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Optimise the flow of people and goods

In my last blog, I highlighted the first of five differences in our approach with the 2013 HSR Study. This time I will address our second point of difference - integration of the high speed rail with the existing conventional line.

The key to decentralise growth in Australia is to establish fast and efficient flow of people and goods between regional cities and their nearest capital city.  This means Australia needs an integrated rail network that strings regional cities together and connects them to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The primary challenge to achieving this vision is to stop considering high speed rail as a standalone system.  Previous attempts have focused on shifting passengers from air and road travel onto a standalone high speed rail line.  These have failed to produce a viable business case due to the very high cost of implementing high speed rail over large distances, along with benefits (passenger numbers) that only start kicking in when the full line has been implemented. 

Instead, Australia needs an integrated network of high speed and conventional rail lines that connects all regional and capital cities across Australia.  High speed rail should be considered as an upgrade to the existing rail network, and not as a separate standalone system.  High speed lines should be implemented to supplement and enhance existing services by allowing much faster speeds of travel between regional centres.  This means each section of new high speed line can be staged, in the same way that dual-carriageways are implemented for the road network.

Treating the high speed line as a duplication of the existing line allows services to use either line as needed.  This approach was originally used for the TGV in France, and is widely used to allow high speed trains to extend services to cities off the high speed line, such as in Japan and Europe.  It will also allow flexibility of operations, so high speed trains can stop at existing stations in regional cities or bypass them on the high speed line; and container trains can use the high speed line in more remote areas and at night.

Most importantly, it will allow new fast commuter services to be introduced to increase the utilisation of the high speed line.  This approach was adopted in the UK, where new high speed commuter trains use HS1 and then the existing rail network to operate into regional cities within Kent.  In Australia, it will allow the introduction fast regional commuter trains to the Central Coast and Lower Hunter to the north of Sydney, and to Wilton and the Southern Highlands to the south.  Similar services would also be possible from Melbourne and Brisbane.


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