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CRC for Rail


High-speed Rail:
information for the
Australian context

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CRC for Rail Innovation
Title: High-speed Rail: Strategic information for the
Floor 23, HSBC Building
Australian context
Brisbane Qld 4000
Project Leader: Neal Ryan (SCU)
GPO Box 1422
Project Chair: Phil Sochon (ARA)
Brisbane Qld 4001
Authors: Tania von der Heidt (SCU), Pat Gillett (SCU),
Tel: +61 7 3221 2536
Chris Hale (UQ), Philip Laird (UoW), Alex Wardrop (TTG),
Fax: +61 7 3235 2987
Robert Weatherby (SCU), Charles Waingold (DoT), Michael
Charles (SCU), Ian Rossow (QR), Dale Coleman (TTG), Bala
Ramasokeran (QR), Rocco Zito (UniSA), Michael Taylor
(UniSA), Adrian Pollock (QR).

Independent reviewers: Ignacio Barrón de Angoiti (UIC)

Peter Thornton, Dale Budd (Dale Budd & Associates Pty

This report identifies and evaluates recent, publicly available domestic and international
information pertaining to the introduction of High-speed Rail (HSR) in an Australian industry
context to provide the CRC for Rail Innovation and its core and supporting participants with
informed opinion on the HSR concept.

0 11 January, 2010 Michael Charles

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Industry x
Participant for

Established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres

Copyright © 2010 CRC for Rail Innovation

This work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be
reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the permission of
the CRC for Rail Innovation.

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Executive Summary

Throughout many regions of the world, high-speed rail (HSR) provides an outstanding
transport service for both the business and leisure travel markets. Given this high level of
international success, HSR is likely to make a similar transformational contribution to
Australia’s long-term transport needs. HSR would address the increasing congestion at
Australian airports. It would also provide an effective means of addressing the negative
environmental impacts associated with over-reliance on existing transport modes.
Factors associated with the development of HSR in Australia are varied and complex. This
report, commissioned by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Rail Innovation,
represents the first step in revisiting the potential for HSR in Australia. In brief, the report
synthesises the current knowledge of HSR with reference to the Australian context and
provides directions for further investigation. The broad parameters of the report are as
It focuses primarily on recent information drawn from regions with HSR experience.
HSR is assumed to be capable of at least 250 km/h.
Both existing and planned HSR systems are considered.
Chapter 1 provides an introduction to HSR and describes the concept as passenger rail services
that operate at speeds considerably faster than conventional rail, e.g., Japan’s Shinkansen,
France’s TGV and Germany’s ICE. The most common HSR technology in use today involves
steel wheel on steel rail (SWSR).
In comparison with other forms of land and air transportation, HSR offers a number of
Passengers: speed, frequency, comfort, safety, reliability, central city and airport
accessibility and competitive pricing.
Social and economic: increased transport capacity, reduced airport and road congestion,
increased mobility, enhanced energy security, economic and tourism development, and
a reduction in road accidents.
Environment: reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) and particulate emissions, improved
land-use impacts and greater energy efficiency.
Chapter 2 examines several examples of international best practice relating to HSR networks.
Advanced and emerging HSR case studies are drawn from across the world. These studies lead
to key lessons for HSR in the Australian context:
HSR needs to be supported by government leadership and policy at all levels.
HSR needs to be adapted to the local context.
HSR requires appropriate and flexible funding models.
Chapter 3 provides an overview of previous HSR initiatives in Australia. These experiences
provide some insight into the challenges that need to be overcome in future HSR proposals.
This includes securing high levels of government support, achieving a balance of public and
private sector funding and establishing credible market demand forecasts. Ongoing challenges
include land acquisition, infrastructure requirements, land use and access, and other
environmental issues. One important issue was the perception that a viable HSR service along

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the east coast of Australia was at the limit of technological capability. Advances in speed and
the maturity of HSR since those previous initiatives have significantly reduced this risk.
Chapters 4, 5 and 6 examine the critical success factors for HSR in Australia. These chapters
identified contextual changes that have occurred since previous Australian HSR proposals.
From this assessment, the following nine contextual issues were identified: geodemographic,
competition, social, health and safety, environmental, economic, technological, topographical
and political. Of particular interest is the growth of HSR overseas, which provides evidence that
HSR could account for around 50% of the combined air/rail market in a corridor such as Sydney
to Melbourne.
Each contextual issue reflects a variety of factors that are critical to any assessment of the
development of HSR in Australia. How these factors need to be addressed is summarised

Geodemographic Demonstrate how HSR addresses population growth.

Choose corridors to match present and future demand.
Competition Position HSR primarily against air and secondarily against road.
Consider HSR in the evaluation of new aviation initiatives, e.g., airport
provision or augmentation.
Ensure HSR connectivity with other transport modes.
Social Demonstrate that HSR provides social benefits, e.g., urban regeneration
and regional development.
Health and safety Demonstrate that HSR has a positive impact on safety, noise and
particulate emissions.
Environmental Demonstrate that HSR reduces energy use, lower GHG emissions, less
noise and better land use.
Economic Apply the ATC Guidelines (2006) for Transport System Management to
assessing HSR and competing options.
Quantify HSR’s economic, social and environmental benefits.
Develop innovative pricing strategies to maximise ROI.
Technological Understand the constraints relating to existing corridors.
Ensure the interoperability of HSR with existing rail infrastructure.
Choose the appropriate HSR technology.
Adopt mature systems where possible and adapt where necessary.
Topographical Consider topographical factors in HSR corridor and technology selection.
Ensure that potential HSR corridors are preserved.
Political View HSR as a transformational nation-building project.
Provide appropriate frameworks to deliver HSR across multiple
Integrate HSR with general transport planning.
Highlight the necessity of public and private sector funding.

Conclusion. In light of the major contextual changes since previous proposals and the need to
address and research in detail the factors identified above, a major concept study is required.
This is especially the case as a result of population growth, increasing environmental
pressures, airport and highway congestion and technological improvements in HSR. This
concept study should be independent and address market forecasts, estimated benefits and
costs, financing options, route and staging options and the potential transformational impact
of an HSR on Australian society and the economy.

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Abbreviations and Acronyms

ACT Australian Capital Territory

ADEME Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie

ARA Australasian Railway Association

ARTC Australian Rail Track Corporation

ATC Australian Transport Council

AVE Alta Velocidad Española

DITRDLG Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local


DOTARS Department of Transport and Regional Services

ETS Emissions Trading Scheme

GHG Greenhouse gas

HSR High-speed rail

IA Infrastructure Australia

ICE Intercity Express

NGER National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting

NTC National Transport Commission

PPP Public private partnership

SEQ South-East Queensland

SNCF Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français

SWSR Steel wheel on steel rail

TGV Train à Grande Vitesse

VFT Very Fast Train (VFT was the name of the joint venture of BHP, TNT, Elders IXL
and Kumagai, and the same acronym was applied to its proposal)

UIC Union Internationale des Chemins de fer (International Union of Railways)

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Table of Contents
Executive Summary ........................................................................................................................... 3

Abbreviations and Acronyms ............................................................................................................. 5

Table of Contents............................................................................................................................... 6

List of Figures and Tables ................................................................................................................... 9

1. Introduction to HSR .................................................................................................................. 10

1.1 Background to the report ..................................................................................................... 10
1.2 Report purpose .................................................................................................................... 10
1.3 HSR defined ......................................................................................................................... 11
1.4 HSR technology: a brief overview ......................................................................................... 11

2. HSR around the world ............................................................................................................... 15

2.1 Background.......................................................................................................................... 15
2.1.1 Phases of HSR development ............................................................................... 17
2.2 Success factors associated with International HSR operations. .............................................. 17
2.2.1 HSR drivers......................................................................................................... 18
2.2.2 Adaptation of HSR to meet domestic requirements ............................................ 18
2.2.3 National policy ................................................................................................... 19
2.2.4 Funding approaches ........................................................................................... 21
2.2.5 Integrated transport hubs .................................................................................. 22
2.3 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 22

3. HSR in Australia ........................................................................................................................ 24

3.1 HSR proposals to date .......................................................................................................... 24
3.2 Higher performance interstate and regional passenger rail in Australia ................................. 25
3.3 HSR and Australia’s transport system objectives ................................................................... 26
3.4 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 27

4. Critical success factors for HSR in Australia ............................................................................... 29

4.1 Geodemographic ................................................................................................................. 29
4.1.2 Key corridors and demand.................................................................................. 30
4.2 Competition ......................................................................................................................... 34
4.2.1 Market share between HSR and air..................................................................... 36
4.3 Social ................................................................................................................................... 39
4.3.1 Airports versus City Centre Stations.................................................................... 39
4.3.2 Congestion (better transport links to city centres) .............................................. 39
4.3.3 Convenience/comfort ........................................................................................ 40
4.3.4 Land use (urban fringe developments, commuter belts, narrower corridors than
highways) ......................................................................................................................... 40
4.3.5 Benefits to non-rail users ................................................................................... 40
4.3.6 Broader social benefits ....................................................................................... 40
4.3.7 Regional Australia versus Metropolitan areas ..................................................... 40

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4.3.8 Airport-HSR connectivity .................................................................................... 41
4.4 Health and safety ................................................................................................................. 41
4.4.1 Road safety ........................................................................................................ 41
4.4.2 Aircraft noise ..................................................................................................... 42
4.5 Environmental ..................................................................................................................... 42
4.5.1 External costs ..................................................................................................... 42
4.5.2 Energy use ......................................................................................................... 43
4.5.3 Emissions and emissions trading, possibly for different transport modes ............ 43
4.6 Economic ............................................................................................................................. 43
4.6.1 Cost-benefit analysis .......................................................................................... 43
4.6.2 Pricing ................................................................................................................ 43
4.6.3 Economic development ...................................................................................... 44
4.7 Technological/technical........................................................................................................ 44
4.8 Topographical ...................................................................................................................... 49
4.9 Political (public policy related).............................................................................................. 51
4.9.1 Land use and corridor preservation .................................................................... 52
4.9.2 Urban development policy ................................................................................. 53
4.9.3 Financing ........................................................................................................... 55
4.9.4 Stakeholder management .................................................................................. 57
4.10 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 58

5. Prospects for HSR in Australia ................................................................................................... 60

5.1 Critical success factors ......................................................................................................... 60
5.2 Factors driving and restraining HSR in Australia .................................................................... 61
5.3 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 62

6. Further research ....................................................................................................................... 63

6.1 Overarching recommendation .............................................................................................. 63
6.2 Research questions .............................................................................................................. 63

7. Appendices ............................................................................................................................... 65
1 Overview of recent, publicly available HSR studies............................................................... 65
2 HSR in Western Europe ........................................................................................................ 67
3 HSR in Japan ........................................................................................................................ 73
4 HSR in China......................................................................................................................... 77
5 HSR in the United States....................................................................................................... 79
6 HSR in Canada ...................................................................................................................... 83
7 Overview of ATC transport initiative assessment framework ................................................. 86
8 Low Relief Map of NSW ........................................................................................................ 88
9 Photograph of UBD Low Relief Map of Victoria ..................................................................... 89
10 Vertical Profile of a Likely Very HSR Corridor between Sydney and Brisbane ......................... 90
11 Vertical Profile of a Likely HSR Corridor between Sydney and Melbourne ............................. 91
12 Vertical Profile of the AVE Route between Seville and Madrid .............................................. 92

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8 References ................................................................................................................................ 93

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List of Figures and Tables
Table 1: Average HSR costs in Europe 12
Table 2: Primary energy and CO2 emissions: comparison of HSR versus other transport modes 12
Table 3: Land use: comparison of HSR versus motorway 13
Figure 1: Energy efficiency per passenger: comparison HSR versus other transport modes 13
Figure 2: Average external costs – comparison of HSR versus other transport modes 14
Table 4: HSR Lines (250+ km/h) currently in operation and under construction worldwide 16
Figure 3: Expected increase to the world HSR network 16
Table 5: Three waves of HSR adoption 17
Table 6: 2007 Capital city population and projections 2026 to 2056 31
Table 7: Intercapital rail (air) distances 33
Table 8: City pair HSR line lengths and approximate travel times 33
Table 9: Summary of HSR line length and city sizes 1964 to 2019 34
Table 10: Passenger movements by air in Australia 35
Figure 4: Rail/air modal split curve 37
Table 11: Indicative modal share estimations for Australia 38
Table 12: GHG emissions for selected transport modes 43
Table 13: Indicative HSR Rolling Stock Comparisons 45
Table 14: Comparative HSR Travel Performance 47
Table 15: Summary of critical success factors for Australian HSR context 60
Table 16: Factors driving and restraining HSR in Australia 61
Table 17: Questions for further research 63

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1. Introduction to HSR

1.1 Background to the report

High-speed rail (HSR) in Australia has received considerable attention over the last few
decades. The first serious discussion of HSR can be traced to 1981 and the Institution of
Engineers, who proposed a Bicentennial High Speed Railway project linking Brisbane-Sydney-
Canberra-Melbourne-Adelaide (Williams 1998). Since that time, two detailed proposals for an
advanced high-speed passenger rail service covering various east-coast routes have been
submitted to the Commonwealth (see Section 3.1). On each occasion, the respective scheme
failed to win government approval. Another substantial study was commenced by the Federal
Government but did not proceed beyond an initial stage. Considered discussion of an
Australian HSR network continues. In 2008, the ACT Government nominated HSR as a project
for consideration by Infrastructure Australia (IA). Although failing to make the final list of
infrastructure priorities funded in the May 2009 budget, the opportunity exists for IA to revisit
the merits of HSR in the near future (Faulks 2009). Given the call for a robust national
transport policy that aligns the various State and Territory transport priorities (DITRDLG 2008),
further scrutiny of the HSR concept is inevitable.

1.2 Report purpose

Numerous studies of international HSR operations and their impacts are readily available (see
Appendix 1 for a summary), but limited research has examined the unique conditions that will
impact on the development of a viable HSR network in Australia. While previous Australian
proposals provide a valuable foundation from which to address the key development issues for
HSR in this country, important contextual changes have since taken place that beg the
question of whether an Australian HSR network requires revisitation and additional

Overall, this report represents an early-stage assessment of the potential or otherwise of

reconsidering HSR in Australia. Future research is clearly required to examine in greater detail
the many critical HSR success factors highlighted throughout the report. As a result, the
primary purposes of this report, in order of priority, are to:
Identify and examine the critical factors for the implementation of HSR in Australia
Outline and categorise the key challenges and strategic issues around which any further
research into HSR will be based.
Establish whether further research into HSR in Australia is warranted at this point in
Identify and propose key questions for further HSR investigation and research.
In addition, this report will provide the CRC for Rail Innovation and its participant group with
informed opinion on the HSR concept.

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1.3 HSR defined
HSR is generally regarded as a passenger1 rail service operating at speeds considerably faster
than conventional rail. Beyond this basic interpretation, there is no single accepted definition
of HSR. Various countries recognise different criteria for HSR and, in certain cases, the
accepted definition depends on whether the track is upgraded or new (UIC 2008).
Since this report seeks to provide an informed opinion of HSR and its potential application to
an Australian context, a broad definition of HSR has been adopted. Here, the term HSR
incorporates the two fundamental HSR categories. These categories are:
Conventional (or classic) high-speed passenger rail, also known as high performance rail,
operates at about 200 km/h. Even with major upgrading to the conventional rail line
infrastructure, these services are unable to exceed 200–220 km/h.
High-speed trains on dedicated lines are able to operate in excess of 250 km/h. These
services are variously referred to as high-speed rail (HSR) (UIC 2008), very high speed
trains (HST) (ARUP-TMG 2001) and very fast train (VFT) (VFT Joint Venture of the Broken
Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd 1990). Each of these terms tends to be used interchangeably,
although ‘HSR’ presently enjoys the widest use.
The focus of this report is on trains operating above 250 km/h. This is because 250 km/h
represents a threshold, above which bespoke rolling stock is needed (trainsets as opposed to
carriages and locomotives). In addition, traditional line-side signalling cannot be used as such
speeds. Such trains require their own corridor for the greater extent of their routes, although
they can make use of other rail corridors at certain points of their journey, specifically within
urban areas. At these points, existing rail infrastructure, including track and stations, can be

1.4 HSR technology: a brief overview

HSR operations are based on two separate technologies, both of which have recorded test
speeds of approximately 575 km/h. Magnetic levitation (Maglev) technology employs powerful
electromagnets to provide both lift and propulsion to the HSR transport system. While the
absence of rolling resistance generated by Maglev technology provides a number of benefits
over conventional rail, such as higher operating speeds and less track maintenance, the system
operates on a closed network (ARUP-TMG 2001). As a result, Maglev services require their
own dedicated infrastructure, a factor which substantially increases implementation costs.
Shanghai’s Transrapid service is the most significant Maglev HSR line currently in commercial
operation, though lower speed systems are also operational, e.g., in Japan. On account of
these limitations, further consideration of Maglev is outside the scope of this report, although
it is acknowledged that it could be the subject of a further study.
The most common HSR technology in use today involves a steel wheel on steel rail (SWSR)
system. Examples of such operations include Japan’s Shinkansen, France’s TGV and Germany’s
ICE 3. In addition to high operating speeds, SWSR also provides similar passenger and
maintenance benefits similar to that of Maglev. In contrast, SWSR systems are able to use, at
reduced speeds, existing infrastructure such as inner-city rail lines and platforms. For this

While a small number of operations include high-value freight (e.g., the French mail service La Poste), HSR is
predominantly a passenger-only service.

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reason, the major Australian HSR proposals have nominated SWSR technology as the most
appropriate (see ARUP-TMG 2001). Most SWSR and all Maglev systems are powered by
electricity. Diesel-powered locomotives are also used for particular SWSR HSR systems, such as
Britain’s HST services. The maximum operating speed of these services is approximately 200
km/h, which is very likely to be too slow for an Australian HSR service to compete with air
HSR is most clearly distinguished from conventional rail by the application of advanced
technologies in order to achieve higher operating speeds. For example, the power/weight ratio
and aerodynamics of HSR rolling stock differ markedly from conventional rail systems. Similar
technical distinctions can also be recognised among other HSR components, including
infrastructure, stations, operations, signalling systems, maintenance systems and management
(UIC 2008). In view of the high level and range of technical complexities, the financial
requirements of HSR are substantial, as illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1: Average HSR costs in Europe

Euro € AUS $
Construction of 1 km of new HS line 12–30 million 19–48 million
Maintenance of 1 km of new HS line 70,000/year 112,000/year
Cost of a HST (350 seats) 20–25 million 32–40 million
Maintenance of a HS train (2 € /km – 500,000 km/train & year) 1 million/year 1.6 million/year
Conversion rate: 1€ = AUS$1.6. Figures are approximations.
Source: UIC, 2008

In comparison with other forms of land and air transportation, HSR offers a number of
benefits. In particular, the UIC (2008) recognises the following benefits to consumers, the
environment, and society in general:
Consumers benefit from speed, frequency, comfort (more space, less noise, freedom to
move while in transit), safety, central city accessibility, and competitive pricing.
Environmental benefits include reductions in fuel consumption and GHG emissions (see
Table 2), reduced land requirements (see Table 3), greater energy efficiency (see Figure
1), and lower average costs (see Figure 2).
Society benefits from higher transport capacity, increased mobility, economic
development, reduced traffic congestion, and contained urban sprawl.

Table 2: Primary energy and CO2 emissions: comparison of HSR versus other transport modes
HSR Private car Plane
Litres of petrol per 100 passenger kilometres 2.5 6 7
Kilograms of CO2 emissions per 100 passenger kilometres 4 14 17
Source: UIC, 2008

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Table 3: Land use: comparison of HSR versus motorway
HSR Motorway
Configuration Double track 2x3 lanes
Land take requirements 25 m 75 m
Vehicles per hour 12 4,500
Vehicle passenger capacity 666 1.7
Shinkansen: 1323
Passengers per hour 8,000 7,650
Source: UIC, 2008

Figure 1: Energy efficiency per passenger: comparison HSR versus other transport modes

18 170
Traffic units carried (number of passengers x km) for one unit of
energy (1 kwh = 0.086 kep)


12 106


52.5 54


Fast Commuter Regional Bus Private Plane
train train train car

Source: UIC, 2008

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Figure 2: Average external costs – comparison of HSR versus other transport modes
(Euros per 1,000 passenger-kilometres)
█ Upstream process
(energy production,
87 disposal waste, etc.)

7 █ Impact on urban
█ Landscape
█ Climate change
█ Air pollution
█ Noise

█ Accidents

Private Car Bus Rail Air

Source: UIC, 2008

NB external costs are here understood to be costs incurred by society as a result of the
operation of the transport service.

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2. HSR around the world

2.1 Background
HSR represents a mature form of technology with operations dating back to Japan’s
introduction of the Shinkansen in 1964 (Williams 1998). Since that time, HSR has not only
evolved (i.e., higher speeds) but also has been applied in different ways to suit the operating
requirements of a particular country or region. Hall (2009) has identified the following four
distinct HSR application methods for SWSR operations:
A straight, flat, dedicated and segregated line from end to end, such as Japan’s classic
Shinkansen (i.e., Tokaido Shinkansen).
A dedicated, roller-coaster-style track, powered by kinetic energy to help go uphill, such
as France’s TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), with the ability to use existing infrastructure,
including platforms, in urban areas. All but a handful of TGV trains are non-stop services.
A combination with substantial segments of older rail line, such as existing track leading
into, and out of, metropolitan regions. Sections of older congested rail line may also be
combined with HSR tracks built to easier standard gradients. This allows for the
possibility of heavy freight operations outside peak passenger service periods, a model
used by Germany’s ICE (Intercity Express). Such an approach offers some long non-stop
sections, but also frequent station stops in more populous areas.
A tilting train able to operate around sharp bends at speeds of up to 250 km/h, such as
that pioneered by the Italian Pendolino and the Swedish X2000 trains, introduced in the
late 1980s. QR Passenger currently operates a tilt train service between Brisbane and
Cairns, although the maximum operating speed of this service is 160 km/h, while the
average speed is just 80 km/h.
There are currently 43 individual HSR lines in operation throughout the world, with another 34
under construction. As illustrated in Table 4, China is responsible for approximately two-thirds
of current development. Since the publication of Table 4, further development of the world’s
HSR operations can also be recognised. For example, Russia’s first HSR service, a 640 km line
between Moscow and St Petersburg, has begun scheduled operations. Approximately 18 high-
speed passenger routes are expected to be in service in Russia by 2020. In March 2009,
contracts were also signed for the construction of a 444 km HSR line in Saudi Arabia.
Several prominent HSR proposals are also under review in countries such as Argentina, Brazil,
Britain, Morocco, Poland, Portugal and the United States. The uptake of HSR worldwide is
expected to more than triple from 10,000 km in dedicated high-speed line in 2009, to over
37,500 km in 2025 (see Figure 3).

