Ian Bell presented some key points regarding how to approach HSR for east coast Australia at this event:
Our reasoning is that High-Speed Rail ("HSR") is such a major undertaking for Australia that most politicians baulk at fear of the cost, plus as a country we have not done the studies well in past years. Partly this is due to the problems with our Federalism (vertical fiscal imbalance & division of powers) in regard to such nation building projects which have to use the combined powers of Federal, State and Local Governments - we can't easily get all to agree!
We say the answer is to have an over-arching strategy and set of principles led by the Federal Government being the only level of Government with the borrowing capacity to be able to instigate the important stage of corridor delineation and reservation/acquisition (it also has constitional powers of specific assistance with regard to railways). It is the only logical party to set safety and technology standards, for what would eventually be a multi-State/Territory endeavour.
But "here's the rub" - we think projects have to be broken off into 'mini stages' to ensure States get on board. It is so much easier to get something to happen with just the Federal Government and one State government.
We have a preference; we would start with NSW - because we think the population combination of Newcastle and its surrounds combined with Sydney makes for the best economic case as Stage 1.
We have quite a lot of background on aspects that would make a business case for such a link viable, and may be prepared to engage in a commercial sharing of information which would support application for detailed development of such a case under the recently announced Federal Government $20 million "Faster Rail" budget allocations. Please contact Ian Bell for further detail.
A collection of slides and other supporting information from our Greater Hunter/Newcastle "City Deal" proposition may be available privately and confidentially, upon approved application - to ascertain eligibility apply with your details here.
NOTE: The basic premise is that north of the Hawkesbury there is already a population of about 1 million who are patronage catchment material for a high-speed Newcastle-Sydney rail link providing the total trip can be reduced to fast enough transit times. This can even be done in steps to address requirements for control & disclosure of project costs.
In round figures Sydney has (say) 4.75 million population meaning that making its northern neighbours close enough in travel time would result in a conurbation of 5.75 million, with consequent agglomeration benefit potential - certainly well and truly enough for Sydney to retaiun its mantle as Australia's largest city, over the presently faster growing and spreading southern capital, Melbourne.
It is likely that at some stage in the not too distant future there will be clamours to further widen the F3/M1 motorway or to duplicate it, at least south of Calga - perhaps even to link into a far western Sydney orbital with a new bridge across the Hawkesbury (such as near Spencer). This was indeed studied by Sinclair Knight Merz (now Jacobs) back in 2004 in their "F3 to Sydney Orbital Link Study".
We have made our own estimates of the cost of F3/M1 duplication and see it as only marginally lower cost than a full dedicated HSR corridor, but based on Japanese throughput capacity standards for their Shinkansen service we see the road option as giving only one-quarter to one-half the traveller throughput capacity, in broad terms, of the HSR option. Whilst the highway option can be augmented sequentially as against the HSR being a 'once only' large build, we reason that on a discounted cash flow basis, the HSR alternative would present a better business case because of its superior longevity in effectiveness as population grows.
The cheaper rail option of just speeding up the existing service via tweaks to the old historic (yes, mostly 130 years old now!) alignment plus new faster train sets, eg Talgo or Swedish tilt trains, in our view will not attract enough ridership because it needs to significantly better the convenience and speed of a 2 hour car journey to encourage mode shift. That, too, is aggravated by the existing network's station placement and parking/access problems relative to where new suburbs in the Hunter are being developed - remembering that the new 40 kms Hunter Expressway has made quite a difference, whereas in a similar timeframe the Hunter rail services have been downgraded. Nor is the existing rail setup oriented towards getting people from the Lower Hunter down to Sydney, let alone vice versa - except very slowly!
[Think in this latter situation how many Sydneysiders would catch trains to the Hunter Valley winery region!... Yet, under eventual HSR transit timings, day trips would be feasible with bus shuttle services from the Hunter line].