THE second and final stage of the Australian Government's study into the economic merits and financial viability of a high speed rail network along Australia's east coast is underway, following the retention of AECOM, the lead author of the interim report.
Over the next 12 months and following a tendering process, AECOM, together with a consortium that includes SKM, ACIL Tasman, Booz & Co, Hyder and Grimshaw Architects, will complete the work it started almost a year ago.
The first stage of the high speed rail study concluded that it would cost between $61 billion and $108 billion to build and involve laying more than 1,600 kilometres of new standard-gauge, double-track between Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
Potentially achieving speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour and offering journey times as low as 3 hours from Sydney to Brisbane or Melbourne and 40 minutes from Sydney to Newcastle, the interim study estimated that ticket prices on the rail network would cost between $75 - $177 for Brisbane to Sydney; $99 - $197 for Sydney to Melbourne; and $16.50 for daily commuters between Newcastle and Sydney.
According to the government, the second stage of the study will determine with greater precision the alignment of the track and station locations; improve the accuracy of the costs associated with building and operating the network; re-evaluate patronage projections; and recommend financing options along with possible governance arrangements.
Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, said High Speed Rail could be a game-changer, with the potential to better integrate regional and metropolitan communities, ease road congestion as well as provide a new foundation for a low carbon, high productivity economy.
"However, this kind of monumental endeavour must take place in a deliberate, thoughtful manner. The work we're undertaking is all about planning for Australia's future, not just for the next five years but for the next five decades," Mr Albanese said.
More than 316,000 copies of the interim report have been downloaded from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport's website since its release in August. Copies of the interim report, along with the Terms of Reference for the study can be downloaded from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website at <http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/rail/trains/high_speed/>.