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Table 4: HSR Lines (250+ km/h) currently in operation and under construction worldwide
In operation Under construction
No. of lines Length of track No. of lines Length of track (km)
Japan 7 2,247 4 491
France 7 1,725 2 322
China 6 1,592 11 6,423
Spain 7 1,518 2 1,046
Germany 5 950 2 373
Italy 4 738 6 457
Taiwan 1 339 - -
Turkey 1 251 1 306
South Korea 1 224 3 359
Belgium 3 206 1 40
UK 1 109 - -
Netherlands - - 1 85
France/Spain - - 1 45
43 9,617 34 9,947
Source: Railway Gazette International, 2009

Figure 3: Expected increase to the world HSR network

Length of track (km) in operation









Source: UIC, 2008

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2.1.1 Phases of HSR development
The adoption of HSR around the world, to date, has proceeded in three ‘waves’ of decision
making (Perl & Dunn 1998), as summarised in Table 5 below. The first wave experienced in
Japan, France and Germany benefited from strong policy networks based on successful
national rail systems. Second-wave HSR decisions in neighbouring European countries were
aided by multi-level policy networks, with added support from transnational organisations,
such as the UIC, in addition to the EU. The third wave, which reflects current HSR
developments in countries such as United States and South Korea, is characterised by even
broader multi-level policy networks than those used in the second wave. These are deemed
necessary in order to build the political infrastructure for HSR in nations with promising
demand-side demographics, but weak supply-side institutional capacities.

Table 5: Three waves of HSR adoption

Wave Location Entrepreneurs Characteristics of wave
1 Japan, France, National government and Strong policy networks, e.g., publicly-
Germany rail systems owned rail systems that were highly
prioritised; modest domestic air travel.
2 Neighbouring National governments and Emergence of multi-level governance
European rail systems; manufacturers; (coordinated policy deliberation and
countries transnational organisations implementation among national, regional
(UIC, CCFE, EU, etc.) and supranational levels).
3 United States, National governments; More sophisticated multi-level policy
South Korea, private consortiums networks for facilitating international
China, Russia, (manufacturers, diffusion of technical know-how and
rest of world construction, finances, etc.) awareness of innovative policy.
Source: Adapted from Perl & Dunn 1998

Apart from the three historical waves of HSR adoption outlined above, it is also possible to
discern a fourth adoption wave. This wave reflects the prospective future development of HSR
in countries such as Australia. Key characteristics of this potential wave include the role of HSR
in a nationally integrated public transport network that compliments existing air and road
transport modes. In addition to delivering traditional HSR benefits, a further key characteristic
of this fourth wave is the potential role of HSR in a national GHG emissions reduction policy,
especially that pertaining to the transport sector, or at least reducing the negative externalities
associated with other transport modes.

2.2 Success factors associated with International HSR operations.

From the critical assessment of various international HSR case studies developed for this
report, several key success factors that are directly relevant to the Australian HSR context are
highlighted and discussed. For ease of reference, the full case studies are provided in the
following appendices:
HSR in Western Europe (Appendix 2)
HSR in Japan (Appendix 3)
HSR in China (Appendix 4)

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HSR in the United States (Appendix 5)
HSR in Canada (Appendix 6).

2.2.1 HSR drivers

The development of HSR around the world can be attributed to multiple factors. Most
prominent, however, is the effort to alleviate severe congestion associated with existing rail,
highway and air transport modes, and to increase the overall capacity of the transport sector
so as to improve economic performance (UIC 2008). In Europe, for example, this strategy has
extended to international corridors, where HSR is now regarded as the premier transport
option for both business and leisure travellers.
A related key driver of HSR involves the social and economic stimulus associated with nation-
building projects. In terms of social impact, successful development of the classic Shinkansen
or ‘Bullet train’ contributed greatly to Japan’s sense of national pride, and also showcased its
technological ability to markets that had previously undervalued Japan’s technical
competencies. More recently, substantial economic activity can be recognised among Japan’s
non-classic Shinkansen operations, which share corridors with existing rail services in less
populated and more regionalised areas.
Finally, the potential for reduction of a nation’s GHG emissions is also recognised as a key
driver of HSR development. With electricity providing the main source of power, HSR
represents a strategic alternative to road and air transport services, which are highly
dependent upon carbon-based power sources. In France, for example, the introduction of the
TGV is associated with a 23 percent decline in domestic transport CO2 emissions (Joint
Transport Research Centre, 2008), although it is important to point out that France relies on
nuclear-derived power to a great extent.
In combination, these factors contribute to a triple-bottom-line approach that collectively
considers the impact of HSR development on a region’s economic, social and environmental
conditions. HSR is regarded by many governments as a means to circumvent the capacity limits
in other transport modes, generate economic stimulus for particular regions, and ensure that
transport externalities are minimised.

2.2.2 Adaptation of HSR to meet domestic requirements

The development of long-distance corridors is not a universal approach to HSR in Europe. For
example, German ICE services, which take advantage of a more incremental approach to HST,
involve shorter distances and more frequent stops. Although this limits the maximum
commercial speed possible, the strategy is appropriate for Germany’s operating context. In
particular, the heavily-settled German landscape dictates the need for frequent stops rather
than a single continuous service, such as the TGV in France. These considerations are of
particular importance in an Australian context, where it is necessary to determine to what
extent a staged approach to HSR that aims to connect regional centres to a capital city before
it connects the capital cities should be preferred.
Linked to the development of cross-border networks in Europe are advances in technology
since the first wave of HSR began in Europe 30 years ago. Such advances (see Section 1.4) are
facilitating increasingly higher maximum operating speeds over long-distance corridors. For
example, the 1,069 km link from Guangzhou to Wuhan is reported to be operating at speeds of
350 km/h (The Age 2009). Service capabilities of this kind have subsequently enabled HSR to

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compete directly with the airline industry, especially in terms of the business market, and also
increasingly the leisure travel market. As a result, once-congested airline routes have been
thinned, and in some cases even abolished. For instance, in the United Kingdom, current
transport policy seeks to replace short-haul airline flights with HSR services (Milmo & Glover
2009). This need not suggest that HSR should be regarded as a total replacement for air travel
(except in ideal cases, such as Paris–Brussels). Rather, HSR and air travel should be recognised
as complementary transport modes. Evidence of this integration can be recognised in the
decision of Air France-KLM to enter the HSR business.
Related to this integrated view of HSR is the notion that the dominance of any transport
corridor by a single form of transport, including HSR, is associated with potential problems. In
particular, commercial pressures on national rail agencies ensure that priorities are given to
the most profitable markets. This policy increases the threat that less-populated regional areas
will be bypassed in favour of more profitable routes between large metropolitan cities (Hall
2009). Again, this is of particular importance to the Australian context. Japan has addressed
this issue by structuring their HSR operations on three service levels, which could have an
application in Australia:
Semi-fast (Kodama)
Fast (Hikari)
Super-fast (Nozomi).
In comparison, the United Kingdom has developed an alternative approach whereby its
privatised rail system is characterised by greater competition. Soon to become general
throughout the EU, this policy encourages rival train operators to offer services that compete
directly with the main franchisee, thereby bringing direct service to smaller cities and towns
(Hall 2009).
Two additional strategies used in Europe to ameliorate the spatial effects of HSR are as
The development of key non-central stations as a means to help regenerate
economically disadvantaged sides of a large core city.
The development of connections from the city centre to surrounding industrial towns as
a means to assist their restructuring process (Hall 2009).
With its ambitious expansion program, China is demonstrating how an efficient and useful HSR
system can be implemented in a very large country, such as Australia.
China’s decision to invest in about 42,000 km of passenger rail lines, with only about a quarter
of that going to high-speed lines, makes sense when seen from this perspective. It allows cities
throughout the nation to benefit directly from rail service, with all cities getting at least some
high-quality rail, in addition to efficient access to centres with HSR connections, and the larger
cities getting fast rail. This results in an integrated network, with a concentration on providing
a few, high-demand high-speed routes and many standard-speed routes.

2.2.3 National policy

Throughout the world, national government policy has been the instigator of HSR
development. With the possible exception of China, HSR development necessitates long-term
and ongoing (preferably bipartisan) political support. This requirement is imperative given the
lengthy project lead times characterising HSR operations. As an example, some HSR activity in

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California (United States) appears close to proceeding after approximately 11 years of
planning. Lengthy lead times can be attributed to:
Consensus on HSR corridors and land acquisition procedures. This is recognised as a
major issue with HSR development in most countries with democratic governments.
The considerable planning and investment requirements.
Competing visions need to be reconciled in terms of integrating HSR with existing rail
services or establishing new corridors that optimise HSR capabilities.
In terms of the relationship between national policy and HSR development, the example of
HSR in the United States is particularly informative for the Australian context. Like Australia,
the United States has lagged well behind Japan, Western Europe and China in the adoption of
HSR. However, HSR is clearly gaining momentum, with Congress recently approving legislation
that provides funding for its development (U.S. House of Representatives 2009b).
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) 2008 authorised a total of
US$13.06 billion over five years to support Amtrak’s ongoing capital and operating
needs, help to bring the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair, and encourage the
development of new and improved intercity passenger rail service through an 80/20
Federal/State matching grants programs.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) 2009 provides US$64.1 billion of
infrastructure, of which US$9.3 billion is dedicated for passenger rail. This includes US$8
billion in grants to States for development of intercity passenger and HSR.
On April 16 2009, President Obama released a strategic plan for high-speed intercity passenger
rail, which will not only help to reduce the dependence on cars and aviation, but also will do so
by providing a “clean, energy-efficient option for travellers” (U.S. Department of
Transportation 2009). The plan, developed in accordance with the Recovery Act, proposes an
HSR network with 160—960 km of intercity corridors as one element of a modernised
transportation system. Application forms developed by the Federal Railroad Administration
(FRA) have outlined the requirements for HSR funding. The following four funding tracks are
designed to accommodate the expected variety of applicant goals and stages of project
development (U.S. House of Representatives 2009b):
Track 1 provides for intercity passenger rail projects to improve existing services that are
‘ready to go’ and can be completed within two years of award.
Track 2 is for projects aiming at the development of new HSR corridors and intercity
passenger rail services. Substantial upgrades to existing corridor services under PRIIA are
also covered.
Track 3 is reserved for planning activities for the development of future HSR projects.
These projects required a 50 percent non-Federal match, and planning activities must be
completed within two years.
Track 4 is designed for HSR projects eligible for Track 1 funding, but where the applicants
are providing a 50 percent non-Federal match of financing.
The FRA received 45 applications for HSR from 24 states for approximately US$50 billion under
Track 2. The FRA announced that awards will be made early 2010 and that “selections will be
merit-based and will reflect President Obama’s vision to remake America’s transportation
landscape” (U.S. House of Representatives 2009).

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At a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
Washington, DC on 14 October (2009a), state ministers presenting submissions for national
HSR stimulus package overwhelmingly supported HSR initiatives. They lamented that the
United States is falling behind in HSR infrastructure compared with rest of the world. HSR was
considered a “game changer”, an opportunity to “reinvent national competitive advantage” by
sending new messages to investors and manufacturers, a “national priority”, and an “integral
part of the nation’s future”.

2.2.4 Funding approaches

Given the many technological and geographical requirements associated with HSR, substantial
investment of public monies is necessary to ensure its successful development in any country.
The assessment of funding approaches adopted by existing HSR operations provides insight
into the potential options for HSR in Australia. In particular, both the European and United
States funding approaches suggest that an Australian HSR initiative will need to adopt a multi-
stakeholder framework involving a variety of funding sources and investors that have the most
to benefit from the economic, social and environmental amenity that HSR offers. Likely
funding contributors would also include Federal, State and Local governments, transit
agencies, and the private sector.

A multi-tiered, multi-stakeholder funding framework is currently in place, although private
investment is limited. This approach contrasts with previous periods where national-level
agencies and bodies in various European countries were the primary sources of HSR funding.
At present, the EU is playing an increasing role through its TEN-T priority corridors
development and funding framework (not solely for HSR, but transport in general), although
HSR stakeholders are free to develop non-priority corridors on their own initiative.
Overall, the main players in funding HSR in Europe continue to be HSR agencies themselves,
but a role exists for the EU and national governments, together with more localised rail and
infrastructure agencies and stakeholders (who may be responsible for resolving key issues such
as network access charges and provision of station facilities).

East Asia
The development of new Shinkansen lines in Japan from 1987 was in part undertaken by a
framework established during the 1970s. This resulted in a list of potential lines, whose
approval was subject to finance from both the central government and local government (i.e.,
the prefectures).
The privately funded Taiwanese High-Speed Rail Consortium (THSRC) was billed as the largest
build-operate transfer (BOT) project in history. THSRC consistently failed to meet its funding
targets on time and was accused of breaching its promise to finance the project entirely from
private funds. Amidst claims that 84 percent of the financing in the BOT scheme came from the
government or state-owned corporations, further public funding was limited (Huang 2002).
Despite pre-opening doubts, THSR has taken a large share of the market for north-south trips
in western Taiwan. The operational break-even level (income less operating costs, excluding
financial costs) of NT$1 billion was reached in the fourth month of operation, April 2007. In the
first nine months, revenue was NT$9.19 billion, with THSRC expected to become profitable by
2009 (Taipei Times 2007).

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The railways in China are largely dependent on public funding and receive more than a quarter
(1 trillion yuan or A$160 billion) of the government's 4 trillion yuan (A$660 billion) stimulus
package. The funds will be spent on expanding the railway network from 78,000 km today to
110,000 km in 2012 and 120,000 km in 2020. China is acting to fulfil the demands for speed of
travel and mobility of its growing middle class—not by emphasising super-highways, but by
building world-class railways.

United States/California
Of particular relevance to Australia’s ambitions is the example of California’s (US) funding
approach to HSR development. Most notably, industry momentum and promotion of the
vision for a better California has contributed greatly to increased interest and support of the
HSR proposal. For example, the level of public interest is clearly reflected in popular support
for a bond measure, which is aimed to provide up to 30 percent of the estimated project costs.
Of particular interest for the Australian context is the view that less than 100 percent of
funding is not regarded as a factor restricting project progress during the early and
intermediate stages. Given the substantial costs involved, launching HSR is unlikely to take
place with 100 percent investment up front. The Californian example suggests that an initial
medium-term phase of well-resourced research and planning exercises must be undertaken
before any major decision milestone on the full establishment of an HSR implementation
Financial resources required for the development of California’s HSR operation is projected to
be approximately $US33.6 billion (CAHSR 2008c). The following cost allocations are based on a
multi-stakeholder funding approach to this project:
$12 to $16 billion in Federal grants (equating to 36–48 percent of total project costs).
$9 billion in State funds (27 percent).
$6.5 to $7.5 billion in PPPs (19–22 percent).
$2 to $3 billion (6–9 percent) of local funding assistance and cost sharing.

2.2.5 Integrated transport hubs

A successful HSR network also involves the integration of HSR services into the regional and/or
national transport network. In this regard, key lessons can be drawn from the urban transport
systems in cities such as Berlin, London, Hong Kong and Singapore. These systems are
characterised by increasingly integrated public transport hubs where bus, rail and light rail
interchanges and stations are co-located with retail and commercial activities, all of which
ultimately enhances the travel experience. Connectivity to air transport is also highly desirable,
and represents a key part of the demand equation. In these cases, transport nodes are
therefore transformed into lifestyle hubs, thereby making them exciting places to visit and
readily accessible to business people for meetings (Land Transport Authority [Singapore]
2008). It has even been suggested the particular location of HSR stations in cities and the
related transport networks may be more important than the HSR route itself (Barrón de
Angoiti 2009).

2.3 Conclusion
As detailed in this section, HSR operations have existed in regions of Asia and Europe for over
four decades. From the first Shinkansen, which begin service in Japan during the mid 1960s to

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current developments in China, Russia and even the United States, HSR has provided a
desirable transport option among travellers and an effective nation-building project for
government. Largely as a result of this successful track record, future growth of HSR is
ensured. For example, the amount of track currently under construction will result in a
doubling of the total world-wide HSR network by the year 2025.
Factors that have contributed to the successful development of international HSR operations
are numerous and varied. This includes the ability to adapt HSR to suit conditions unique to a
particular country or region. While this information provides considerable value, the scope of
this project has limited the amount of research undertaken.
To further inform an Australian HSR, the following future research tasks and associated
research questions into HSR around the world require investigation:
Select international case studies
Which international networks and HSR industries should serve as reference points and
case studies in the development of an Australian HSR concept?
What do the case histories of HSR development in particular countries and locations tell
us about this most challenging and long-term form of infrastructure-development
Are there corridors or projects of particular relevance to Australian conditions?
Assess HSR as national infrastructure priority
How have different countries developed HSR systems within a framework of national
infrastructure programs and priorities?
Are particular national-level approaches of interest for potential Australian HSR?
How has HSR been funded in the various countries in terms of government and private
sector contributions. Which innovative financing arrangements for funding HSR have
been used? To what extent can they be employed in funding an Australian HSR?
Develop international HSR business models
What are the commercial models at play in key HSR locations and how do they relate to
a potential commercial model for Australian HSR?
Describe technological change and evolution
How have international HSR industries evolved and changed, and what are the likely
changes over the coming 10 years?
Do particular countries have dedicated HSR research programs, and what sort of
resourcing is entailed?
How does ongoing technological evolution affect an Australian HSR program on a 10
year + time scale?
Identify outstanding international HSR nodes:
Which stations and intermodal nodes on an international level are particularly notable
and of interest as design and conceptual reference-points toward developing major HSR
nodes and stations in Australia?

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3. HSR in Australia

3.1 HSR proposals to date

The first full proposal for an HSR railway operation between Melbourne–Canberra–Sydney
emerged in 1984. From this proposal a consortium was formed comprising BHP, TNT, Elders IXL
and Japan’s Kumagai Gumi (VFT Joint Venture of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd 1990).
Subject to special taxation arrangements, the venture was promoted as a private sector
scheme that recognised the long pay-back periods of major infrastructure projects. In August
1991, Federal Cabinet rejected the consortium’s taxation concession proposals and the
venture folded (James & James 1996–97).
In 1993, plans for a new Sydney–Canberra line emerged from the Speedrail joint venture,
which comprised Leighton Contractors and the Anglo-French company GEC-Alsthom (later
Alstom). A specific feature of the subsequent Commonwealth brief involved the government
being protected from financial and operational risk and that “there be no net cost to
taxpayers” (ARUP-TMG 2001; James & James 1996–97). Although a prevailing mantra of
Australian government with respect to potential investment in high-speed rail, this position
contrasts with international experiences, whereby government has been heavily involved in
the provision and operation of HSR services (Laird 2009).
The Speedrail project was cancelled in December 2000. In particular, the Commonwealth did
not agree to the joint venture’s proposals for government financial support, which, the joint
venture had argued, did not breach the ‘no net cost’ requirement. Speedrail also argued that
its requirements for clear and unchanging approval processes, straightforward regulations and
endorsed standards for the construction and operation of HSR in Australia did not exist. The
Commonwealth then proceeded to a two-stage scoping study involving an east-coast
Australian high-speed train. While the initial phase was released in 2001 (ARUP-TMG 2001),
stage 2 did not go ahead. Government rationale for not proceeding with Phase 2 of the study,
or indeed the construction of a HSR line, centred mainly on the substantial infrastructure costs
involved. These costs were estimated to range between $33 billion and $59 billion (Anderson
2002). More recently, a $59 billion fast-track HSR project was proposed by the ACT
Government for consideration by Infrastructure Australia, but was unsuccessful
In summary, HSR in Australia has been heavily promoted, at considerable expense, by the
private sector. Despite this incentive, federal governments have argued that project costs far
outweigh the expected benefits. For example, in relation to the 2001 proposal, government
sources estimated that the ratio of public benefits to public costs was very low – between 0.12
and 0.25 (Anderson 2002). As a result, the return to the community was deemed questionable.
Additional reasons for the lack of earlier progress with HSR in this country include:
National and regional population and GDP per capita figures at that time were arguably
insufficient to justify HSR project initiation.
Weak understanding of the implementation time horizons of HSR. HSR proposals tended
to be framed as a ‘decision to build and operate HSR now’, rather than as a forward-
planning, research and long-term project development exercise addressing a time
horizon of 10 years and more.
Population catchments and potential demand may have been incorrectly defined
according to lagging population data (at the time) rather than as a forward appraisal of

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likely population and demand during the operational horizon of a potential HSR service
(i.e., 10 years + from the time of initial planning and appraisal).
Lack of genuine industry capability to deliver, but also to plan and appraise HSR
effectively in the first instance.
The ‘stopping cold’ phenomenon, in which planning work tended to stop at key decision
points and milestones, rather than proceeding with care and stability over the medium
and longer term.
Assumptions of a predominantly ‘single stakeholder’ model that places onerous funding
demands on a national-level project funder or proponent, rather than spreading the
economic costs among likely long-term beneficiaries and stakeholders.
Benchmarking maximum operating speeds for HSR at the time of previous investigations
(i.e., 300 km/h as a maximum operating speed, compared to current reported maximum
operating speeds of 350 km/h [UIC, 2008] and potential future improvements) may have
been insufficient to offer the potential of HSR service between key Australian cities that
was time-competitive with air travel.

A wide range of important issues clearly bear on HSR proposals, including matters of land
acquisition and compensation for land-owners, infrastructure requirements, land use and
access, economic and employment impacts, community amenity and social impacts, in
addition to a range of more specific environmental issues (James & James 1996–97).
Underlying the decision to exclude HSR from the Australian transport landscape is arguably a
lack of government vision regarding the potential net benefits of HSR in Australia. Despite the
lack of success in previous proposals, calls persist for HSR to be placed on the national
transport agenda (Cortis-Jones 2004; Faulks 2009).

