upgrade to their existing conventional rail lines in order to offer more and better services to existing stations. Plus they often spend more upgrading their existing conventional lines as feeder systems for high speed services, and to take increased demand for local passenger and long-distance freight services.
The second is that high speed rail has to be justified by its ridership. It is true that the operations of services need to be profitable to pay for themselves. But high speed rail is generally implemented to support connectivity between major and regional centres, in the same way as highways. A study of the economic benefits of faster rail connections in Victoria shows that state productivity will increase more than enough to justify the investment in rail infrastructure. The same can be expected for a high speed line and upgraded conventional lines across the south east of Australia from Brisbane to Adelaide.