3.2 Higher performance interstate and regional passenger rail in Australia

Based on the definition of HSR adopted in Section 1.3, no rail operation of this kind currently
exists in Australia. Higher performance rail in Australia is largely confined to low frequency
longer distance passenger services, many of which run within a single State. All of these
operations fall well short of the existing and planned HSR operations elsewhere in the world.
Rail services at the limits of traditional SWSR technology cannot compete with air, which has
emerged as HSR’s main competitor in many overseas contexts.
The first such service was the Prospector diesel railcar service between Perth and Kalgoorlie,
inaugurated in 1971. This twice-daily return service currently achieves a 97 km/h average
speed with maximum permitted speeds up to 160 km/h over this 655 km route.
State Rail (and its CountryLink successor) inaugurated 160 km/h diesel XPT services in NSW in
1983. These services were later augmented by 145 km/h Xplorer diesel railcar services. These
were progressively rolled out to Dubbo, Broken Hill (Xplorer trains) Armidale and Moree (now
replaced by Xplorer trains), Brisbane, Murwillumbah (now Casino), Grafton, Canberra (now
replaced by Xplorer trains), Griffith (Xplorer trains) and Melbourne. XPTs can average 87 km/h
between Sydney and Melbourne over this 960 km route.
The CountryLink service offers an interesting insight into the potential for ‘incremental’ HSR
upgrades on an existing network/system spanning the key eastern seaboard capitals, including
Melbourne. At face value, the CountryLink service appears to take in the bulk of the potential
destinations on any eventual Australian East Coast HSR corridor – without necessarily offering

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all the alignments needed to serve every major destination, nor the immediate scope to fully-
support genuine high-speed performance. Exploration of the potential role of CountryLink in
anchoring a potential incremental HSR program that connects Brisbane with Sydney and
ultimately Melbourne may warrant detailed exploration.
QR’s Traveltrain inaugurated electric tilt trains between Brisbane and Rockhampton in 1997.
QR Photo
This daily return service achieves an 84 km/h average speed, with maximum permitted speeds
up to 160 km/h over this 625 km route. Diesel tilt trains were inaugurated between Brisbane
and Cairns about 2002. These services cannot achieve better than a 75 km/h average speed
because of permanent speed limits. The tilt train currently suffers from poor financial
performance, reductions in potential speed owing to under-developed track and signalling
systems, and a corridor that lacks the population to see development as a ‘true’ HSR line. The
tilt train’s narrow gauge system points to performance limitations and non-compatibility with
interstate networks—gauge compatibility remains one of the key long-range concerns for the
development of interstate HSR systems in Australia.
V/Line passenger inaugurated high-speed passenger services between Melbourne, Traralgon,
Seymour, Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong from 2005 under the Regional Fast Rail Project. The
project involved the upgrading of rail track and signalling and the introduction of new VLocity
diesel railcars capable of travelling up to 160 km/h. While these cars can achieve average
speeds as high as 116 km/h on one-off daily services, they more regularly achieve average
speeds in limited-stops operation of roughly 90 km/h over routes ranging between 73 km
(Geelong) and 162 km (Bendigo) in length. The project paved the way for a new V/Line
timetable across the Victorian regional rail network, with just over 400 more services a week
for major regional centres, including 287 weekday services and 114 weekend services, new
flagship services and 'shoulder peak' services, hourly off-peak services, late trains, and
increased seating capacity. Patronage response has been strong with patronage growing over
60 percent since completion of these projects.
Another high performance rail line is planned for the 180 km corridor from Perth to Bunbury in
Western Australia. A maximum operating speed of 180 km/h is envisaged. Car travel time
between Perth and Bunbury has been reduced to an hour and a half, while the current train
system completes the trip in two and half hours. Preliminary studies confirm the feasibility of
providing a fast train service utilising the Southern Suburbs Railway from Perth to Anketell,
then along the median of the Kwinana Freeway, the Perth Bunbury/Peel Deviation, the
reservation of the Old Coast Road to Australind and then into the Koombana Bay area of
Bunbury via existing rail routes (MacTiernan 2009). The new fast train service would reduce
travel time to 90 minutes and provide a direct route terminating in the Bunbury CBD. It is also
expected to bring significant tourism and economic benefits to the wider South West.

3.3 HSR and Australia’s transport system objectives

Under its current National Building Program, the Australian Government (2009) is investing
$26.7 billion on road and rail infrastructure over the six-year period from 2008–09 to 2013–14.
While this amount represents unprecedented investment by a Commonwealth government in
land transport, just $6 billion (approx. 22 percent) is allocated for rail infrastructure.
Approximately half of the rail investment is earmarked for Victorian regional rail ($3.3 billion
for major infrastructure). The remainder of rail investment includes freight rail upgrades in
New South Wales (new project), Gold Coast Light Rail (major infrastructure), some rail
modernisation and extensions in South Australia (major infrastructure) and rail in Perth (major
infrastructure). In the current budget cycle, no funds have been allocated to intercity rail.

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While the Commonwealth is poised to take action on urban transport with the proposed
development of a national criteria for the future strategic planning of Australia’s major cities
(Rudd 2009), HSR’s potential contribution has not been recognised. In part, this omission may
reflect the reluctance of federal governments, over a lengthy period of Australia’s history, to
intervene in rail operations typically coordinated by the States. It seems improbable that HSR
could take place without firm government leadership and coordination of the various potential
stakeholders involved. This report clearly brings out the criticality of a federal government and
its agencies providing a vision for HSR and coordinating efforts that will lead to its ultimate
realisation if such a course of action is approved.
This outcome may be achieved in this country by assessing HSR within the Australian Transport
Council’s (ATC) (2006) National Guidelines for Transport System Management. The Guidelines
have been endorsed by all Australian States and Territories and can be applied to a range of
jurisdictions and geographical settings with the current focus being on land transport. The
Guidelines are based on the Transport System Management Framework, a strategically-based
decision support system designed to achieve high-level transport system objectives. The
decision-making process is broken down into eight phases with stakeholder consultation
between each phase. Appendix 7 provides a summary of the generic Framework, outlining the
inputs, processes and analyses for each phase. Applying this framework reduces the
complexity of decision-making in transport planning by recognising the competing trade-offs,
constraints, uncertainty, multiple options and quantifiable and unquantifiable impacts of each
proposed infrastructure option

3.4 Conclusion
This chapter, which draws on new rail infrastructure experiences in Australia as well as the
requirements for related proposals, has highlighted a number of Australian-specific issues
pertinent to HSR. While much has changed since previous HSR proposals, many intrinsic issues
remain, especially the need for government vision and leadership. As detailed in this section, a
key requirement of future HSR operations is the acquisition of land to enable planning and
construction of the most appropriate inter-city HSR corridors. Government leadership is
particularly necessary to address this issue.
The following suggested research tasks and research questions relate to further informing the
Australian HSR context.
Establish the current funding mix for transport
How do current transport funding mixes at all levels of government contribute to
effective inter-city and interstate passenger rail travel?
Relate economic and population growth scenarios to HSR
How do projections on population growth and economic growth over the coming
decade relate to the case for Australian HSR?
Define an implementation horizon for HSR
What is an appropriate planning and implementation horizon for potential Australian

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Define population catchments and potential HSR markets
Which major population catchments might Australian HSR serve, how do we define and
measure them, and what are the catchment population benchmarks that begin to
underpin viable HSR in Australia?
Understand local HSR industrial capability
What is the true state of the Australian rail industry, broadly defined, with respect to the
ability to effectively and productively plan and implement HSR?
If there are identifiable gaps in industry capability, what can structured research and
capability development programs do to overcome those gaps?
Investigate how to maintain momentum on HSR
Given that previous Australian efforts on HSR have stalled, what can be done to ensure
that an HSR program progresses with stability and purpose over time, despite changing
trends and influences?
Develop multi-stakeholder models
If HSR is to progress in Australia a multi-stakeholder model of the type adopted in other
leading HSR nations will need to be adopted. Who are the key Australian stakeholders,
what are their interests in HSR, and how might those interests translate into funding
Develop an Australian HSR as a unique system and technology suite
Given that each country develops an HSR system that relates to its own needs and
circumstances, how might Australia’s needs and circumstances inform a unique
Australian version of HSR?
How does a potential Australian HSR system perform?
Given that distances between major Australian cities are long by world standards, what
is the relationship between distance, terrain and issues such as top speed and cruising
speeds of potential Australian HSR in the context of reasonably significant and ongoing
improvement in both operational and test speeds for HSR internationally?
How do existing metropolitan and intercity rail corridors in Australian relate to potential
future HSR use and applications?
Understand the HSR and national-level planning process
National-level planning processes, priorities and objectives of the like outlined in the
ATC assessment framework consistently list options analysis as an important component
of meaningful long-range planning. Yet when airport expansion and similar issues are
planned, the option of HSR alternatives is not analysed. Is there a current failure to
include HSR in options analysis for major long-range transport planning in Australia?
If so, how do we integrate HSR as an option into long-range planning, particularly with
respect to interstate travel between the east coast capitals?

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4. Critical success factors for HSR in Australia
The previous two chapters identified critical success factors based on overseas HSR experience
and the Australian experience with new rail infrastructure to date. This chapter considers the
critical success factors in terms of nine contextual factors pertinent to the introduction of a
HSR in Australia, these being: geodemographic, competition, social, health and safety,
environmental, economic, technological, topographical and political. The focus is on identifying
changes in context that have occurred since previous Australian HSR proposals.

4.1 Geodemographic
Transport services are often utilised not because of any direct benefit to the consumer (except,
for example, in the case of pleasure cruises), but because they provide the opportunity for
other consumer options at the particular destination, e.g., working, shopping, meeting people,
and transferring to other modes. Any transport corridor has to be selected on the basis that it
not only serves its current market but also contributes to the creation of its future market. A
particular implication for HSR in Australia is the importance of choosing the most appropriate
corridor and station locations.
A related concept is induced (or latent) demand, i.e., the phenomenon that, after supply
increases, more of a good is consumed. This idea has become important in the debate over the
expansion of transportation systems, and is often used as an argument against widening roads,
such as major commuter roads. Some regard it as a contributing factor to urban sprawl.
According to Leeming (1969), motorways and bypasses generate traffic, i.e., produce extra
traffic, partly by inducing people to travel who would not otherwise have done so by making
the new route more convenient than the old, partly by people who go out of their direct route
to enjoy the greater convenience of the new road, and partly by people who use the towns
bypassed because they are more convenient for shopping and visits when through traffic has
been removed.

4.1.1 General trends in consumer transport demand

Consumer demand for transport is comprised largely of resident populations and, to a lesser
degree, tourists. Based on current trends in fertility, life expectancy at birth, net overseas
migration and net interstate migration (the base case), Australia’s estimated resident
population at 30 June 2007 of 21.0 million people is projected to increase to 35.5 million
people (up 69 percent) by 2056, and 44.7 million people (up 113 percent) by 2101 (Australian
Bureau of Statistics, 2008). Inbound tourist numbers to Australia overall are forecast to grow
by 5.5 percent per year, with the value of tourism to the economy growing by 7.1 percent per
year (Auslink 2004).
The CSIRO (2002) ‘Future Dilemmas’ research project used three population scenarios2 to
study the requirements for a number of key infrastructure items central to life in Australia’s
cities and towns. Under the base case for transport requirements, if rail maintained a low level
(less than 5 percent of passenger kilometres) for the duration of the scenario, bus, air and car
travel modes would increase considerably.

The base case of net immigration of 70,000 per year; zero net immigration per year and 0.67% of current
population as net immigration per year.

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According to DITRDLG (2008), road congestion in Australian cities is reaching high levels, with
the cost resulting from reductions in amenity, safety and business efficiency estimated at
$20.4 billion a year by 2020. Congestion and the associated costs are also increasingly a
problem in communities within regional corridors, such as between Northern New South
Wales and South-East Queensland (Byron Shire Council 2008). The expected population and
tourism growth to 2056 will put further pressure on rail, road and air networks over the next
decades, especially in the accepted context of future fuel scarcity and a carbon price (Carter
2009). Clearly, more people stimulate the need for more infrastructure, more industrial
output, more food, more tourism, higher levels of consumption of energy and water and more
waste and emissions (Foran & Poldy 2002).
The average annual distance travelled by cars in Australia is about 15,000 km, compared to
20,000 km in the United States, and 16,000 km in the United Kingdom. Future decades could
see an increase in the yearly distance driven per car with increasing consumer affluence and
longer commuting distances as the nature of work and workplace dynamics changes (CSIRO
2002). The CSIRO has suggested that the car component alone has the potential to grow to
between 60 and 90 percent of the total current transport task. Motoring is an area where
“rebound effects between engine technology (more efficiency), motoring luxury (air
conditioning and fittings) and driver behaviour (driving faster or further) continually take
place” (CSIRO 2002), though the issue of congestion will not be circumvented by increased
efficiency. As consumer behaviour is dynamic, there is scope—with appropriate
communication and regulatory strategies—to influence it in favour of the take-up of other
forms of mobility.
The CSIRO’s population analysis links population growth with six dilemmas:
1. Population aging.
2. Expanding imports and domestic consumption.
3. Growing reliance on materially intensive products.
4. Rising greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Higher levels of resource depletion.
6. Deteriorating environmental quality.
It is suggested that an information-rich economy with low material transactions might offer an
integrated solution to dilemmas three to six. Consistent with the concept of ecologically
sustainable development, it would require a highly educated workforce that might be willing
to moderate lifestyle and physical demand as their contribution to the resolution of these
dilemmas. This would need to be implemented at an economy-wide level. In this context,
improvements in the competitiveness of rail, such as through HSR, would help to alleviate to
some extent the emerging transport gridlock and address the demands of contemporary

4.1.2 Key corridors and demand

Depending on regional population distribution, an HSR corridor should either target population
centres or bypass them. In the Australian context, the capital cities are the major population
centres. Table 6 sets out the 2007 capital city population and population projections for 2026
to 2056. Since populations are projected using a set of assumptions, including initial
population, births, deaths, net overseas migration, net internal (interstate) migration

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(Australian Population Association 2004), the projections tend to vary somewhat by source.
For the purposes of this report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Series B projections
for 2025 and 2056 will be used, as these are reflective of current trends in the before-
mentioned factors.

Table 6: 2007 Capital city population and projections 2026 to 2056

In millions of 2007* 2026* 2056* 2050** (Base 2051*** 2051***
people (B/mid- (B/mid- case) (low (high
series) series) migration) migration)
Sydney 4.33 5.43 6.98 5.25 5.75 10.76
Melbourne 3.81 5.04 6.79 4.37 4.68 8.53
Brisbane 1.86 2.68 3.98 2.56 2.20 3.79
Adelaide 1.16 1.38 1.65 1.52 1.36 2.27
Perth 1.55 2.27 3.36 2.22 1.88 3.26
Canberra 0.34 0.42 0.51 0.33 0.42 0.68
Hobart 0.21 0.25 0.28 0.28 0.22 0.31
Darwin 0.12 0.17 0.24 0.10 0.14 0.21
Australia 21.02 27.26 35.50 25.10 25.54 43.68
* Source: ABS, 2008
** Source: CSIRO, 2002
*** Source: Cumpston, 2002

As shown in Table 6, based on their population, the capital cities can be grouped into the
following three strata:
World-size cities of Sydney (5.4 to 7.0 million people by 2026 to 2056) and Melbourne
(5.0 to 6.8 million people by 2026 to 2056).
Larger cities of Brisbane (2.7 to 4.0 million people by 2026 to 2056), Perth (2.3 to 3.4
million people by 2026 to 2056) and Adelaide (1.4 to 1.7 million people by 2026 to
Smaller cities of Canberra (0.42 to 0.51 million by 2026 to 2056), Hobart (0.25 to 0.28
million people by 2026 2056) and Darwin (0.17 to 0.24 million people by 2026 to 2056).
Of these capital cities, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne have generally been considered a
likely part of any HSR corridor along the east coast of Australia, though it may be the case that
a staged approach is employed, whereby smaller sections of an overall HSR vision are first put
into place, e.g., Sydney–Canberra or Sydney–Newcastle.
There are four further conurbations of significance that fall within or lie adjacent to the
Brisbane–Sydney–Melbourne corridor: the Gold Coast (0.5 million people), Greater Newcastle
(0.3 million), Greater Wollongong (0.3 million), Albury-Wodonga (0.1 million). Four of the five
distinct super regions of NSW (Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, Coastal New South Wales
and Inland New South Wales) will experience growth until at least 2031, while the Far West is
expected to lose population. Coastal New South Wales is projected to change the most of any
of the super regions over the next 20 years, with population increasing from 13.9 percent to
14.7 percent of population (Department of Transport and Regional Services 2006).
The potential intra-regional South-East Queensland/Brisbane market is also seen as large and
growing (Douglas & Thornton 2004). Queensland’s population is expected to grow from 4.0
million people in 2006 to 7.1 in 2056 (medium series) (Queensland Government 2006),

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whereby Queensland’s population is concentrated in the south-eastern corner of the state
(South-East Queensland) in the Statistical Divisions (SDs) of Brisbane and Moreton. These SDs
were home to 66.3 percent of the state’s population as at 30 June 2005 and accounted for
70.3 percent of Queensland's population growth in the year to 30 June 2005. By 2026, the
population of South-East Queensland is expected to be 3.8 million people.
As a result, a cohesive and nation-building east-coast HSR network would connect Brisbane,
the Gold Coast, Greater Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, thereby impacting on a
population upwards of 14 million people in 2026, and over 19 million by 2056 without taking
into account of the populations of the New South Wales North Coast, New South Wales
Southern Highlands and New South Wales south-western slopes, and the Victorian northeast.
The three north-south corridors linking Australia’s three largest cities, viz., Sydney, Melbourne
and Brisbane, were the subject of a series of Auslink (2007) corridor strategies3 in 2006–07:
The Sydney–Melbourne corridor is a vital artery of the national transport system
(Department of Transport and Regional Services, 2006). It is the busiest inter-capital
road corridor—around 40 percent of long-distance road freight movements on the
Auslink National Network use the Hume Highway for at least part of their trips. It is also
in the top three of the most heavily travelled segments of the interstate rail network.
The corridor plays an important role in linking Australia’s two largest cities, the national
capital, and rural and regional communities in New South Wales and Victoria. Around 40
percent of the Australian population lives along or at the ends of the corridor.
The second busiest corridor in Australia in terms of non-bulk freight and passenger is
Sydney–Brisbane (NSW Department of Transport and Regional Services 2007). Freight on
this corridor is expected to triple over the period to 2029, compared with the expected
doubling of freight on most other AusLink corridors. The AusLink draft strategy notes
that, despite extensive work to upgrade both highways and railways on the Sydney–
Brisbane corridor, present “road congestion and capacity constraints” are expected to
become increasingly severe, while the rail corridor “will continue to have capacity and
alignment problems”.
According to the third strategy (Department of Transport and Regional Services 2007),
the Melbourne–Brisbane corridor will experience a nearly three-fold increase in intercity
freight over the period to 2029. The corridor also supports interstate and major arterial
connections feeding through traffic to and from South Australia and Queensland.
Laird (2007a) noted deficiencies in all three draft strategies. They are somewhat ‘business as
usual’ and give more priority to ongoing highway improvements as opposed to building rail
deviations of the Melbourne–Sydney–Brisbane railway to replace track suffering from
substandard alignment. Other limitations of each of the three strategies include a lack of
consideration of external costs, scenario analysis and fossil fuel dependence.
A fourth potential HSR route that has been the subject of much interest is the Canberra–
Sydney link (James & James 1996–97).
Table 7 below sets out the rail and air distances in kilometres between the four capitals. Note
that the air distances are up to 26 percent shorter than those of rail.

A corridor strategy is a statement of the shared strategic priorities of the Commonwealth and state/territory
governments for the long-term (20-25 year) development of the corridor.

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Table 7: Intercapital rail (air) distances
In km Sydney Melbourne Brisbane Canberra
Sydney - 959 (706) 972 (753) 285 (236)
Melbourne - - 1931 (1381) 784 (470)
Brisbane - - - 1257 (956)
Source: BITRE 2009

For comparative purposes, HSR line lengths and approximate travel times for selected
domestic and international routes are shown in Table 8. The table has been prepared on the
assumption that realistic travel times are point-to-point. HSR and air, like any other transport
modes, will have access, egress and transit time components. In order to compare journeys on
a comparable basis, it was necessary to estimate the times that are associated with each
component. For the purpose of Table 8, conservative estimates have been adopted.

Table 8: City pair HSR line lengths and approximate travel times
City pair Population Population Length HSR Approximate travel time
(1) and (2) in millions in millions (km) Length (in hours)
(1) 2007 (2) 2007 ‘road’ (km)
HSR Air* Car
250 300
km/h km/h
Sydney– 4.3 3.8 963 960 5.75 3.5 10
Sydney– 4.3 1.9 1010 910 5.5 3.5 11
Sydney– 4.3 0.3 288 290 2.25 2.5 3
Melbourne– 3.8 0.3 647 670 4.25 2.75 7
Melbourne– 3.8 1.9 1670 1870 10.75 5 18
Brisbane– 1.9 0.3 1268 1200 7.5 4 14

Paris–Lyons 9.3 1.3 390 427 2 2.25 4.5

Madrid–Seville 4.6 0.9 536 470 2.25 2.75 2.5
Brussels–Paris 1.6 9.3 320 310 1.25 2.5 2
Berlin–Hanover 3.5 0.5 245 263 1.25 2.25 2
* includes 40 minutes time for check-in and 60 minutes for intra-city commuting.
Source: Adapted from ARUP-TMG (2001) and Barrón de Angoiti (2009) by Alex Wardrop and Robert
At the time of the 2001 EC-HSR scoping study, there were only 17 HSR lines in operation
around the world. Since then, another 25 HSR lines have been completed, with another 32
lines (including 10 in China) under construction (see Table 9). The average length of the HSR
line has increased somewhat from 290 km to 310 km, thanks largely to the new Beijing to
Shanghai line of 1,318 km.

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Table 9: Summary of HSR line length and city sizes 1964 to 2019
Year Number of Min. length Max. length Average
HSR lines in km in km length in km
New lines in operation at 1964–2001 18 99 553 290
250 km/h or more 2002–2009 25 26 481 191
New lines under Opening 32 40 1318 310
construction for 250 km/h 2009–2019
or more
75 265
Source: Adapted from Railway Gazette 2009, pp. 6–7

4.2 Competition
Among the many factors contributing to a renewed consideration of HSR in Australia is the
current popularity and anticipated growth in the nation’s air travel market. As detailed in
section 1.4 (see Table 2 and Figure 2), the comparatively lower emissions generated by HSR
technology represents a key competitive advantage over aviation in a carbon-constrained
Air travel has become popular in Australia as a result of the country’s geography, improving
aircraft technology (faster, more efficient aircraft), rising income levels (positive economic
growth), and falling airfares (competition in domestic and international routes). Passenger
movements by air have doubled from 51.6 million in 1991–92 to 104.9 million in 2005–06
(BITRE 2008), which represents a 5.2 percent increase over a 14-year period. Of the total
passenger movements in 2005–06, 66.3 percent were accounted for by domestic movements
through Australian airports. In turn, 88.1 percent of these movements were by domestic
airlines providing services primarily between capital cities. As these figures highlight, interstate
travel in Australia is dominated by air transport.
With respect to future growth, BITRE (2008) estimates that domestic passenger numbers will
double from the 83.6 million recorded in 2005–06 to approximately 178 million in 2025–26.
This increase represents a growth rate of approximately 4 percent per year and will further
expand the dominance of air travel in the interstate passenger travel market. By 2025, air
transport (without competition from HSR) is expected to account for 90 percent of interstate
trips, compared with the current 72 percent.
As shown in Table 10, the three largest air passenger markets in Australia are Sydney,
Melbourne and Brisbane. In the period 2005–06, all three markets captured 58.0 percent of
domestic passenger movements. This figure is expected to rise to 60.3 percent in 2025–26.

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Table 10: Passenger movements by air in Australia
Airport Total passenger Domestic passenger movements
movements 2005–
2005–06 2025–26 % growth
% of total
Million % Million % 2005–06 to
passengers passengers 2025–26
Sydney 27.9 19.3 23.1 40.9 23.0 3.8
Melbourne 20.2 16.8 20.1 36.2 20.4 3.9
Brisbane 15.4 12.4 14.8 30.0 16.9 4.5
Perth 6.7 5.0 6.0 12.6 7.1 4.7
Adelaide 5.5 5.4 6.5 10.8 6.1 3.5
Canberra 2.5 2.5 2.9 5.1 2.9 3.5
Hobart 1.5 1.6 1.9 3.0 1.7 3.2
Darwin 1.2 1.1 1.3 2.6 1.5 4.3
Remaining 19 19.5 23.4 36.5 20.4 3.2
Total 100 83.6 100 177.7 100 4.0
Source: BITRE, 2009, p. 125)

The forecast growth in Australia’s air passenger movements will require a significant response
from airport authorities and airlines to increase the existing capacity of capital city airports.
Hence, all capital city airports have master plans in place to deliver adequate capacity to
handle the expected future capital city growth. With its curfew and cap on hourly aircraft
movements, Sydney airport is unique among Australian airports. It will put pressure on the cap
in the near future, although the recent arrival of the Airbus 380 will somewhat increase
capacity. Discussion of HSR is significant given the ongoing discussion about the possibility of a
second Sydney airport, which has been problematic in the past because of concerns about
airport noise. This debate has by no means concluded, and will likely be renewed with the
imminent release of the Commonwealth’s Aviation White Paper.
Although future expansion of the domestic air travel market is expected, two key factors
should be taken into account. The first factor involves further oil price increases that will be
incurred by each airline. In 2006–07, fuel accounted for around 27 percent of an airline’s
operating costs (BITRE 2008). The BITRE estimates that a notional 50 percent increase in fuel
prices (based on early 2008 price) would increase the fuel share to 34 percent, which would
increase airfares substantially and result in a significant downward impact on air passenger
movements, depending on the estimated relative price elasticities of travel demand, which
varies by airport. The second factor that has the potential to impact air-travel growth is the
introduction of an Australian ETS. In a carbon-constrained economy, rail has a competitive
advantage over aviation. This is mainly due to rail’s lower emissions as shown in Table 2
(Primary energy and CO2 emissions—comparison of HSR versus other transport modes) and
Figure 2 (average external costs of HSR compared with other travel modes).
Deutsche Bank analysts have calculated that the Commonwealth’s proposed Carbon Pollution
Reduction Scheme (CPRS) would cost Qantas $98.6 million in the 2013 financial year, while
Virgin Blue would pay $29.4 million (Australian Aviation 2009). Airlines will not be able to pass
on the full costs through a surcharge without affecting demand, but would be more likely to
build it into their fares, thus lowering their yields. The analysis runs counter to the
government’s position as set out in its CPRS, which claimed that the airline industry would be

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able to pass on the costs of the scheme through higher airfares and therefore would not
require any compensation, unlike other industries. Both Qantas and Virgin Blue have disputed
this and have argued that the airlines would have to bear much of the added costs owing to
the high elasticity of demand for air travel. Both parties have also argued that a CPRS would
hurt domestic tourism since international flights would be exempt from the scheme. The
overall impact of this policy, particularly for the budget discount market, may be substantial.
Should this change in market conditions transpire, HSR could represent an effective transport
option for a substantial portion of this segment of the travel market.

4.2.1 Market share between HSR and air

In general, commercial pressures on national rail operators encourage them to seek out and
develop the most profitable business markets, especially those competing with air (Hall 2009).
The European experience shows the willingness and ability of the HSR industry to win
passengers from air travel. The impact of a new HSR link on the HSR/air modal split is shown in
Figure 4. Over distances between 300 to 600 km, HSR gains market shares of 50 to 90 percent
for travel times of up to 3.75 hours. Travel times of between 3.75 and 4.5 hours achieve
between 30 to 50 percent market-share (UIC 2008). In terms of kilometres travelled, extensive
experience in Europe and Japan suggests that HSR will take about 80–90 percent of traffic up
to about 500 km, and about 50 percent up to about 800 km (Hall 2009).
It should be noted, however, that the exact split between rail and air, as depicted in Figure 4,
depends on accepted definitions of key concepts. For example, some services that operate on
the same route may have a greater number of stops and, as a consequence, the adopted travel
time may fluctuate depending on which service is employed in the market share calculation.
The selection of a particular definition of speed from the following list of options may also
result in variations to the modal share calculation:
Maximum operating speed is the maximum speed of the train in normal operation
Route speed is the average speed of the train along a route taking account of slow speed
zones and stations stops (deceleration, dwell time, and acceleration)
Journey speed is the door to door journey time including getting to a station or airport,
check-in, and security delays, etc.

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Figure 4: Rail/air modal split curve

Source: UIC, 2008, p. 17

Several interesting features of the rail/air modal curve are worth highlighting (Hughes 2009).
While, at first glance, the data looks homogenous and valid, closer examination reveals the
The five routes with the highest market share have journey speeds varying between 206
and 222 km/h.
The four routes with the lowest market share have speeds varying between 112 and 151
A further caution regarding the strict interpretation of the data in Figure 4 is the contextual
differences between HSR in Europe and any potential HSR operations in Australia. For
example, the following contextual differences may impact upon the estimated modal share:
Some European airports are extremely congested, thereby increasing rail’s
attractiveness (some Australian airports are congested too). Congestion increases airport
time and unreliability.
The number of stations along the route (which potentially will be subject to political
Some airports are closer than others to a CBD (i.e., centres of travel demand), including
The amount of transport depends on the market demand which may vary greatly. For
instance, there are different markets for local residents, business travellers, and tourists.
Table 11 below shows several models of the rail mode share estimates for the Sydney,
Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide routes if conditions in Europe could be recreated
in Australia. Shorter routes would likely have market shares over 95 percent, although this
segment would have a substantial proportion of car mode share, not included in this analysis.

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Table 11: Indicative modal share estimations for Australia

HSR Modal Share Estimations

(compared with total rail plus air travel
Travel Average Route based on based on
based on
travel time travel time
Route Distance Route Travel travel time
on high-speed and travel
(by road) Speed Time on all routes
routes only speed

Canberra–Sydney 286 km 180 km/h 1.6 hrs 95% 90% 90%

Canberra–Melbourne 665 km 220 km/h 3.0 hrs 65% 70% 70%

881 km 220 km/h 4.0 hrs 45% 60% 55%
952 km 220 km/h 4.3 hrs 40% 55% 50%
(via Canberra)
Sydney–Brisbane 926 km 220 km/h 4.2 hrs 40% 55% 50%

Melbourne–Adelaide 727 km 220 km/h 3.3 hrs 60% 70% 65%

Source: Hughes, 2009
Travel distance for rail is not known because the alignment has not been set, so road distances have been used.
Rail distances may be longer or shorter depending on physical, political or financial restrictions imposed on
Routes speeds are based on UIC charts but lowered for Sydney–Canberra owing to short distance and expected
access difficulty.
Travel time is in decimal hours (i.e., 4 hours 20 minutes is shown above as 4.3 hours). Modal Share is the rail
proportion total of rail and air passenger transport combined (i.e., rail mode share of 90% means air mode share is

With reference to rail travel time alone, the following modal shares could be expected (at 220
km/h route speed) (Hughes 2009):
Market Share Route length Travel time
100% 289 km 1.3 hrs
90% 400 km 1.8 hrs
80% 510 km 2.3 hrs
70% 621 km 2.8 hrs
60% 731 km 3.3 hrs
50% 842 km 3.8 hrs
40% 952 km 4.3 hrs

Coarse analysis suggests the following rules of thumb (at 220 km/h route speed) (Hughes,
10 percent market share is lost for every 0.5 hours of travel time over 1.3 hours.
10 percent market share is lost for every 110 km of distance over 290 km.
Every hour of travel time (over 1.3 hours) results in 20 percent loss in modal share.

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Every 100 km of travel distance (over 290 km) results in 9 percent loss in modal share.
Every 20 km/h increase in route speed increases mode share by 1.8 percent.
50 percent market share is likely to be achieved for journeys under 3.8 hours or 840 km
(at 220 km/h).

The following HSR modal shares (compared with air) could be expected if European conditions
applied on the following Australian routes (Hughes 2009).

Route Likely HSR Modal Share

(compared with total rail plus air travel market)
Canberra–Sydney greater than 90%

Canberra–Melbourne 66% to 74%

Sydney–Melbourne (direct) 46% to 62%

Sydney–Melbourne (via Canberra) 40% to 57%

Sydney–Brisbane 42% to 59%

Melbourne–Adelaide 60% to 71%

Based on European examples, the potential modal share for HSR linking Sydney and
Melbourne is estimated to be broadly in the vicinity of 50 percent. This figure has the potential
to improve increased speeds and track alignments.

4.3 Social
The social benefits of HSR appear to be positive overall. This section details eight factors that
are impacted by HSR.

4.3.1 Airports versus City Centre Stations

Melbourne and Brisbane airports are located on the urban fringe with specific and potentially
congested access corridors. Sydney airport differs, but suffers from congestion owing to its
location within an already highly developed area. An Australian HSR would use existing railway
stations in city centres that are well provided with transport connectivity. HSR has been a
focus for urban regeneration in run-down areas surrounding stations in Europe. However,
urban regeneration is already occurring around stations in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane
stations, so the benefits of urban regeneration may not be hugely significant in these cases.
The potential additional passenger traffic in the areas may have economic benefits, for
example increased jobs and employment, as is the case for airport-centric development.

4.3.2 Congestion (better transport links to city centres)

Congestion in cities in Australia is estimated to cost 2.6 percent of GDP compared to an OECD
average of 2 percent. The location of Brisbane and Melbourne airports at urban fringes with
congested access corridors together with the special circumstance for Sydney with an airport

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in an increasingly congested and developed area leads to increased total transit times from
most parts of the metropolitan areas of the east coast cities when using air travel. The central
locations of the railway stations (city centre), together with the already well-developed
connectivity of existing transport links, would provide the potential to decrease overall
congestion and provide significant social benefits.

4.3.3 Convenience/comfort
In general, a comparison between car and passenger train for convenience and comfort
favours the car, although adding in congestion can decrease the magnitude of the advantage
to the car. Where comparisons occur with appropriate long-distance trains and air travel, the
train wins on account of convenience, comfort, space and decreased stress of travel (airport
terminals) and more productive, uninterrupted journey time, something which is especially
important to business travellers wanting to catch up on work matters.

4.3.4 Land use (urban fringe developments, commuter belts, narrower corridors than
Experience in the United Kingdom with HSR has shown that commuting can occur over longer
distances. The introduction of commuter services on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1) from
Kent into St Pancras in London in effect consolidates development of a ‘larger London’. The
Southern Highlands in New South Wales is a potential area for HSR commuter traffic into
Sydney. New urban fringe developments can occur with high-quality transport links that
provide improved mobility for people throughout the enlarged urban area. Improved transport
links provide improved social benefits—an important factor in land-use determination. A
further issue is that, as pressure for land to expand the metropolitan areas occurs, highway
construction will be needed to cope with the traffic, at least according to the current transport
mindset. Replacing new highway construction with HSR construction decreases the land
requirement as a result of the narrower corridor required for rail.

4.3.5 Benefits to non-rail users

There are potential benefits from HSR to non-rail users. Improved quality of life results from
use of facilities around central HSR station areas, urban regeneration, in addition to benefits
accruing from decreased road congestion and aircraft noise.

4.3.6 Broader social benefits

Potential cost savings, decreased congestion and decreased impact of transport-related
injuries to the health care system might all result from the introduction of HSR. A
comprehensive evaluation of an HSR initiative should capture these wider social benefits, as
set out in the Australian Transport Council’s (2006) Guidelines for Transport System

4.3.7 Regional Australia versus Metropolitan areas

If an HSR line provides only end-to-end type service with no intermediate stops, i.e., is entirely
in direct competition with air travel, the regional areas in between may cease to have good

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transport links and suffer as the end points of the service grow. This can lead to population
shifts with further concentration of the existing metropolitan areas. That said, it is possible
that a variety of services along inter-capital lines could be used, thereby allowing high-speed
trains servicing key regional centres to mingle with even more rapid services between the
capital cities.
This kind of breakdown in service classes has been successful in countries such as France, and
Japan in particular. In short, some trains would take the form of non-stop services from capital
city to capital city; some would call at a couple of key intermediate centres, such as Newcastle
and the Gold Coast (either on the way to another capital, or the service could terminate in
these centres); while others could possibly stop at additional places depending on demand. If
this sort of overall network were considered, HSR could enhance connectivity between capital
cities and regional centres and thereby act as a catalyst for growth in these regional centres.

4.3.8 Airport-HSR connectivity

Melbourne airport currently has no rail access. Brisbane has a narrow gauge airport link, while
Canberra airport currently has no rail links. However, Sydney is well placed with a rail link
under the domestic and international terminals, which could be used by HSR trains, as was
proposed by Speedrail. Easy connectivity to an airport could also encourage international
visitors to a destination such as Sydney to hop on a HSR service to visits places such as
Canberra, which might otherwise not be visited on account of the additional complexity
involved in taking another flight or hiring a car.

4.4 Health and safety

There are important direct health benefits that can be realised from the implementation of
HSR which can be of significant impact to the economy.

4.4.1 Road safety

Safety relates to deaths and injuries occurring to passengers of the transport mode. In
Australia, as at 2007, aviation has the lowest deaths per 100,000 population, with 0.10
compared with 0.18 for rail and 7.69 for road transport (BITRE 2008; 2009). The record of
Japan HSR over 44 years of no injuries together with the worldwide HSR record of no fatalities
is one that makes comparisons somewhat straightforward. It compares essentially equally with
air travel in Australia in which fatalities on commercial flights in Melbourne–Sydney–Brisbane
corridor are also zero over the same time period as HSR.
If, however, the comparison is with road travel (which is high for intercity travel Sydney–
Canberra), HSR is very favourable. Specific corridor data is difficult to extract, but the injury
rate for road per 100,000 population is 150.75 (in 2006), 0.84 for rail and 0.21 for air (both
2007). Where HSR replaces road travel, significant safety (deaths/injuries) gains occur. This has
indirect economic benefits as a result of the decreased burden on the health care system for
treatment and rehabilitation from injuries and loss of income/social benefits as a result of
deaths. It has been estimated that, if all those people who travelled on the Shinkansen lines in
Japan switched to car travel, there would be at least 1,800 extra deaths and 10,000 more
serious injuries per year (The Economist 1998; Laird 2004).

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4.4.2 Aircraft noise
On the assumption that noise control for HSR is controlled in urban areas (use of existing rail
infrastructure would limit noise), HSR has advantages in decreasing aircraft noise exposure to
populations near airports, especially in Sydney. Aircraft noise has been shown to increase
blood pressure (Haralabidis et al. 2008) and increase secretion of stress hormones, thereby
resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (World Health Organization 2009).
Given the costs of treating cardiovascular disease and its outcomes, there may be benefits to
the reduction of air traffic and the lack of a need for the development of extra runways or new
airports to cater for future travel demands, as discussed previously in this report.

4.5 Environmental
In the coming years, Australia faces two fossil fuel crises: steeply rising oil prices and a carbon
price. The Commonwealth government is taking significant steps to tackle anthropogenic
climate change by means of a strong emerging political and legislative framework for energy
and GHGs, including the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting (NGER) Act 2008 and the
impending Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
Simulations of the population scenarios show that primary energy use in Australia could grow
from current levels of 4,800 petajoules 4 per year to between 6,000 and 8,000 petajoules per
year by 2050 (Foran & Poldy 2002). The implementation of a wide range of aggressively
optimistic technology within current energy streams is deemed to be critical. The GHG
implications (expressed in terms of CO2 from the energy sector) suggest that, by the year 2050,
emissions could rise to between 170 percent (low population) and 230 percent (high
population) of the 1990 baseline levels.
HSR systems make a significant contribution to railway revitalisation and supporting
sustainable development policies. The commercial success of HSR is currently engendering
modal shift from less environmentally-friendly transport modes (mainly automotive and
aviation) to rail, all the while helping to reduce external costs (the costs borne by society for
road accidents, pollution, climate change and noise) (UIC 2008).

4.5.1 External costs

According to the UIC (2009) (see Figure 2 of this report,) average external costs for HSR are
significantly lower than for other land and air transport forms (see Figure 2).5 External costs of
passenger and freight transport have been discussed in various Australian contexts, including
the ATC National Guidelines for Transport Systems Management (2006). Default values for
passengers are given in Table 13. Estimates for road and rail freight in both urban and non-
urban areas have also been addressed in the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) 2001
Track Audit and by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) (2007). In summary, the data
shows that rail freight’s external costs are a small fraction of those of road.

One petajoule is the equivalent of 170,000 barrels or 23,000 tonnes of oil.
External costs and energy use are covered in detail in the forthcoming complementary CRC Report entitled HSR:
quantification of non-commercial benefits.

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4.5.2 Energy use
Rail is approximately three times more energy efficient than road for line haulage of non-bulk
freight; and its energy efficiency can be further improved by track straightening (BITRE 2009).
Table 2 highlighted the lower fuel consumption of HSR compared with car and planes, while
figure 1 showed the energy efficiency of different rail forms, including HSR, relative to other
land and air transport.

4.5.3 Emissions and emissions trading, possibly for different transport modes
Rail (non-electric) has the lowest direct GHG emissions of all motorised transport modes, as
shown in Table 12 below. (See also Table 2 on CO2 emissions for HSR, car and aircraft.)
Table 12: GHG emissions for selected transport modes
Emissions in gigagrams Rail (electric and Air Motor vehicles
CO2 4530 7818 81742
Methane 2.38 0.27 22.54
Nitrous oxide 0.07 0.19 6.04
Source: BITRE 2009

In view of these facts, the Commonwealth, in the future, will be forced to pay much more
attention to energy efficiency in transport.

4.6 Economic

4.6.1 Cost-benefit analysis

Cost-benefit analysis is a fundamental part of any transport initiative assessment. The
European experience highlights the importance of a multi-criteria evaluation with a full
analysis of wider triple-bottom line impacts. As discussed in Chapter 3, the ATC (2006)
Guidelines for Transport System Management provide a comprehensive framework for
assessing an HSR initiative.

4.6.2 Pricing
HSR systems around the world are increasingly using variable prices for different types of
services. Depending on whether it is a business or a private journey, the travel period or other
circumstances influencing demand, the prices offered (and the conditions of purchase) can
vary significantly. Various procedures, some imported from the airlines, such as ‘yield
management’ (which aims to maximise the income per train), widespread use of the internet,
the use of ‘ticketless’ procedures and the introduction of innovative ideas (like ID TGV in
France) are consistent with the sophisticated technology associated with HSR systems, as
suggested by the UIC (2008).

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4.6.3 Economic development
The European experience shows that HSR plays an important role in economic and social
development, in addition to regional integration, wherever they have been introduced (UIC
2008). These benefits have been documented in current HSR proposals for Canada, the United
Kingdom and the United States and require thorough research for the Australian context.
The recent in-depth evaluation of the economic benefits for the development of the Alberta
HSR for the Calgary-Edmonton corridor in Canada (TEMS & Oliver Wyman 2008a) provides a
reference point for an Australian HSR. The 322 km line was estimated to generate A$4.5 to
32.4 billion in user benefits6. In addition, a range of community benefits were quantified,
including increased employment (3,400–7,162 jobs), household income (A$203–475 million
p.a.), provincial and federal income tax (A$32–67 million p.a.), property values (A$391–824 for
every dwelling) and property tax (A$14–30 million p.a.).

4.7 Technological/technical
HSR operations require the implementation of technologies and support systems that exceed
the standards required for non-high performance rail services. These features, such as in-cab
signalling systems, crashworthiness and grade separation, have the added benefit of enabling
HSR to achieve an outstanding safety record. Key technical considerations that contribute to
this outcome are detailed below.

4.7.1 Performance metrics

High-powered trains are essential for HSR networks. Depending on the position in the train
performance spectrum, trains have to be able to reach maximum permitted speeds of at least
200 km/h on level tangent track. Table 13 presents some accessible comparisons of HSR rolling
stock. For example, HSTs in the United Kingdom are rated at roughly 7 kW/t for a maximum
service speed of 200 km/h, the Class 390 Pendolinos at roughly 11 kW/t for a maximum service
speed of 230 km/h, while the Class 373 Eurostars are rated at 15 kW/t for a maximum service
speed of 300 km/h. Note that high-speed trains are often run under special test conditions for
record purposes. The speeds so obtained are exhilarating but not indicative of normal
operating conditions.

User benefits are obtained from consumer surplus, systems revenues, resource savings and emissions savings.

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Table 13: Indicative HSR Rolling Stock Comparisons
Country Train Consist Length Weight Power Vmax P:W
(m) (t) (kW) (km/h) (kW/t)
France TGV-R P+8T+P 200 382 8800 320 23.0
Germany ICE2 P+6T+D 4800 280
ICE3 8C 200 425 8800 350 20.7
Spain AVE 100 P+8T+P 200 392 8800 330 22.4
AVE 102 P+8T+P 200 322 8000 330 24.8
AVE 103 8C 200 425 8800 350 20.7
Sweden X2000 P+4T+D 140 334 3260 210 9.8
UK HST P+8T+P 202 450 3200 200 7.1
Pendolino 9C 217 466 5100 230 10.9
Eurostar P+18T+P 400 815 12200 300 15.0
US Acela P+6T+P 8950 240
Source: compiled by Alex Wardrop
The power for an HST is net of the total load that has to be drawn off one of the power cars.
Note: P = power car, C = powered or unpowered car, T = trailer car and D = driving trailer car

Notwithstanding some gaps in the data, it can be seen that the power-weight ratio increases
with the maximum permitted service speed, as the comparisons from the United Kingdom
clearly show. It also seems that a plateau has been reached in the installed power of power
cars, with traction motors seeming to reach their maximum power output at continuous
ratings of 1100–1200 kW. The maximum speeds that trains are able to achieve in service thus
ultimately depend on the severity of the gradients that the trains are expected to surmount.
The installed power of trains will also be determined by the power supply and the ability to
deliver traction current to these trains. Even though a number of these trains can be supplied
by different traction supply systems, maximum performance is only delivered from high-
voltage AC systems, either 11–15 kV low frequency, or 25 kV industrial frequency. Questions of
power supply are important under Australian conditions because strong high-voltage power
supplies are difficult to obtain in much of Australia. A contemporary example of this issue is
the difficulty of supplying traction current to the Central Queensland coalfields, where 12,000-
tonne coal trains have a similar power rating to that of 815-tonne Eurostar passenger trains.
The Sydney–Melbourne Electrification Study noted the lack of strong power supplies
intersecting the Sydney–Melbourne mainline south of the Southern Highlands. It is quite likely
that such conditions would also be present north of Newcastle.
Commercial travel times will depend not only on the performance of the selected rolling stock,
but also the length of route traversed under HSR conditions. Table 14 presents a review of
representative European and North American HSR timetables. These are the times that
influence the decisions of travellers regarding which mode to use for their travel. As a result,
what matters to travellers are the average speeds (and corresponding times) offered by
different services—not the maximum permitted service speeds achievable by the different
train types.
If normal grading (say 1 percent or less) and reasonable station spacing (say every 100 km) is
allowed for, trains should be able to achieve average speeds that are 75 percent of their
maximum permitted service speeds. Table 14 rates the displayed commercial speeds according
to whether they are:

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less than 60 percent of the maximum permitted service speed;
between 60 and 75 percent of the maximum permitted service speed; or
at least 75 percent of the maximum permitted service speed.
There are currently few European or North American services that can run at least 75 percent
of the maximum permitted service speed. These services run for long distances over extended
HSR alignments and have few stops.
Many more services achieve commercial speeds of 60–75 percent of the maximum permitted
service speed. These generally have a lesser proportion of their routes meeting HSR standards,
or their station spacings are closer than ideal. It is clear that settlement patterns are
important. Germany and the United Kingdom tend to be more closely settled than France and
Spain, so their stations are closer together and their commercial speeds are lower. The Spanish
route to Cordoba, Seville and Malaga is very heavily graded for HSR. This clearly contributes to
a lower commercial performance when compared to the more favourably graded Zaragoza–
Barcelona route. Those services whose commercial speeds cannot reach 60 percent of their
maximum permitted service speeds have a much higher proportion of original alignment. In
the cases of Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, there has generally been a
deliberate infrastructure policy of not constructing specific HSR alignments (HSR1 in the United
Kingdom notwithstanding).
This analysis should highlight issues for any Australian HSR operations. Grades cannot be
ignored out of Sydney to either the north or the south. The extent to which existing corridors
have to be followed to exit metropolitan areas is also important given that Australian
metropolitan areas reach 40–60 km out from their respective CBDs.

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Table 14: Comparative HSR Travel Performance
Country Origin Train Vmax Table Destination Dist Time Vave
(km/h) (km) (km/h)
France Paris Eurostar 300 T10 London 492 2h48 176
Nord Thalys 300 T16a Lille 227 1h02 220
Brussels 313 1h22 229
Paris East TGV 330 T390 Strasbourg 450 2h19 194
Paris TGV 300 T370 Dijon 284 1h37 169
Lyon T340 Lyon 427 1h57 219
Marseilles 750 3h18 228
Paris TGV 300 T295 Tours 221 0h54 247
Montparnasse Bordeaux 570 3h01 190
T280 Le Mans 202 0h57 213
Nantes 387 1h59 195
Rennes 365 2h03 178
Germany Hamburg ICE 250 T840 Berlin 292 1h53 155
Hannover ICE 250 T870 Berlin 263 1h50 143
Braunschweig ICE 250 T870 Berlin 199 1h11 168
Cologne ICE 250 T910 Frankfurt 169 0h57 169
Italy Rome ETR500 300 T620 Florence 316 1h39 192
Termini Bologna 413 1h50 225
Milan 632 3h59 159
T640 Naples 214 1h21 159
Spain Madrid AVE 300 T679 Segovia 68 0h35 116
Chamartin T681 Valladolid 249 1h13 205
Madrid AVE 300 T650 Zaragoza 307 1h19 233
Atocha Barcelona 621 2h39 234
T660 Cordoba 345 1h44 199
Seville 470 2h30 188
Malaga 513 2h40 192
Sweden Stockholm X2000 210 T740 Goteborg 455 3h07 146
Central T750 Karlstad 329 4h26 74
T730 Copenhagen 644 5h21 120
UK London HST 200 T133 Bristol 190 1h43 111
Paddington Cardiff 234 2h08 110
London Pendolino 230 T143 Birmingham 182 1h25 128
Euston T150 Manchester 296 2h07 140
London IC225 225 T185 Leeds 299 2h11 137
Kings Cross York 301 1h58 153
Newcastle 432 3h04 141
US New York Acela 240 No4 New Haven 121 1h29 82
Penn Providence 302 2h51 106
Boston 373 3h39 102
215 No2 Philadelphia 146 1h23 106
Baltimore 298 1h13 134
Washington 363 2h47 130
Sources: Cook’s European Rail Timetable January 2009, Amtrak Summer Timetables; compiled by Alex
Red = less than 60% of the maximum permitted service speed
Yellow = between 60 and 75% of the maximum permitted service speed
Green = greater than 75% of the maximum permitted service speed

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4.7.2 Gauge issues
Several gauge7 issues are particularly relevant to the development of rail in Australia. It is clear
that a consistent track gauge and a consistent vehicle loading gauge (height and width of
vehicle) throughout Australia would be of considerable advantage.
Both the VFT and Speedrail proposals envisaged the use of standard gauge (1435 mm). Should
the development of HSR proceed in Australia, it will most likely include Sydney and be of
standard gauge. Differing vehicle sizes are also a barrier. Outline gauge defines the maximum
size of the vehicles allowed on the track, in terms of height, width, and dynamic movement. It
is also known as rollingstock gauge, which is related to the vehicle’s kinematic envelope. A
smaller track gauge often has a smaller outline gauge, which means that, with narrow gauge,
only a smaller vehicle size is allowed. This outline gauge also sets the requirements for the
infrastructure such as tunnels, bridges and stations. For instance, a tunnel bored only for a
narrow gauge railway would have to be enlarged to fit a standard gauge size of train.
In the freight context, this has been partially resolved by adopting national standards on the
Defined Interstate Rail Network (DIRN), mainly between capital cities. Even this national
standard, however, does not allow the use of rolling stock sourced to common overseas
standards. These barriers are not as large for passenger vehicles as for freight. Passenger rail
vehicles have usually been specially designed for the application, so economies of scale have
not been achieved.
The most efficient way of distributing electricity is to use higher voltages. Higher voltages,
however, need larger clearance distances for safety, and so the outline gauge referred to
above needs to be increased in the vertical direction to account for this. This can be a real
issue for existing tunnels and stations, in addition to central city infrastructure. The usual
international voltage used for high speed is 25 kV. Brisbane infrastructure, by way of example,
is sized to account for the clearance required for this voltage, but Sydney and Melbourne run
on lower voltages and would have clearance issues.
In summary, it is not the gauge that is really the issue, but what flows from it. The more critical
issue is interoperability of the HSR with existing rail infrastructure. While the issue of train size
has been detailed above, there are other issues to be considered, such as signalling systems,
voice radio systems, platform height compatibility, electricity supply voltage and current
requirements, and safety systems requirements (Vigilance, ATP, etc.).

4.7.3 New versus incremental HSR

The debate regarding new versus incremental HSR has been quite significant in the United
States context and is also likely to receive considerable attention in Australia. The incremental
approach has so far generally failed to capitalise on its supposed advantages with respect to
cost and ease of implementation.
On account of the special features of high-speed operations, such as in-cab signalling and the
need for grade separation, the incremental approach is generally not suitable for trains that
travel at speeds over 200 km/h. Despite this, the incremental approach may well find
proponents since it allows the use of existing infrastructure entering cities and gives earlier
returns for the investment capital. However, much of the interstate mainline track in New

Track gauge represents the distance between the rails (and therefore the wheels) and is a fundamental
requirement for standardised rail traffic.

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South Wales has substandard alignment and cannot even support Fast Freight Trains (moving
up to 160 km/h,) let alone HSR passenger trains. In this regard, the Australian Rail Track
Corporation in an October 2008 submission to Infrastructure Australia noted that
“for rail to move to the next step in competitiveness, or even in fact to maintain
competitiveness against a constantly improving road network, there is no alternative but to
start to consider deviations of the current poorly aligned sections of the network” (p. 20).
In following an incremental approach, the advantage initially provided can be potentially
neglected. When funding runs short and there is an operational system in place, it is very easy
to shorten the funding and settle for what is currently in place. The issue generally lies in the
infrastructure area, since the trains can be designed for a wide speed and performance range
as long as there has not been too much trade off in maximum speed and acceleration to run at
lower speeds. The cost penalty of buying a train for 200 km/h service and running it at 160
km/h is not high.

4.7.4 Planning and design criteria

With regard to HSR track, it is outside the scope of this report to make recommendations
regarding its location, or even which routes should be initially developed; e.g., Sydney–
Melbourne as per the VFT (about 860 km for an inland route), Sydney–Canberra as per
Speedrail (270 km), or Sydney–Newcastle (about 150 km. The location of the track will also be
determined by the optimum operating speed chosen. Again, this is a matter requiring further
The cheapest rolling stock solution would be to encourage the use of a train consist and design
already in use elsewhere. This, however, may not allow the best infrastructure solution, and it
is likely that the infrastructure costs will far outweigh the train costs in any case. Departure
from internationally accepted industry standards of design and specification for both
infrastructure and the rolling stock will require special designs and thus higher costs.
Another lesson is the need for commonality of different rail platform designs between rail
networks in the Australian context, which would certainly be the case if fully independent HSR
lines and stations were contemplated. If a more incremental approach is preferred, such as the
use of current metropolitan rail infrastructure, including stations, platforms may need to be re-
designed so as to ensure acceptable and safe customer experience, and overall functionality.

4.8 Topographical
Topographical and geodemographical issues go hand-in-hand. The most likely eventual
corridor for HSR along Australia’s east coast would connect Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Greater
Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne and impact on a projected population of 14
million in 2026 (18 million in 2056), without taking into account the populations of the
Sunshine Coast, New South Wales’ North Coast, the Southern Highlands, south-western slopes
and the Victorian northeast. With efficient regional rail providing connectivity, the catchment
area would be even broader.
The corridor suggested by the 2001 East-Coast rail study thus has to:
Exit Greater Brisbane, by either passing through the Gold Coast or taking a shorter route
directly across the McPherson Range.

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Traverse the New South Wales North Coast sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and
the Great Dividing Range.
Transit Greater Newcastle and the New South Wales Central Coast.
Enter and exit Greater Sydney but most likely bypassing Greater Wollongong when
climbing into and out of the Sydney Basin.
Enter and exit Canberra, but at the expense of crossing and recrossing the Great Dividing
Traverse the NSW south-western slopes, Albury-Wodonga and the Victorian northeast.
Enter Greater Melbourne by recrossing the Great Dividing Range.
Appendices 8 and 9 illustrate the topology of the New South Wales and Victorian regions and
display the corridor than an HSR would most likely pass.
While the corridor would serve over 50 percent of the Australian population, it also traverses
country that is challenging for railways irrespective of their geometric requirements. This is
mainly because it has to skirt the foothills and the rivers of, or cross and recross, the Great
Dividing Range. Indicative cross-sections of the corridor north and south of Sydney8 are
presented in Appendices 10 and 11.
During earlier railway route alignment examinations for the New South Wales and
Commonwealth governments, it became clear that the North Coast of New South Wales
presents severe challenges to achieving HSR-grade horizontal alignments, e.g., horizontal curve
radii desirably 5,000 m or greater and vertical curve radii probably of the order of 30,000 m.
The Sydney exit out of the Sydney Basin to the north is steep and tightly curved 9. The
Hawkesbury sandstone country would force a HSR alignment into tunnel. North of Newcastle,
any alignment has to negotiate low but steep coastal ranges until Taree is reached. From
there, any transport corridor is squeezed between the sea and the foothills of the Divide until
Grafton is reached, all the while having to cross the estuaries of the many rivers10 on the
eastern side of the Divide. The country opens up towards Casino before offering the difficult
choice of a HSR route either working through the coastal ranges towards Tweed Heads and the
Gold Coast and then squeezing in among the Pacific Motorway and the existing Gold Coast
urban railway, or pushing through the McPherson Range11 and past Beaudesert, to reach
The Sydney exit out of the Sydney Basin to the south is less steep but it is sustained to a much
higher altitude than on the northern exit since any HSR alignment has to climb to the Southern
Highlands12. Directing a HSR alignment towards Canberra requires both a crossing and a
recrossing of the Great Dividing Range as it drops in and out of Canberra. Once Canberra is left,
an HSR alignment has to work obliquely across the western foothills of the Divide until it
reaches the south-western plains. These extend from south of Junee in NSW to Seymour in

Prepared for the East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study (TMG, 2001)
The highest point on the existing Main Northern Line exiting Sydney is Mt Kuring-gai at 214 m.
There are 4 rivers between Maitland and Taree; 17 rivers between Taree and Casino of which probably seven
have significant estuaries or flood plain; and two rivers north of the McPherson Range.
The highest point on the existing North Coast Line is at Border Loop at 271 m. If an HSR route avoided the
McPherson Range, the highest point on the existing North Coast Line would lie near Landrigans at about 100 m.
The existing Main Southern Railway rises 550 m in 66 km between Menangle (at 82 m) and Mittagong (at 632 m).
The summit of the existing railway lies near Cullerin which is 730 m.

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Victoria. Once again, an HSR route has to cross the Divide13, this time to enter Melbourne.
Once again, on exit from Melbourne, there would a long sustained climb14.
The usual impression of many HSR routes is that they do not reach great altitudes, nor do they
contain long sustained gradients. However, the AVE route between Seville and Madrid, in
Spain, contains a similar geographic impediment to that which would be experienced on any
HSR route running south from Sydney, or north from Melbourne (See Appendix 11). This route
climbs roughly 500 m between Cordoba and Villanueva in a distance of 59 km. The operational
impact of such a climb is that curvature falls to 2,300 m radius and the maximum permitted
speed falls to 215 km/h. In contrast, classic HSR routes are either modestly graded, in the
original German Neubaustrecke (NBS) style, or they contain short sharp grades, in the original
French Lignes à Grande Vitesse (LGV) style, each with generous curvature. Under the French
alignment style, a loss of 50 km/h in speed when surmounting steep summits could be
tolerated because TGVs could rapidly return to their cruising speed of 270–300 km/h on the far
side. This is not possible with sustained gradients where high-speed trains just have to force
their way uphill. This duty will also determine the power-weight ratio of a high-speed train.

4.9 Political (public policy related)

As discussed in the previous chapter, the international experience shows that HSR can be
regarded as a tool for nation building. In the United States, popular and powerful political
leaders have supported the call for HSR. Yet reliance on a single political figure is unlikely to
succeed. A more reliable alternative is to build broad-based foundations in technology,
governance, industry capability, resourcing, and communication.
Problems with Australia’s existing transport systems are ongoing, and indeed are likely to
worsen. The CEO of the National Transport Commission (NTC) recently spelled out the urban
transport issues (urbanisation, peak oil, climate change and congestion) and suggested that
“we need some ‘new thinking’ for more sustainable urban transport policy and planning”
(Dimopoulos 2009, p. 6). The DITRDLG’s (2008) National Transport Policy Framework covering
passenger and freight transport identified a “lack of long term land use planning and banking
for future transport needs across all modes”. It also recommended a robust national transport
policy framework, whereby State and Territory transport plans are aligned with a national
transport plan. The Sydney–Melbourne–Brisbane rail corridor was identified as a high priority
infrastructure project.
The Australian Government recognises that its role is to intervene when markets cannot
provide the most efficient solution, i.e., when markets fail. In this case, “transport may
continue to require significant public sector intervention through appropriate policy levers to
meet transport objectives” (DITRDLG 2008, p. 12). Within Australia, this role has been adopted
through the recently formed Infrastructure Australia (IA). The role of IA is to advise the Federal
Government regarding infrastructure projects, including transportation for achieving national
strategic priorities. The outcome of the first year of Infrastructure Australia resulted in the
most significant investment in passenger rail for a number of years, but the projects are for
state-specific issues, rather than a cohesive intercity transport system.

The summit on the existing north-eastern Line is at Heathcote Junction at roughly 410 m.
The existing North-eastern Standard Gauge Line rises roughly 400 m in 64 km between Southern Cross Station
and Heathcote Junction.

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A willingness to assist funding passenger rail projects indicates that the Federal Government
could consider a proposal to introduce HSR service in the future if it can be demonstrated that
the proposal can achieve national strategic priorities in a way that is economically, financially,
socially and environmentally viable. In the absence of any clear national transport objectives,
an HSR proposal could best be served by the ATC’s transport initiative assessment framework,
as discussed earlier. Ideally, a legislative framework should underpin and provide funding for
the modernisation of land transport in Australia, as demonstrated by the United States.

4.9.1 Land use and corridor preservation

Table 1 highlighted the lower land use requirements for HSR compared with motorways. The
issue of corridor preservation is important for HSR. There have been conflicting claims made
for prospective HSR routes along the east coast of Australia. The original Very Fast Train (VFT)
proposal was for an exclusive HSR passenger rail corridor, although it had to share existing rail
corridors to exit Sydney and to exit Melbourne. Outline maps were published but alignment
details for the proposed VFT corridor were not made publicly available, neither were any
details on terminal and depot arrangements released.
There were mixed prospects for an HSR corridor between Sydney and Canberra once the
Speedrail proposal had been mooted. Speedrail again proposed an exclusive HSR passenger
rail corridor in addition to the use of existing rail corridors to exit Sydney. Alignment details
were shared with a Commonwealth-State committee set up to examine the Speedrail
proposal. At the time, other HSR proponents (excluded following a competitive process)
proposed shared passenger and freight corridors, in addition to the use of existing rail
corridors to exit Sydney. Nevertheless, no alignment details were made public. It is understood
that Speedrail proposed appropriating a portion of Sydney Terminal station, but no other
details emerged on terminal or depot arrangements.
There are only limited details of the Fast Freight Train (FFT) proposal between Sydney and
Melbourne made during the late 1980s (see, e.g., Laird 2007a, 2008). However, it is unlikely
that maximum permitted speed for passenger trains using an upgraded alignment on the FFT
would have exceeded 200 km/h, which is not sufficient for HSR operations.
In the mid to late 1990s, the Rail Access Corporation of NSW initiated design investigations of
high-quality and joint use rail corridors to the south and north of Sydney. These studies looked
at realigning the Main Southern and Main Northern/North Coast Railways. They also examined
the Wentworth route to the NSW Southern Highlands and the Hoare route, thereby bypassing
much of the route between Goulburn and Junee. The studies looked at the prospects of a high-
speed northern Sydney exit through to Newcastle, and a wide-ranging set of deviations of the
North Coast Railway as far as the McPherson Range.
In line with the interest of the NSW Government in the early 1990s, it was felt that the
maximum permitted speeds of passenger trains could be raised to 250 km/h by using tilt
technology (such as the Pendolino system used by Virgin Trains in the United Kingdom). It was
also felt that there was an upper limit on the maximum permitted speed for railways used by
both passenger and freight trains. The U.S. Federal Rail Administration nominated this as 150
mph (240 km/h), and applied this limit to the Northeast Corridor running from Boston, through
New York, to Washington.
As a result, when the East Coast Very High Speed Train (ECVHST) study was carried out, only
exclusively passenger railways were considered, together with maximum permitted speeds of
up to 350 km/h for SWSR railways, though up to 500 km/h was considered for Maglev. The

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ECVHST study never proceeded beyond its first stage so that, while passenger demand was
calculated in some detail, no corridor investigations were carried out. It was assumed that HSR
trains would exit Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne over existing corridors before striking out
on exclusive alignments. While Maglev necessarily required exclusive corridors, there were no
investigations into terminal or depot locations and configurations. The study did conclude that
the best prospects, both in demand and competitive terms, were to concentrate on shorter-
distance travel opportunities such as Brisbane–Gold Coast, Sydney–Newcastle, Sydney–South
Coast, Sydney–Canberra and Melbourne–Albury/Wodonga. At no stage in any of this activity
were any corridors reserved, either for upgraded joint-use railways or exclusively HSR. The
plans for HSR northern and southern (to the Southern Highlands and to the South Coast) exits
from Sydney have not been endorsed and no action has been taken to reserve alignments. In
all cases, the proposed realignments were generally parallel to the existing alignments.
Unlike in Europe and North America, there are few redundant railway alignments that could be
reactivated for HSR. The history of the development of most Australian railways by
government has meant that that there are virtually no surplus corridors, especially in urban
areas, where competing railway companies built their own lines in the United Kingdom and the
United States. For example, current planning in the United Kingdom on the development of an
HSR corridor running north from London touches on the availability of exit corridors from
redundant or under-used railways.
Regardless of past investigations into HSR in Australia, there is still no government policy on
what form new or rebuilt interstate rail corridors should take. Furthermore, current
Commonwealth interest in infrastructure development is heavily weighted towards the
improvement of rail freight facilities within which any improvement in rail passenger facilities
would be, at best, a spin-off. The implication for a possible HSR is that corridors need to be
preserved for and upgradable (e.g., gauge convertibility ensured). This is an aspect of HSR for
further consideration.

4.9.2 Urban development policy

A key challenge associated with infrastructure planning for major cities is to achieve greater
efficiencies without extending growth beyond the municipal boundary. This challenge is also
hampered by the need to develop urban transport and energy systems that produce low
carbon emissions yet also provide a reasonable return on investment (Foran & Poldy 2002). In
this regard, HSR can be recognised as an effective means of meeting the urban development
challenge. For example, HSR in Europe has been used as a tool for regional integration and
economic development. Likewise, an HSR node (not necessarily central district) has created
major urban and commercial precincts in regions such as St Pancras in London and Kyoto in
Japan (Barrón de Angoiti 2008).
The development of HSR, in an urban development policy context, is therefore not simply
about fast trains and linking key destinations with a particular type of rail line. HSR is
recognised as the ‘top tier’ of mass transit infrastructure and service. Accordingly, HSR stations
generally become the major rail station facilities and land-use intensification locations within
the cities that they serve. While the status of HSR-served central city stations is reasonably
clear-cut, the development and enhancement of non-CBD HSR-served stations is a key
component of any business case or design response for new HSR, as it is in the Californian case
(CAHSR 2008).

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HSR stations offer significant opportunities for long-term transit oriented development (TOD).
The stations themselves should be seen as important opportunities for creating a civic focus
through the delivery of multi-use facilities of architectural merit. This has clearly been the
objective in cities such as Kyoto and Nagoya, which have seen massive development of urban
rail stations by the rail operator JR in response to HSR status. It is equally the case in locations
such as Strasbourg, France, in which a significant HSR upgrade also involved redevelopment of
the Strasbourg station as the key gateway to the city. A similar exercise has occurred at St
Pancras station in London (as the key point of embarkation for Paris/Brussels-bound Eurostar
services), or in the retail-heavy redevelopment of Gare du Nord in Paris. In most cases, greater
architectural attention and improved retail amenity at these major stations, together with the
accessibility benefits of HSR/ urban transit nodes, has combined to deliver substantial urban
renewal outcomes in surrounding precincts.
If a more strategic stance were adopted, it might be suggested that new HSR stations can be
utilised as a planning and development tool in order to achieve urban renewal and transit
orientation goals on a metropolitan-wide scale. Once again, this has been the case in the
Californian exercise currently underway. In this instance, transit-oriented development is a
major component of the business case for HSR. It is also an example of where enthusiastic
interaction with local governments and urban transit agencies is expected, and being duly
As Australian cities continue to develop and articulate large-scale and longer-term public
transport plans, the importance of inter-city high performance rail as the ‘top tier’ of
infrastructure and service should increasingly translate into greater prominence in these plans.
Reconfiguration of metropolitan structure around HSR corridors and nodes should provide
enhanced structural focus for metropolitan and regional mass transit systems and assist in the
delivery of more sustainable urban travel patterns overall.
As part of the debate surrounding the impacts of a HSR, research undertaken by the National
Institute of Economic and Industry Research (1990) found the following impacts of the
Japanese Shinkansen system:
Population growth and land prices tended to be faster at towns where the service
stopped compared to those without a station.
Opening of new branches at towns with stations, with resultant flow-on affects to the
construction sector.
Improvement in the efficiency of firms in industries that depend strongly on
communication to grow, particularly service sector industries.
The report also noted that a number of pre-conditions had to coincide with the introduction
the HSR service to a town. These pre-conditions include easy accessibility of the station to the
serviced population, opportunities for higher education, prevalence of industries that rely on
efficient communication, available labour force, and a more service-based local economy.
The potential urban impacts of HSR in Australia are unclear since they depend greatly on the
particulars of a chosen scheme. In the VFT evaluation submitted by the project proponents,
the Project Evaluation Working Group (1991) forecast that the VFT could result in increased
decentralisation of industry. Despite this, a review of the report by the VFT Task Force found
that there was little evidence to support this position, and also questioned the economics of
encouraging this urban form. There was an acknowledgement, however, of the potential for
increased tourism activity for areas newly served by the stations, as well as a potential
increase in the residential population adjoining the facilities.

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In France, it was recognised that a project of this magnitude needs to be considered within a
long-term policy framework that incorporates projected investment in other modes of
transport, including road and air. Expanding this framework to include urban development
across jurisdictions is therefore highly advisable given the potential impacts of a HSR and the
need to identify and quantify the full set of benefits and costs, including externalities. This is a
critical question in light of Australia being one of the most highly urbanised countries in the
world, with a very high share of its population residing in capital or major cities. In many cases,
HSR (or transport links) alone has been found to be an insufficient driver of growth for a
particular location. Other complementary actions are often required. In this regard, the
planning of a HSR should be undertaken in context of wider and coordinated regional and
urban planning strategy across jurisdictions.

4.9.3 Financing
Given the considerable cost of an HSR initiative, some level of public funding is required. In the
case of Japan, Europe and South Korea, HSR is generally paid out of public funds. Sharing of
funding and responsibilities between different public bodies characterises the TGV in France.
In some cases, private funding through a public private partnership (PPP) can be attracted for
part of the investment, such as in Spain-France and China-Taiwan (UIC 2008). Few good
examples of PPP funding for HSR exist, though it has been used with some initial problems for
the 125 HSL-Zuid line between Netherlands and Belgium (Reina 2003; van Ammers 2008).
Portugal is just embarking on a PPP approach, while the UK is considering how to engage the
private sector in its HSR initiatives.
Though it is difficult to draw conclusions about observed PPP project allocations, it has been
speculated that PPPs are more likely to flourish in circumstances that are i) not highly
politically charged, ii) where risk can most easily be transferred to the private sector, and iii)
where private consortiums are provided with relative certainty of achieving desired returns
(English 2007). In addition, governments need to be convinced that the political risks
associated with a PPP can be managed. This is seen as more important than trying to win over
the community, which will accept the PPP model and the user-pays principle if the project is
seen to deliver (Hewett 2009).
In current unstable financial markets, private investors might also require some temporary
measures (e.g., government guarantees) before they can enter the market with confidence
(Hewett 2009). While the lack of nationally consistent PPP strategies and policies has
frustrated many private sector participants in the past (Association of Consulting Engineers of
Australia 2008; KPMG 2008), and has also resulted in poor infrastructure outcomes (Newman
2006), this is now changing. In fulfilment of one of its key tasks, the Australian Government’s
Infrastructure Australia (Infrastructure Australia 2008) has recently published a national PPP
policy and associated guidelines. This document effectively replaces previously existing policy
and guidelines in the various Australian jurisdictions.
From a historical perspective, rail PPPs have not been widely used in Australia. Of the
infrastructure PPPs brought to realisation in Australia between 1980 and 2005, 18 percent of
projects and 51 percent of funding was in the transport sector. Despite this, road projects
(mostly toll roads) were worth twice as much (34 percent) as rail projects (17 percent), while
rail projects were mostly related to maintenance and upgrades of infrastructure (English
2007). These differences arose mainly from the fact that new railway infrastructure, in terms
of its technology, is a far more complex entity than a tollway (ARUP-TMG 2001).

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On the whole, different approaches by the Commonwealth to determine funding and charging
regimes for rail versus road transport have resulted in a lack of competitive neutrality and rail
deficits, particularly in urban passenger services in New South Wales and Victoria. The
continuing high deficits in public rail mean that much of government expenditure is diverted
from necessary capital works to offsetting ongoing financial losses and retirement of debt
(House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications Transport and
Microeconomic Reform 1998a; 1998b).
To date, the Commonwealth has not supported a ‘centrally-planned’ approach. In the past,
this position has been viewed as “dictating national transport development” (House of
Representatives Standing Committee on Communications Transport and Microeconomic
Reform 1998a). Rather, the view has been that target performance levels needed to be agreed
to by all jurisdictions so as to provide certainty for planning by industry. Given the relatively
small proportion of Commonwealth funding for rail investments, as mentioned above, the
Federal Government is interested in encouraging and utilising private sector investment in rail
infrastructure investments in lieu of public funding. Paradoxically, the current lack of
consistency in management and government regulation of the rail system is seen as a major
impediment to private investment in the rail industry.
It is clear that reform and investment go hand in hand. Some progress has been made in
reforming Australia’s rail industry (e.g., improved access arrangements and harmonization of
accreditation), yet more far-reaching reforms are necessary if rail is to reach its full potential,
as has been the subject of numerous papers (Hewett 2009; Newman 2006). The Australian
Government’s Infrastructure Australia reform initiative (2009) offers further hope for rail, with
three of the seven national infrastructure priorities relating to rail transport:
Competitive international gateways by developing more effective ports and associated
land transport systems.
A national rail freight network.
Increasing public transport capacity in cities and making better use of existing transport
The absence of new intercity rail transport in the current federal government’s priorities for
infrastructure reform makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions. This may suggest that the
impetus, funding and responsibility for such an initiative needs to be found primarily in the
private sector. In view of this, government-funded PPPs may need to give way to both public-
and private-based PPPs. Superannuation funds looking for a safe investment may be asked to
invest in such PPPs (Koppenjan 2008).
Given Infrastructure Australia’s freshly articulated priorities, it is questionable whether the
position adopted by government will change significantly in the near future. In this policy
environment, it is uncertain as to whether an innovative PPP arrangement can be constructed
so as to deliver a successful HSR network (von der Heidt et al. 2009). More optimistically, the
Australian Government’s (2008) new national PPP policy and guidelines would certainly assist
in realising an HSR system with its complicated arrangements and complex public
infrastructure negotiation.
In summary, although PPP arrangements have become more prevalent in Australia over the
past decade, their application and subsequent management continues to provide significant
challenges. In particular, the limited quantity of empirical research that has focused on PPP
initiatives ensures that the many contractual issues arising during the course of a project have
yet to be fully realised. In the context of HSR in Australia, these challenges are further

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exacerbated by the addition of unique project complexities, including the lengthy project time-
frame, the application of advanced technologies, and the large number of stakeholder
interests. While a PPP component will be required for any Australian HSR program,
international experience suggests that it will be a limited component targeted at the
operational end of a lengthy project cycle such as rolling stock operations or maintenance.

4.9.4 Stakeholder management

Since the benefits of HSR accrue across a number of different jurisdictions and reach into
different areas of our society, it is clear that benefits and costs should be shared among a
range of key public and private stakeholders. Reference to plans in California is instructive.
Here, Federal, State and Local government, in addition to existing urban transit agencies, are
all called on to contribute financial and in-kind resources in expectation of the sizeable
benefits that the completed HSR scheme is argued to provide.
Previous efforts at HSR project development in Australia may not have sufficiently elaborated
on the requirement for multi-stakeholder finance. The impression that a HSR system covering
multiple state and local government jurisdictions is a “federal government-only funding and
planning decision” is often presented in the media, and is even widely discussed among
practitioners and interested parties. Every effort should be made to clarify the reality that each
tier of government, as well as Australian urban transit agencies and the private sector will all
be called upon to contribute and become involved financially if HSR is to progress in this
country. Far from presenting a stakeholder management risk, the multi-stakeholder funding
posture offers major opportunities to spread project financial resourcing requirements and
Equally, the potential break-down of the funding pipeline over time demands ongoing research
and considerable clarity. Once again, an erroneous impression is sometimes provided in
popular discussion, where headline cost figures for HSR implementation are often presented
as a ‘once-off outlay’ of significant magnitude, rather than as a program of cumulative funding
allocations from a range of sources and stakeholders over an extended period (perhaps 10
years or more). The latter option could take the form of a staged approach designed to
eventually achieve connectivity between eastern state capitals. When a multi-stakeholder,
longer-term funding paradigm is presented, the perceived affordability and attainability of HSR
becomes much clearer and more attractive.
On many measures, the east coast of Australia is not quite in the same league as locations such
as California, especially with respect to perceived economic strength and overall population
figures. However, Australia does compare favourably in terms of readiness and ability of the
public sector to plan and implement major transport infrastructure effectively. While the
Californian HSR effort is reliant on measures such as a specific voter bond measure, Australian
national and state governments are generally already heavily engaged in infrastructure
planning and provision in an ongoing basis as a mainstream activity. The willingness and ability
of Australian governments to fund transit infrastructure is already reasonably effective,
whereas, by comparison, the States and the Federal Government of the United States view
transit system development as essentially a novel or non-mainstream activity for which new
proposals face major hurdles and entrenched resistance—including from highly-effective anti-
transit, anti-public sector expenditure lobbying groups, and from a simple lack of available
funds as a result of the relatively narrow overall tax base.

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This historic and recent reluctance to fund transit networks and other infrastructure has
resulted in a generally poor state of urban infrastructure in most United States’ cities (high
profile examples abound, and include the relatively recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis). By
comparison, mass transit infrastructure in the Australian capitals compares well to facilities
and networks in some major cities in the United States such as San Francisco and Washington,
DC. This should be taken to imply a relatively strong preparedness in Australian cities for the
advent of urban transit-compatible HSR systems. In addition, it should be noted that current
HSR options in the United States are being pursued in an economic environment where the
Global Financial Crisis has had a much greater impact in terms of both real economic
constraints for United States governments, and in terms of the perception and culture among
public sector planners that funding for major projects simply is not available at the moment.
The need for innovative financing and ownership models is also a valuable lesson to be drawn
from the European HSR experience. A comprehensive involvement of all stakeholders in the
funding of HSR initiatives should also be clearly recognised. While Federal and State
governments represent the key funding sources, less-familiar stakeholders such as major cities,
local governments and transit agencies should also be included.
Within one or more of these stakeholders, project champions will assist the uptake of HSR. For
instance, the initial development of HSR in Japan can be attributed to several project
champions, including the President of Japan National Railways, who opposed the upgrading of
existing narrow gauge lines and overcame substantial resistance to the HSR idea. In the United
States, one or more politicians have championed light rail projects for ten years. As a complex
transport initiative, the adoption of HSR would benefit from multiple stakeholder champions,
including industry, as has been the European experience.

4.10 Conclusion
As demonstrated in Chapters 2 and 3, the case for revisiting HSR in Australia is strong. The
discussion of HSR technology, international operations, and the limitations of Australia’s
current high performance rail system have highlighted the contribution that HSR may make to
a long-term integrated transport network for the nation.
Building on this information, Chapter 4 identified nine key factors critical to the success of HSR
in Australia. While the cost of HSR is considerable, collective analysis of all nine factors, as
detailed in this section, reveals that a substantial positive return on investment or net public
benefit is potentially achievable. In particular, analysis of the domestic travel market reveals
that HSR may gain a substantial share in comparison with air passenger services. This benefit
not only contributes direct financial returns to the project, but also indirect benefits through
greatly reduced carbon emissions. The point has also been made that it is necessary to address
the need for increased future investment in air transport infrastructure, such as the plans for a
second airport in the heavily populated and politically sensitive region of Sydney, and that
discussion of HSR should take place as part of the evaluation of air transport options.
In order to further inform an Australian HSR in relation to these contextual factors, the
following future research tasks and associated research questions are recommended to be
considered as part of a recommended major concept study:
Ongoing research questions,
As existing and planned rail corridors develop, what are the provisions for national
gauge compatibility and/or convertibility? To what extent would some current corridor

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plans add significant cost to potential HSR by not building-in an appropriate level of
The major stations that serve HSR and surrounding precincts have become an intensive
focus of retail and commercial activity, while stations themselves are at times treated as
major civic architectural statements. Which international reference stations are
important for the Australian context?
What does international experience tell us about HSR delivery and the relative role of
private and public investment?
International HSR platforms include a wide variety of technologies and engineering
approaches. Do Australian conditions lead toward the adoption of particular engineering
Which corridors are available to potential east-coast HSR based on considerations such
as station location, use of existing metropolitan corridors, regional cities served, and
opportunities for efficient interaction between prevalent topography and engineering
options such as tunnels, viaducts and bridges?
What are the likely capture rates for HSR of the interstate travel market against the
option of domestic air travel?
Could shifting movements away from domestic air travel into HSR produce benefits in
terms of avoided airport expansion and/or avoided opening of new airports at
significant economic, environmental and social cost?
What are the cost/benefit components of an economic analysis for potential HSR?

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5. Prospects for HSR in Australia

As detailed in Section 1.2, a key objective of this report involved the assessment of further
research needs with respect to HSR in Australia. While providing valuable assessment of the
many factors related to HSR in this country, greater in-depth analysis is clearly warranted. In
particular, further research is required to more fully assess the impact of each success factor
identified in Chapter 4. Supporting this assessment is the recent call by Garnaut (2008) for
Australia’s Federal and State governments to seriously consider the commissioning of
dedicated research into the HSR concept:
“While the prospects for competitive high-speed rail for intercity journeys in Australia have
seemed limited in the past, high oil prices, an emissions price, rising incomes and a growing
population on the east coast improve the prospects of cost-competitive high-speed rail links
between major cities. Now may be a good time for the Commonwealth Government and the
governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian
Capital Territory to examine why intercity passenger train services in Australia are inferior to
those in European and high-income Asian countries, with a view to removing barriers to the
emergence of high-quality inter-regional rail services in Australia” (pp. 523-524).

5.1 Critical success factors

The critical success factors identified for HSR in section 4 are summarised in Table 15. This
information provides an effective overview of the various factors and may contribute to the
prioritisation of future research initiatives.

Table 15: Summary of critical success factors for Australian HSR context
Contextual factors Critical success factors for HSR in Australia
Geodemographic Demonstrate how HSR addresses the dilemmas associated with
population growth, e.g., rising GHG emissions, resource depletion
and congestion.
Choose corridors to match present and future demand around
capital cities and other significant conurbations.
Competition Leverage on HSR strengths by positioning it primarily against air
travel and secondarily against road transport.
Include HSR as an alternative transport mode in evaluating new
aviation initiatives.
Ensure HSR connectivity with other land transport and airports.
Social Demonstrate how HSR provides social benefits to rail users and
non-users, e.g., urban regeneration, healthier and more
productive population, more regional development.
Health and safety Demonstrate how HSR addresses the negative health-related
externalities associated with road and air travel, providing more
safety, less noise and particulate emissions.
Environmental Demonstrate how HSR addresses the negative environmental
externalities associated with road and air travel, such as reduced
energy use, lower GHG emissions, less noise, better land use.

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Contextual factors Critical success factors for HSR in Australia
Economic Apply the ATC Guidelines (2006) for Transport System
Management to assessing HSR and competing options (e.g.,
Recognise the opportunities to separate ownership of
infrastructure from that of service operations.
Quantify the economic, social and health-related and
environmental benefits of HSR for a triple-bottom line view of HSR
net benefits.
Develop yield-based HSR pricing systems and other innovative
pricing strategies to maximise demand and return.
Technological Understand the constraints relating to existing corridors around
metropolitan areas.
Ensure the interoperability of HSR with existing rail infrastructure.
Choose the appropriate HSR technology (incremental versus new
build) given salient criteria, e.g., cost and speed.
Adopt internationally accepted industry standards of design and
specification for infrastructure and rollingstock where possible
and adapt where necessary to suit Australia’s current rail systems.
Topographical Consider topographical factors in HSR corridor and HSR
technology selection.
Political View HSR as a substantial nation-building project with bi-partisan
government support.
Provide appropriate legal or planning frameworks to deliver the
HSR project across multiple jurisdictions.
Integrate HSR with other land transport and aviation planning.
Preserve a land corridor for potential HSR.
Clarify the reality that both government (multiple jurisdictions)
and private funding sources will be needed to finance HSR.

5.2 Factors driving and restraining HSR in Australia

Set out in Table 16 below is a summary of key forces driving HSR adoption in Australia and
those restraining this change.
Table 16 Factors driving and restraining HSR in Australia
Forces driving change Forces resisting change
Growing political interest in infrastructure Competing infrastructure initiatives
improvements (e.g., Infrastructure Australia)
Calls for national transport policy and national Jurisdictional rigidity resulting from federalism
Climate change and calls for sustainability Commonwealth reluctance to invest taxpayer
(emissions trading) money; lack of private funding in these
Peak oil and rising fuel prices Lack of consensus about way forward.

Increasing airport and road congestion Lack of future planning coordination.

Mature HSR technology and proven models in Other forms of interstate transport still affordable
Europe and Asia
Local government calls for improved rail

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5.3 Conclusion
The main rationale for this research was to determine whether and how the contextual
circumstances have changed since the last HSR investigation in 2001. The current research
findings suggest that there have been many significant changes in HSR in at least nine key
areas influencing demand and supply factors pertinent to an Australian HSR. These changes
include growing congestion, lack of capacity, greater environmental consciousness and
regulation, in addition to a stronger impetus through Infrastructure Australia for more
cohesive and strategic transport planning, especially as it applies to Australian cities, and the
possibility of significant population growth along the eastern seaboard.
Under these new circumstances, HSR seems a far more attractive proposition than it has been
in the past. However, it is clear that any HSR initiative will require more government vision
with regard to sustainable national transport systems. This research therefore provides some
initial insights into the current HSR context and highlights the knowledge gaps. The following
chapter identifies specific areas for further inquiry.

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6. Further research

An important purpose of this report is to highlight current key areas of interest with respect to
assessing the feasibility of an Australian HSR system. Detailed investigations were not
undertaken at this point. Many more issues remain to be explored, described and assessed, in
order to progress the possibility of an HSR system in Australia. This chapter sets out general
recommendations as well as further research questions and possible approaches.

6.1 Overarching recommendation

On the basis of knowledge gathered so far, further research and investigation into a variety of
Australian HSR issues and aspects should be carried out as part of a major concept study. This
is because of a number of emergent trends that appear to be supportive of HSR in Australia,
including the fact that HSR is now a mature technology, a rapidly growing worldwide HSR
industry, growth in the Australian economy and in the population, and the need to identify
sustainable interstate travel options.
The recent and near future progress of HSR as a technology suite, for example, has progressed
significantly beyond the level at which previous explorations of Australian HSR were
benchmarked. The vision of linking major East Coast cities by HSR, once seen as unattainable
or at the very cutting edge of HSR technology, now appears to be a much more realistic long-
term nation-building challenge.
At the same time, it is clear that previous investigations into HSR in Australia perhaps lacked
the sophistication and nuance required to progress it. Emerging projects such as the
Californian HSR program are pointing to a multi-stakeholder approach based on detailed long-
range research, planning, design, and business-case development.

6.2 Research questions

To further examine the possibility of HSR in Australia, numerous informational requirements
clearly need to be addressed. A large range of questions present themselves in different fields.
Knowledge gaps and areas for further research were listed at the end of Chapters 2, 3 and 4
respectively. A summary of the most compelling questions for further investigation that should
be prioritised and actioned in coming months is provided in Table 17.

Table 17 Questions for further research

Contextual factors Some key research questions
Geodemographic How does projected population relate to the viability of HSR?
What are the potential passenger markets for HSR in the corridors of interest
and what is the potential rate of annual or weekly travel on HSR services
between particular cities, based on different performance standards and
journey times?
Competition What are the likely capture rates for HSR of the interstate travel market against
air and road travel?
Social What value can be attributed to social benefits of HSR versus air and road

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Contextual factors Some key research questions
Health and safety What value can be attributed to health and safety benefits of HSR versus air
and road travel?
Environmental What will be the impact of carbon pricing and oil pricing on HSR prospects
versus those of air and road travel?
Economic What are the cost/benefit components of an economic analysis for potential
To what extent does HSR offer a major opportunity for urban renewal?
How do economic growth outcomes relate to viability of HSR?
Technological What is the local industry capability to plan, design, implement and operate
HSR successfully and how can it be developed in order to progress HSR
Which new HSR technologies and infrastructure systems, including train
configurations, exist and how would they need to be adapted to suit Australia’s
needs and circumstances?
What steps are required to move from current Australian engineering
standards toward the levels of performance that HSR will demand?
As existing and planned rail corridors evolve and develop, what are the
provisions for national gauge compatibility and/or convertibility?
Topographical Which corridors are available to potential Australian East Coast HSR based on
considerations such as station location, use of existing metropolitan corridors,
regional cities served, and opportunities for efficient interaction between
prevalent topography and engineering options such as tunnels, viaducts and
How do existing metropolitan and intercity rail corridors relate to potential
future HSR use and applications?
Political What national priority is assigned to HSR by government?
What are the financing options for HSR adoption? What is the current
public/private funding mix for intercity passenger transport?
How do can HSR be integrated into long-range planning for intercity travel
without losing momentum?
What are the implications of HSR for metropolitan and transit-oriented
Who are the main internal and external stakeholders for HSR and what might
their roles be in contributing to HSR delivery?
What is the potential impact of HSR links on value of adjacent land and ability
to raise revenue?
A glimpse of the possible future shared transport land and air space use is a reality in some
corridors in Europe, as shown below.

Source: Barrón de Angoiti, 2009

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7. Appendices

1 Overview of recent, publicly available HSR studies

Source Sponsor Name of study Key findings
Western Europe
Harman 2006 OECD, The economic HSR investment is a public investment
International effects of HSR decision. The case for investing is heavily
Transport investment dependent on existing traffic volumes,
Forum expected time savings, willingness to pay,
release of capacity in congested roads, and
net reduction of external effects.
Network Rail Greengauge High-speed trains HSR can serve as a major factor in the
2009 21 and the development of city economies by placing
development and cities closer to each other in time. Gains are
regeneration of most likely to be made by cities that are
cities oriented toward service sector business. The
impact of HSR is real but rarely measurable.
Steer Davies Network Rail Comparing HSR demonstrate significant benefits over
Gleave 2009 environmental equivalent conventional services in terms of
impacts of energy consumption and GHG emissions per
conventional and km in context of the proposed new London–
high-speed rail Scotland line development. However, there
will be very significant upfront GHG
emissions in the construction of new
infrastructure in the short term.
TEMS & Network Rail Strategic business Established a case to take the London to
Oliver Wyman case North West and Scotland (fast rail) corridor
2008b forward for further investigation.
TEMS & Alberta Market assessment Estimated passenger trips for corridor,
Oliver Wyman Infrastructure of HSR service in forecast demand growth, undertook
2008a & Calgary–Edmonton sensitivity analysis for 3 most critical input
Transportation corridor variables (demographic change, congestion
and fuel prices). Determined diversion from
competitive modes to HSR.
de Cerreño, Alberta Economic benefits Specifies user benefits from 4 different
Evans & Infrastructure for development of sources (consumer surplus, system revenues,
Permut 2005 & HSR service in resource savings, emissions savings).
Transportation Calgary–Edmonton Specifies community benefits in terms of
corridor employment, income, tax, property values,
and development potential.
United States
Government Mineta HSR project in the In Phase 1, reviewed 19 HSR projects,
Accountability Transportation US: Identifying the including incremental, new HSR and Maglev.
Office 2009 Institute elements for Three of these were studied in-depth in
success Phase 2. Five lessons for HSR were derived:
leadership by federal government, defining
cost, institutionalised support, matching
technology with objectives, leading by
implementing one project first.
Government Congressional HSR: Future Commented that the recently enacted
Accountability Requesters development will Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement

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Source Sponsor Name of study Key findings
Office 2009 depend on Act (PRIIA) 2008 establishes a good
addressing financial framework for helping a federal role in HSR.
and other Recommended that Secretary of
challenges and Transportation develop i) a strategic vision of
establishing a clear how HSR systems fit into the national
federal role transportation system and ii) guidance and
tools to improve the reliability and accuracy
of ridership, cost and other forecasts for
these systems.

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2 HSR in Western Europe
By Chris Hale, Centre of Transport Strategy, University of Queensland

The following overview of Western European HSR is based on a brief review of recent
literature, in addition to extensive fieldwork in Europe between 2007 and 2009—including
discussion with industry informants and attendance as an observer at the High Speed Congress
2008 in Amsterdam.

> 250 km/h

> 250 km/h Oulu

Planned Tampere
180 < v < 250 km/h Oslo

Other lines

Kobenhavn Gdansk Moskva

Dublin Minsk
Amsterdam Berlin Poznan
London Hannover Warszawa
Bristol Brux
Praha Kiev
Fkft Katowice
Lux Krakow
Paris Wien
Strasbg Bratislava
München Budapest
Nantes Zürich Chisinau
Lyon Milano
Bordeaux Beograd
Torino Bologna Bucuresti
Coruña Toulouse Sarajevo
Vitoria Sofia
Marseille Podgorica
Roma Skopje
Valladolid Tirana Istanbul
Porto Zaragoza Barcelona
Madrid Ankara
Napoli Thessaloniki Sivas

Konya Kayseri
Alicante Athinai Izmir


Source: UIC, 2008

Overview of the current status of HSR in Western Europe

HSR systems in Western Europe are currently
advancing after an extended first phase of
development in which individual countries
developed intra-national HSR networks and
technologies over the last 30 years or so. The first
wave started with the creation of TGV in France and
then moved on to the ICE program in Germany,
together with significant efforts in Italy and Spain.
Each of these countries essentially developed a
unique HSR platform. This was because local
conditions produced particular outcomes in track
Picture: Strasbourg TGV Station. C. Hale and signalling, rolling stock, network planning
concepts, and ownership and funding models.

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The current phase of HSR development is firmly in the pan-European paradigm. Individual
countries continue to develop their own networks to serve a greater variety of destinations at
higher performance levels, and with generally better service standards. But the significant new
momentum in the twenty-first century has been in international corridor development. The
Thalys platform (spanning the Low Countries and Northern France), Eurostar (connecting
Belgium and France with South-East England) and Franco-German services are all starting
points for a new century of interoperability, in addition to further development of significant
cross-border travel markets.
HSR has in many regards emerged as the premier travel mode in Europe, especially in terms of
up-market passenger demographics, quality of service and travel experience, industry self-
image, and the cosmopolitan nature of direct links between major city-centres (UIC 2008).
Technologies continue to evolve, with emerging pan-European networks placing significant
pressure on engineering to facilitate better inter-operability of track, signalling, and rolling
stock. Attainment of higher travel speeds is a priority for longer-distance corridors. Current top
operating speeds of around 350 km/h (in Spain) represent a significant advance compared to
initial TGV performance of just on 200 km/h during the early 1980s (Givoni 2006). In the area
of inter-connected business, marketing and customer-service platforms, significant advances
are also being made. Overall, the industry now sees itself in direct competition with the airline
industry, but holding clear advantages in a world where air travel has become inconvenient,
and where the emphasis on sustainability will continue to grow. In Europe, average annual
traffic growth for HSR services has been in the order of 10 percent over the last 10 years (UIC
2008, p. 5).

TGV in France
Following the opening of Japan’s Shinkansen
service in 1964, France was the next country
to achieve true high-speed status with the
opening of the Paris-Lyon line in 1981 (Givoni
2006). In many respects, the French continue
to play a role as HSR world-leaders, with
strengths in network planning, research and
development (including the 2007 test speed
record at around 570 km/h), rolling stock
design and manufacture, and business
models. In addition, the French system has
benefited immensely from a strong design
focus on the quality, image and service-levels Picture: Gare du Nord, Paris. C. Hale
of its major TGV host stations.
Another recent achievement is the full opening of the Paris–Strasbourg line, which provides
travel times of just over two hours for a journey of some 480 km. The connection to Paris, in
conjunction with major station upgrades and convenient connections to Strasbourg’s world-
class light rail network, has effectively meant the repositioning of Strasbourg from regional
status into that of an emerging key European city with world-class infrastructure and
accessibility. Strasbourg also represents an important connection point for rapidly upgrading
HSR links through Germany and beyond (DB 2008) as part of the priority Paris–Bratislava high-
speed corridor, which incorporates Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna, and other major cities.

CRC for Rail Innovation Page 68

One of the key innovations of the French TGV platform over the Japanese Shinkansen system
was the willingness of its designers to use shared corridors (with urban rail) within the
boundaries of metropolitan areas. This adds some travel time to most journeys, but avoids the
need to engineer high-cost dedicated urban rights of way (Givoni 2006).

ICE in Germany
ICE shares some technical characteristics with the TGV, but differs in a few key respects. First
and foremost, the ICE system interoperates with other scheduled rail activities (including
freight as well as slower passenger services) to a far greater degree than the TGV (Givoni
2006), or the HSR-only Shinkansen lines. ICE also tends to serve shorter distances, with the
more heavily-settled German landscape generally meaning a greater number of cities and
more regular stopping for HSR trains. This paradigm also seems to have led to a reduced
emphasis on top speeds and a corresponding greater emphasis on network connectivity. ICE
benefits immensely from the exceptionally high standards of German metropolitan and urban
transit networks. The overall facilitation of transit-based multi-modal journeys including a HSR
component is of a very high standard in Germany.
The reunification of Germany during the early and mid 1990s produced an emphasis on
building and improving west-east connections within Germany, in addition to serious demands
for investment in upgrading East German rail networks and facilities. This burden has been
quite significant in the context of the financial and system viability of HSR in Germany, with the
financing needs of genuinely high-volume links (typically between key West German cities)
usurped by requirements to upgrade lower-volume East German corridors for over a decade
(Link 2003).
The business and infrastructure/operations
model in Germany is also worthy of comment.
The vertically integrated Deutsche Bahn (which
owns track infrastructure, and runs HSR services
under different holding companies) is possibly a
significant barrier to competition and access for
non-DB service providers that might otherwise
emerge (DB 2009; Link 2003).

Picture: ICE cockpit, Berlin-Leipzig. C. Hale

Thalys and Eurostar

Thalys is a service brand that runs HSR trains primarily between the Netherlands, Belgium and
Paris. The three-country corridor has traditionally involved three sets of operating conditions
and infrastructure settings, with Thalys seen as an early-stage forerunner of the efforts needed
to run HSR between initially non-compatible rail networks. Upgrade works for Thalys-
supporting infrastructure have been instrumental in the development of the shared-platform
European Train Control System (ETCS).
Eurostar is the service brand for HSR trains linking England with continental Europe (in
particular France and Belgium) since full opening in 2007. Among many notable aspects of the
Eurostar/Channel Tunnel initiative has been the transformation of London’s historic St.

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Pancras Station into a world-class intermodal rail facility incorporating high levels of retail and
mixed-use amenity and development.

The rationale for HSR in Europe

Much of the impetus for the development of HSR has been the congested status of many rail
corridors, together with air and highway corridors (Givoni 2006). In addition, the evaluation
methods for HSR in Europe on a full triple-bottom-line environment/social/ economic
evaluation approach are highly developed, with HSR viewed as a key tool in delivering better
outcomes in all three areas (Janic 2003). There has been a reallocation of transport funding
toward rail for these reasons, to the extent that top-tier EU transport funds are now allocating
around 65 percent to rail on a modal split basis (TINA Vienna Transport Strategies 2008, p. 7).
Although these explanations generally hold true,
there are other compelling divers behind the
adoption and spread of the HSR technology suite.
France has been engaged since the 1950s in
developing HSR technology and capability on two
key grounds: i) technological and industry
development, and ii) national coherence and
international status. Broadening these drivers
out, it can once again be seen that, whether in
France, Germany, Italy, Spain or elsewhere, the
development of HSR systems in-country has led
to significant growth in industrial capability in Picture: Gare du Nord, Paris – Thalys (red)
areas such as rolling stock development and and Eurostar (yellow) trains. C. Hale
manufacture (UIC 2008). Whether the
development of these capabilities was warranted in purely economic rational terms seems
never to have been measured or debated, but the outcome of enhanced national engineering
and advanced manufacturing capability.
The nation building case for HSR systems in European countries where regional differences
have historically been quite pronounced must be recognised as a key driver (whether explicitly
stated or not). The regional economic development case for HSR is documented in greater
detail, but this purely rational economic decision is only one part of a more nuanced story.
Finally, the move toward pan-Europeanism in business markets, culture and person-to-person
contact is (and will be) greatly aided by the past and future development of HSR. The ability to
travel easily between countries seems to have emerged contemporaneously to the ability to
make transactions with a common currency. The ability to buy a Thalys ticket in Belgium with
Euros, and then a coffee in Paris one and a half hours later using the same currency seems to
be at the heart of early twenty-first century pan-Europeanism.

A recent move to expand the interoperability of different Western European HSR systems was
the establishment of Railteam in 2007 as a multi-operator booking and integrated-connections
agency (DB 2008; 2009). Although still in its early phases, this ambitious project seeks
eventually to present a coherent face for HSR in Europe, and to facilitate higher levels of
international travel via better coordination of what were traditionally independent national
HSR networks, especially with respect to ticketing.

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European Train Control System (ETCS)
Of major interest is the move across Europe to integrate and improve interoperability for all
aspects of HSR. The ETCS presents itself as a world-leading effort to establish a single set of
standards for train control systems. Given that each national network operates on a mix of
train control and signalling systems (DB 2008), the ETCS effort addresses two fronts. First, ETCS
offers a standardised platform for adoption in new or significantly upgraded train control
contexts; second, it offers a series of interoperability levels and platforms for allowing
workable integration of non-optimised, older train control systems.

European frameworks and criteria for planning and investment

Commonly noted aims for planning and investment in European HSR include:
Regional development impacts, including spatial accessibility and urban development,
together with ‘political integration’ of dispersed locations.
Internationalisation and economic integration.
Increasing safety and security.
Pollution control.
Congestion mitigation (particularly for highways and air linkages).
Meeting growth in transport demand.
Prioritisation of rail over other modes in funding allocations (UIC 2008; Givoni 2006;
TINA Vienna Transport Strategies 2008; Janic 2003; Gutiérrez 2001).

Picture: Proposed new Stuttgart Station. Courtesy DB

Criteria and frameworks for evaluating potential projects often take account of:
• Standardised evaluation criteria including travel time and generalised travel costs.
• The need for ‘alternative methods’ of evaluation that can capture broader economic,
social and environmental impacts.

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• Multi-criteria decision-making methods.
• Operational issues and functionality of a proposed HSR link.
• Benefits to both direct users and project participants, in addition to non-users (i.e.,
benefits that HSR provides to members of society whether they use the trains or not).
• Awareness of the need for higher level knowledge to plan, decide on, deliver and
operate HSR.
• Awareness that ‘technical productivity’ is an important attribute, i.e., that ‘lowest-cost
options’ are seldom the best or correct choice when working with and creating
advanced systems and networks.
• The ‘4-hour travel time limit’ for providing practical, convenient, and highly popular city-
to-city links (UIC 2008; Givoni 2006; TINA Vienna Transport Strategies 2008; Janic 2003;
Gutiérrez 2001).
Overall, shared funding models between a range of public sector stakeholders (European,
national, state and local) are seen as increasingly important.

Western Europe – challenges and barriers

The most significant single issue for European HSR seems to lie in integrating them across
various national platforms and specifications with a view to establishing a more internationally
oriented network. The second major challenge is with respect to the sheer volume of corridor
upgrade opportunities faced across European terrain, with underdeveloped corridors often
competing for attention with popular high-volume corridors. HSR in Europe is going from
strength to strength, and despite competition from other parts of the globe, the European
industry remains at the forefront of world HSR growth and technological development.

Emerging concepts in innovative finance

There has been only limited success so far in bringing private investment into European HSR
networks (Roll & Verbeke 1998). It has been clearly established in Europe that public sector
investment is the cornerstone of HSR development because of the broader social costs and
benefits that choices between air, highway and HSR development involve. Well-resourced and
independently managed national HSR operators in France and Italy are able to take on and
manage most infrastructure finance requirements themselves (Roll & Verbeke 1998). Private
capital is seen as more appropriate to the operational phases of HSR development, rather than
earlier planning or construction phases (Roll and Verbeke 1998).
It may be that specialised higher-level public sector finance and incentivisation strategies can
be a useful method of generating better outcomes and involvement from the private sector in
addition to ‘lower-tier’ public sector stakeholders (such as potential operators, state and local
governments) (Roll & Verbeke 1998). This might include a suite of measures. These include:
the creation of higher-level infrastructure financiers (as per the European Investment Bank or
EIB) providing both loans and loan guarantees to projects, tax concessions to project
participants both public and private, loans and loan guarantees for private construction
materials providers (i.e., for steel production and other important materials), and funding for
planning and feasibility studies.

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3 HSR in Japan
By Philip Laird, University of Wollongong15

Although various countries had developed experimental trains capable of HSR speeds before
the 1960s, Japan was the first to build and operate a regular HSR service. In 1964, the Tokaido
Shinkansen was introduced to connect the country’s two largest cities of Tokyo and Osaka.
While the previous express service took six hours and 40 minutes, the Shinkansen had reduced
the travel time to three hours and ten minutes by 1965. With the possibility of day trips
between the two major regions, patronage quickly grew, particularly among businesspeople.
Within Japan, strong national opinion demanded extension of the new HSR network. This led
to a National Shinkansen Rail Construction Law in 1970. As a result, Shinkansens to the North
and East of Tokyo were built in stages, starting from Omiya to Morioaka (the Tohoku
Shinkansen opening in June 1982), and from Omiya to Niigata (the Joetsu Shinkansen opening
in November 1982). Construction of these lines were met with problems, as noted by
Yamanouchi (2000), including the acquisition of land.

In operation
Under construction
In project


Akita Morioka


Takasaki Omiya


Nagasaki Yatsushiro


Source: UIC, 2008

By 1982, Japan National Railways (JNR), after facing many problems, including labour
management relations and large deficits, was in need of strong reform measures. In mid-1985,
plans had been submitted to the Diet for the break up and privatisation of JNR (Kasai 2003).

The author would like to thank Mr Mitsuji Okada, General Manager of the Sydney Office of the Central Japan
Railway Company (JR TOKAI), for kindly commenting on an earlier draft, together with the CRC for Rail Innovation
and the Faculty of Informatics of the University of Wollongong for their support. However, the responsibility for the
findings and views remains with the author.

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This was finally achieved, after many challenges, on 1 April 1987, when JNR was replaced in
part by six vertically integrated passenger railways. These were based on regions and were
initially state-owned companies. Three companies (JR East, JR Central and JR West) were based
on the main island of Honshu and inherited a massive debt of 14,500 billion yen. Three further
companies were island based, these being JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu.
The development of new Shinkansen lines from 1987 was in part undertaken by a framework
established during the 1970s. This resulted in a list of potential lines, whose approval was
subject to finance from both the central government and local government (Prefectures).
Construction was (and is) undertaken by the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and
Technology Agency, which, as infrastructure owner, also leases the facilities to the appropriate
JR Company. Only some of the proposals formulated during the 1970s have proceeded. In
simple terms, the economics of building new Shinkansen trains in areas of lower population
density was not as attractive as that for the areas now served by the Tokaido Shinkansen. The
poor economics of the Tohoku and Joetsu lines were made worse by the “unnecessarily
extravagant” equipment specified for use on these lines (Kasai 2003, p. 38).
Attention subsequently turned to a ‘Mini-Shinkansen’ option, which involved the conversion
of suitable narrow gauge track to standard gauge, and running Shinkansens of smaller size at
lower than mainline speed. The first Mini-Shinkansen to be placed in operation in 1992 was
the Yamagate Shinkansen, which operates from Fukushima to Yamagata (later extended to
Shinjo), coupled with the Tohuku Shinkansen. This was followed in 1997 by the Akita
Shinkansen, operating from Moriako to Akita, again coupled with the Tohoku Shinkansen.
In 1992, the new Nozomi trains, which take just 2.5 hours to travel between Tokyo and Osaka,
were introduced by JR Central. These had a maximum speed of 270 km/h. These services used
new Series 300 third-generation trains with advanced technologies, including improved power
electronics, regenerative braking, better aerodynamics, and a much reduced train weight. A
different development was the introduction in 1994 by JR East of double-decker Shinkansen
(second generation MAX) trains for commuting runs. In 1997, just in time for the 1998 Winter
Olympics, the Nagano Shinkansen opened as the first stage of the Hokuriku Shinkansen to
connect Tokyo and Osaka via Nagano.

The Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen

Black (1989, p. 21) notes that, when compared with competing transport modes, the Tokaido
Shinkansen not only succeeded in “changing world opinion on the future of high-speed inter-
city railways”, but also delivered “proof of superiority in terms of safety, energy consumption,
land productivity for transport infrastructure, and labour productivity”. The Tokaido-Sanyo
Shinkansen also demonstrates aspects of continuous improvement in the efforts of JR Central
and JR West to maintain and improve its market share. The initiatives taken since 1987 include
the following:
1. The introduction of new rolling stock, with attention paid not only to passenger safety
and comfort, but also to energy efficiency (assisted by lighter weight construction at
world’s best practice).
2. The introduction in 2006 of a new Automatic Train Control (ATC) system.
3. Ongoing emphasis on impeccable safety standards (to date no passengers have been
lost to collisions or derailments).

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4. Ongoing emphasis on punctuality, with an average delay from schedule of 0.5 minutes
(despite weather constraints).
5. Offering more services, including at peak hours. As of April 2008, about 300 regular
services from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka are offered each day (from 6:00 am to midnight—
about 150 each way). Train sets on this line have a capacity of about 1300.
6. Development of express reservation facilities that include ability to book seats through a
mobile phone, in addition to the use of automatic ticket gates.
7. Development of key technologies to give protection from natural disasters (including
earthquakes and heavy snow).
8. Attention to the environment, marketing and the public interest. This includes the
Climate Change and Transport Strategy.16
As a result of the ongoing efforts to give the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen a competitive
advantage, the trains, were able to win a market share of 80 per cent for travel between the
Tokyo and Osaka regions in 2007 (JR Central 2007, p. 24). For travel between the Tokyo and
Hiroshima regions, which involves a rail distance of 894.2 km (as shown in the timetable for
fare calculation purposes) and a fastest service time of 3 hrs 47 minutes, rail was winning 53
per cent of market share. However, between Tokyo and Fukuoka (Hakata), market share was
just 9 per cent, with trains taking 4hr 50 min over 1,174.9 km.
The revenue in financial year 2008 (12 months to 31 March) to JR Central from the Tokaido
Shinkansen (and its 151 million passengers) was a substantial 1085.6 billion yen. At an
exchange rate of $A1=80 yen, this is about $A13.5 billion. By way of comparison, 2007-08
revenue for the Qantas Group for domestic and international aviation was $A12.7 billion. The
strong financial performance of the Tokaido Shinkansen is in part due to the fact that a
population of 60 million live in proximity to the line. JR Central (2008) also note that, while the
market area served by the line is 23.7 per cent of Japan's land area, it held 58.8 per cent of
Japan's population in 2007. In addition, the Tokaido Shinkansen is now the busiest high-speed
line in the world (UIC 2008).
JR Central is actively pursuing a goal of construction by 2025 of a Tokaido Shinkansen Bypass
(Chuo Shinkansen), with a superconducting MagLev between the Tokyo and Nagoya areas. To
this end, after consultation with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation along
with extensive testing, JR Central in 2006 started a seven-year program for the upgrading
(renovation) and extension of the 18.4 km Yamanashi test line to 42.8 km. The funds to do so
(initially 355 billion yen) will be provided by JR Central.

Concluding remarks
Notable success factors associated with development of the Tokaido Shinkansen include:
1. The severe capacity constraints during the 1950s of the old narrow-gauge Tokaido line.
2. The ability of the then President of Japan National Railways Shinji Sogo to overcome
internal opposition and to gain support from the government for a new standard gauge

Specific information on these topics, and the ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency, are dealt with in a
subsequent CRC for Rail Innovation report “HSR: Quantification of non-commercial benefits”.

CRC for Rail Innovation Page 75

3. The high-level engineering expertise, led by Hideo Shima with the support of the Railway
Technical Research Institute, to push the boundaries of available technology.
4. Overcoming initial operational problems, working quickly to offer a world-class service,
and ongoing continuous improvement.
5. The exceptional safety record, where after 45 years of operation since 1964, and
carriage of 4.8 billion passengers, there has been no loss of life from collision or
The outstanding success of the New Tokaido Line led to extension of the Shinkansen to the
south west of Japan, and ambitious plans for a national HSR network. By 2014, some 50 years
after the start of Tokyo Shin-Osaka services on the New Tokaido Line, the main Shinkansen
network will have been extended from about 515 km to some 2550 km. This will include
extensions to in regional Honshu to Shin Aomori and from Hakata to Shin-Yatsushiro in the
island of Kyushu by 2011. Although the current Shinkansen network is not as extensive as was
envisaged during the 1970s, it is supplemented by good passenger train services on an
extensive narrow gauge network.

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4 HSR in China
By Philip Laird, University of Wollongong








Source: UIC (2008)

Source: UIC 2008

China is a relatively late starter to HSR operations. However, by 2015 (or even earlier), China
may have moved to having the world’s largest HSR network. This will be achieved by
developing several east–west and north–south Passenger Dedicated Lines (PDLs).
The first PDL was opened in October 2003 and was designed for speeds of approximately 200
km/h. This was a 405 km line between Qinhuangdao and Shenyang to the north and west of
Beijing. In 2008, a further four PDLs for operations at about 200 km/h were opened, with a
combined length of just under 1000 km. Similar lines are due to be opened from late 2009
through to 2012. As noted by Briginshaw (2009), China started to boost its rail investment in
2005. Funding of Yuan 162 billion in 2005 was followed by Yuan 284 billion in 2006, Yuan 328
billion in 2007, and approximately Yuan 350 billion (over $A50 billion) in 2008. Rail funding
received a further boost with a large stimulus package in late 2008.
A major advance for HSR in China was the opening in August 2008 of the 118 km Beijing–
Tianjin line as one of the first PDLs capable of speeds in excess of 300 km/h. The journey takes
a mere 30 minutes and the track for much of its length uses special slab track as opposed to
concrete sleepers and ballast. The trains, designated CRH (for China Rail-High Speed), are 8 car
sets in part made in China and are either series CRH2 (based on Kawasaki Heavy Industries E2
Series Shinkansen) or CRH3 (a derivative of Siemen’s Velaro). The Beijing South Railway Station
from which this service operates has an airline-type terminal security screening process that

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passengers clear before entering the waiting room. The main level has 24 tracks, while there
are two levels for metros beneath.
Much attention is now being applied to construction of the 1,318 km Beijing–Shanghai HSR
PDL. Work officially started in April 2008 with an anticipated cost of some Yuan 221 billion
(Briginshaw 2009). This PDL has been claimed by China's Ministry of Railways to be the world’s
largest HSR project and, when complete, will allow a journey time of 5 hours compared with
the current 10 hours.
China also has a MagLev train operating in Shanghai from Pudong International Airport to a
station on a Metro line (Longyang Road Station, Line 2). While capable of greater speeds
during off-peak periods, the Shanghai MagLev generally operates at approximately 300 km/h
and covers the 30 km journey in just under 8 minutes.

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5 HSR in the United States
By Chris Hale, Centre of Transport Strategy, University of Queensland



Portland Minneapolis

Eugene Buffalo Portland

Milwaukee Detroit EMPIRE
Chicago Cleveland
New York
NETWORK Pittsburgh
Sacramento Cincinnati NORTHEAST
Kansas C. Washington CORRIDOR
St Louis Louisville
Tulsa Raleigh
Oklahomma C. Little Rock
SOUTH CENTRAL Birmingham Columbia
Los Angeles
S. Diego
COAST Mobile
Austin Jacksonville

S. Antonio New Orleans Orlando


Source: Barrón de Angoiti (Australian Transport Council 2006 Book 1, p. 21)

The following brief overview of HSR in the United States is based on a review of recent
literature and initiatives, in addition to direct discussion with California High Speed Rail
Authority (CAHSR) staff, and observational research in the form of recent travel on the Acela
service between Boston and Washington DC via New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Overview of the current status of HSR in the United States

HSR in the United States is currently at a delicate, but optimistic stage. Interurban rail systems
have traditionally received scant attention and funding from either State or Federal
Government. A far higher priority has been placed on competing modes such as highways and
short-haul air travel. At the same time, public transport advocates themselves have regarded
urban and metropolitan transit funding and development as a higher priority than interurban
services. In existing rail corridors between major U.S. cities, freight transport has also
traditionally been prioritised in both funding and path-allocation terms.
The only major service that currently approaches genuine high performance parameters is the
Amtrak Acela, which runs in the heavily-populated and highly-built-up Northeast Corridor.
Elsewhere, a range of locations have sought to plan or scope out HSR options, but have
traditionally struggled to reconcile competing visions for incremental high performance
upgrades (perhaps seeking to attain relatively modest cruising speeds of less than 150 km/h),
versus new HSR corridors running on optimised alignments, separated from mixed rail traffic
and travelling at genuine high-speed performance levels in the realm of 250 km/h and above
(de Cerreño et al. 2005). Corridors and locations that have pursued some form of HSR concept,
but either struggled with the ‘competing visions’ phenomenon, and/or failed to translate

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reasonably clear-cut HSR opportunities into implementation phases include: Florida, the Pacific
Northwest, the Midwest, and, to a lesser extent, the Gulf Coast (de Cerreño et al. 2005).
Overall, the independent observer might suggest that the United States is the ‘land of
opportunity’ for HSR, but equally a nation in which the technology has failed to take hold for a
range of reasons, some understandable, others frustrating and at times difficult to understand.
As a highly populous nation with considerable economic strength and fond memories of an
earlier period of history in which ‘rail was king’ (U.S. Department of Transport 2009), the
United States offers an important case study in the manner in which institutional, political and
industry-based shortcomings can derail HSR initiatives that seem to offer clear economic,
social, environmental and infrastructure-related opportunities.
Recently, a ‘new wind of optimism’ has re-energised HSR in the United States, with Californian
voters deciding in November 2008 to back a bond measure that would appear to finance
approximately 30 percent of the overall estimated project costs for the California HSR project
linking Northern California locations centred on the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento
with Southern California destinations in and around Los Angeles and San Diego. The ‘new wind
of optimism’ is based on the scope and vision of the California project, its early success
through the bond measure, and the groundswell of industry momentum that current and
upcoming project planning and engineering work is generating. In addition, a genuine effort
has been made on behalf of the Obama administration to make positive noises about HSR
futures in the context of transformational change and environmentally friendly industry
development, as well as providing real and significant boosts to HSR funding (U.S. Department
of Transport 2009).
The dual effects of CAHSR and the new initiatives of the Obama administration have led to
some previously-shelved HSR plans in other locations being dusted off (U.S. Department of
Transport 2009). The rail engineering industry has initiated a new round of promotion
(including advertising at major rail stations) with a view in the longer-run towards translating
“new confidence” into “new projects in implementation phases” (U.S. Department of
Transport 2009). While many are yet to be convinced that HSR is back in earnest, the United
States remains the great future hope of the HSR industry alongside China (whose HSR project
commitments are currently larger and more tangible).

The Amtrak Acela Express service

The Amtrak Acela has been running reasonably successfully since 2000. Over time, it seems
that travellers are gradually becoming aware of the competitive nature of the service when
compared to short-haul air or long-distance car travel on congested highways in the same
corridor, and between the main cities in-service. The Acela Express service begins (when
travelling from South to North) at Washington, DC’s Union Station and stops at key
destinations such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Wilmington, a number of stations in New Jersey
within the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, New York Penn Station (in midtown
Manhattan), as well as locations in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the
service terminus at Boston. The Acela therefore serves one of the most densely-populated and
economically important mega-regions in the world.
The Acela service is of an incremental HSR nature and has to contend with travelling through
intensely built-up areas and highly-used rail corridors. In a sense, the Acela is a service that is
doomed to succeed because its potential passenger market is so large and well financed, and
because highway and air travel alternatives are already congested, and often inherently

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inconvenient. As more and more travellers try the Acela, repeat patronage and overall
numbers will grow substantially over time.
The incremental model of the Acela includes
ongoing corridor improvements and upgrades by
Amtrak against a context of an old and low-tech rail
system that is slowly beginning to attract more
funds and a greater level of interest and sympathy
from transport stakeholders, both regional and
national. It also includes direct competition from
other services, some run by Amtrak, that are not
‘premium express’, but which run the same
corridor more frequently at slightly slower speeds,
and with more frequent stopping intervals and a
standardised discount of $20 or more per ticket compared Amtrak
to the Acela train at Boston. C. Hale

New initiatives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
The ARRA included an initial funding tranche of US$8 billion for HSR initiatives (U.S.
Department of Transport 2009, p. 11) and follow-up commitments of US$1 billion per year
under a proposed “high-speed rail grant system”. The funding approach offers finance for
three eligible activities: ready-to-go projects, corridor improvement programs, and planning

The California High Speed Rail Authority (CAHSR)

“The high-speed train system … will be a state-of-the-art, proven, world-class technology that
significantly increases the state’s transportation capacity” (CAHSR 2008, p. 6).
CAHSR aims to guides the planning and implementation of California’s ambitious initiative to
link Southern and Northern California locations by means of HSR. With head offices in
Sacramento, CAHSR, as of August 2009, has chosen preferred route options and delivered a
significant report outlining the rationale behind the HSR proposal, in addition to key criteria
and a business plan. Some level of environmental impact assessment work has been delivered,
together with environmental guidelines for key corridors. Regional economic studies and
ridership forecasts have also been delivered, while the organisation itself seems to be in a
ramp-up phase after the successful November 2008 bond measure vote.
During a June 2009 interview/discussion in Sacramento with the author of this section, Dan
Leavitt, a deputy director with CAHSR, nominated the following points in response to
questions and discussion about potential HSR opportunities in Australia:
The California project has been able to progress to a reasonably advanced stage without
having all funding requirements 100 percent in place. In fact, this may be a prerequisite
of successfully launching HSR: there can be no move toward full implementation
without initial early-stage efforts undertaken under a limited budget.
11 years of planning, research and communication activity preceded the successful 2008
bond vote; this implies that most HSR efforts will require 10 years from initial start
through to delivery phases.

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A snowballing of funding and resources for Californian HSR has eventuated off the back
of low-budget early-stage efforts.
At the beginning of Californian research efforts, the then Australian VFT program was
seen as a guiding influence. But the CAHSR view is that Australia stalled on HSR, while
Californian efforts continued apace.
Genuine HSR programs need a timeline to guide the work.
CAHSR proposals are couched in terms of a “better California” and have benefited from
a recent but notable “appetite for paradigm shifts” in transport approaches.

CAHSR: Key criteria for planning and implementation

Of major interest for Australian HSR efforts are the planning and implementation criteria used
by CAHSR in its activities and documents. Initial HSR train performance criteria included the
categories of system design criteria, system capabilities, system capacity, and level of service
(CAHSR 2008a). In terms of the balance between the use of existing versus new corridors,
CAHSR (2008a, p. 9) determined that “Potential shared-use corridors would be limited to
sections of the state-wide system with extensive urban constraints”. In other words, new
corridors would be built in open country to deliver better point-to-point speeds. In built-up
areas, the costs of land, limitations of space and other factors mean that shared-use with other
rail is generally presupposed. CAHSR (2008b, p. 1) also determined that new infrastructure
needed to integrate with urban transit networks for ease of use and maximisation of ridership
in both systems. Transit-oriented development (TOD) is to be encouraged at key stations, and
forms a component of the overall business case, while HSR stations themselves are projected
to be significant multi-modal transportation hubs.
The project seeks a paradigm shift in travel away from highways and air, and project benefits
are calculated as a function of mode-related positives:
“To serve the same number of travelers as the high-speed train system was projected to carry
by 2020, California would have to build nearly 3,000 lane-miles of freeway, plus five new
airport runways and 90 departure gates at a cost of two to three times more than the High-
Speed Train Alternative. The program EIR/EIS concluded that high-speed trains can decrease
dependency on foreign oil, preserve energy, decrease air pollutants and discourage sprawl,
while having less impact on the natural environment than expanding highways and airports”
(CAHSR 2008c, p. 1).
In evaluating station location options (and therefore corridors), CAHSR (2008c, p. 1) nominated
the following characteristics as important: alignment, length, capital cost, travel time,
ridership, constructability and operational issues. Objectives included: maximising ridership
and revenues, maximising accessibility and connectivity, and maximising land-use and
development compatibility.
Support at a local level is a component of the business case. This translates into a need for
effective involvement and appropriate contributions by local governments where stations will
be located, in addition to support from localised transit agencies in delivering stations and
facilitating integration with urban transit systems. The demand for “local support” includes an
assumption of cost-sharing by local stakeholders for infrastructure such as stations (CAHSR
2008c, p. 6). Project financial resources of some US$33.6 billion are predicated on $12–16
billion in federal grants, $9 billion in state funds, $6.5–7.5 billion in PPPs and $2–3 billion of
“local funding assistance and cost sharing” (CAHSR 2008c, p. 11).

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6 HSR in Canada
By Philip Laird, University of Wollongong


Vancouver Calgary


Source: UIC, 2008

There are two potential HSR corridors within Canada that have received much attention from
the Canadian Federal Government over the years:
The Windsor–Toronto–Montreal–Quebec City corridor (about 1150 km) within Canada’s
two most populated provinces Ontario and Quebec (respective populations of about 13
million and 7.8 million17).
The Calgary–Edmonton corridor (some 260 km) within the Province of Alberta
(population 3.6 million).
HSR proposals for both corridors are long standing. It is too early to speculate on whether one
will be built during the next decade or, if so, which one will be constructed. The longer corridor
in Eastern Canada is supported by a larger population. The Alberta one, if constructed, would
reflect the wealth of the province.

Ontario and Quebec

Canada’s endeavours to develop an HSR network go back to the 1960s, when Canadian
National Railways (CNR) developed a Turbo Train to service the busy Toronto–Montreal
corridor. The first revenue train was launched in December 1968. As a bad omen, it collided
with a truck on a level crossing. Operations over the years has seen the service and speed

With regard to population, at the end of 2008, =Canada had a population of 33.5 million. Note that Eastern
Australia (Victoria, NSW and Queensland) had a population of 16.75 million people, out of a total population of
22.64 m.

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compromised. Subsequent attempts to introduce an HSR service on the Windsor–Toronto–
Montreal–Quebec City corridor did not succeed, and further studies have continued over the
years, including during the 1990s.
In January 2008, the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec committed $2 million towards a study to
revive earlier old plans to run high-speed trains between Windsor and Quebec City via Toronto
and Montreal. Noting that high-speed rail studies were done in 1995, the two premiers
commented that there was a need for a study to take into account the different context of a
potential modern HSR service. These included:
Greater congestion on roads.
Urgency for reducing carbon emissions.
Advances in technology.
On 14 August 2008, tenders closed for updated feasibility study for a HSR service in the
Quebec–Windsor corridor. A study was subsequently commissioned by the Ministère des
Transports du Québec, in cooperation with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and a
federal agency, Transport Canada. The main objectives of the updated study were as follows:
To review past studies with respect to changes that would affect the conclusions and
recommendations made at the time of the study.
To identify which actions, updates, or additional studies are required, and carry them
To issue recommendations pertaining to the feasibility and relevance of issuing a
Request for Interest involving the execution of subsequent studies based on a PPP or
AFP approach.
A $3 million contract was then awarded to the EcoTrain Consortium to update feasibility
studies for a high-speed rail line in the Quebec City–Windsor corridor. The Dessau/MMM
Group/KPMG/Wilbur Smith and Associates/Deutsche Bahn International consortium will study
HSR technology and route options, transportation demand forecasts, development and
operating costs, environmental and social impacts, financial and economic analyses,
institutional framework of foreign HSR experiences, implementation scenarios, and impacts on
other transportation modes. The consortium will also provide recommendations for a future
action plan. The study will enable the governments to better understand the scope of the
proposed project, and update data from previous studies.

In a similar way to Ontario and Quebec, there have been many studies since the 1970s to
investigate an HSR service between Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta. These include a detailed
Provincial Government study of the feasibility of a high-speed passenger train service between
Calgary and Edmonton. By the mid 1980s, a study indicated that a Calgary–Edmonton high-
speed link would not make enough money to cover a then estimated $884-million cost of
building the line. It concluded that the cities are too small to generate the revenue to pay for
construction. Via Rail opted to continue existing rail service using CPR tracks and older diesel
multiple units for a Dayliner service. However, partly on account of ongoing losses and a large
number of level crossings, this service ceased in 1985.

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More HSR studies followed. According to the Calgary Herald for 3 January 1985, “Inter-city rail
link closer to reality”, an independent review panel (Chairman David Dover, then also chair of
the Calgary Transportation Authority) was appointed to review a proposal with journeys taking
one hour and 40 minutes using trains moving at just under 300 km/h. It did not proceed. The
study was updated in 1995.
The next major study was commissioned in 2004 by the Provincial Government. This was a
“Calgary-Edmonton High Speed Rail Pre-Feasibility Study” undertaken by the Van Horne
Institute affiliated with the University of Calgary18. From the Executive Summary of the 2004
study, the main conclusions were that:
HSR would bring significant benefits to the Calgary–Edmonton corridor and Alberta as a
whole, including between $3.7 and $6.1 billion in benefits to users, in jobs and
employment income and additional tax revenues for Alberta and the Federal
Government, in addition to significant qualitative and other benefits in support of
Alberta’s future economic growth.
Sufficient demand exists today to support an HSR service offering about two hours or
less travel time between Calgary and Edmonton.
The two route/technology alternatives investigated are technically feasible to construct
and are able to offer a travel time of two hours or less (required by prospective riders).
Projected ridership and revenues are able to cover the system’s operating costs and,
depending on the route/technology chosen, repay all or most of the system’s capital
cost within 30 years.
The 2004 study was followed up with a further Provincial Government study and a Bill (19) to
facilitate land acquisition for transportation and other public interest project. A corridor has
been reserved to provide access to near the centre of the City of Calgary for any high-speed
train. In July 2008, the Government of Alberta released two reports produced by
Transportation Economics and Management Systems (TEMS). These are as follows:
1. Economic benefits for development of HSR service in the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor (78
2. Market assessment of HSR in Calgary–Edmonton corridor (124 pages).
It remains to be seen if the Government of Alberta will take an HSR proposal any further.

See for a copy of their 2004 report Calgary/Edmonton High Speed Rail: An
Integrated Economic Region.

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7 Overview of ATC transport initiative assessment framework
Phase Inputs Process/Analysis Outputs
1. Objective Societal and whole Govt decision making Transport system objectives.
setting of govt objectives. processes.
Whole of govt
strategic plans.
Feedback from
other phases.
2. Policy choices Phase 1 outputs. Options analysis. High-level transport policy
Feedback from Policy studies. decisions.
other phases. Demand analysis. Transport system performance
Infrastructure studies. indicators and targets.
Integrated land use/
transport planning.
3. System Phase 2 outputs. Options analysis. Defined multimodal network.
planning Feedback from Network assessments Multimodal network
other parties. (e.g., deficiency analyses, objectives, KPIs and targets.
economic assessments). Multimodal network
Literature reviews. strategies.
Multi-modal corridor/ Definition of corridors/ areas.
area studies. Objectives, KPIs and targets
Demand analysis. for each corridor area.
Scenario analysis. Multimodal corridor/area
Definition of route/links.
Route/link objectives, KPIs
and targets.
Route/link plans.
4. Identification Phase 3 outputs. Initiatives from top-down List of identified initiatives (e.g.,
of initiatives Feedback from strategic planning. capital investment – new or
other phases. Other sources (other upgraded infrastructure).
agencies, private sectors,
political direction).
5. Appraisal and Phase 4 outputs. Options analysis. Initiative appraisal reports.
Business Case Feedback from Initiative appraisal: Business Case for each
other phases. Strategic Merit Test, rapid initiative.
appraisal, detailed
appraisal (Benefit-Cost-
Analysis and Appraisal
Summary Table).
6. Prioritisation Phase 5 outputs. Determination of short- Published forward program (3–
and program Feedback from run investment priorities. 5 yrs).
development other phases. Prioritisation of Firm initiatives (1–2 yrs).
initiatives. Indicative initiatives (3–5 yrs).
Approval of program.
7. Program Phase 6 outputs. Detailed initiative Delivered initiatives.
delivery Feedback from planning/ design. Actual system performance.
other phases. Budget management.
Initiative management.
Selection of delivery

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8. Performance Phase 7 outputs. Post-completion initiative Feedback to improve transport
review evaluation. system performance.
Program audit. Proposed changes to
Outcome performance Framework.
review. Lessons for the future.
Framework review.

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8 Relief Map of NSW

URL (accessed 11 January 2010)

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9 Relief Map of Victoria

URL (accessed 11 January 2010)

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10 Vertical Profile of a Likely Very HSR Corridor between Sydney and Brisbane

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11 Vertical Profile of a Likely HSR Corridor between Sydney and Melbourne

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12 Vertical Profile of the AVE Route between Seville and Madrid

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