In Transport

Victor P Taffa

As our population increases and ages the expansion of all heavy railway networks throughout Australia is essential in order to meet these growing pressures over the next few decades.

In a series of articles The Southern Thunderer investigates a number of issues that spells out why Governments of all persuasions must meet the challenges ahead and instead of deferring or abandoning railway expansion realise the positive impact that this will have on our economy and society as a whole.

The plans for expansion of our railways were included in the Detailed Overview Report as written by myself and distributed in the first instance in January 2001. On 26 February 2009 all of the plans became accessible via the internet. The website address is

The Detailed Overview Report will be used as a template for individual websites of Railway expansion that will be progressively launched for every State, Territory and a National focus.

Many of the plans for Sydney are simply a revival of routes laid out by John Bradfield during the 1920’s and there are routes that were drawn up during the 1910’s. The final article focuses on HIGH SPEED RAIL.


High Speed Rail:

Reconstruction and realignment of existing railway lines will enable high speed trains to operate at speeds of 450 km/h.

High Speed Rail travel will not only improve existing service and reliability but encourage business commuters to use rail. Currently passengers who use the airlines are required to take off personal effects such as shoes when going through security screening at airports.

Despite worldwide terrorism concerns and events rail travel does not have that same security concern. Enforcing the same security demands on rail passengers as those for airline passengers would effectively grind railways to a halt.

High Speed Rail travel is very enjoyable and has the benefit of taking passengers into the heart of the central business district. This is in contrast to airlines where airports are located many kilometres outside of a central business district.

High Speed Rail Trains such as the Japanese ‘bullet’ train that operates at 300 km/h or the ‘tilt’ train in Queensland are very successful and popular.

Existing rail corridors will be duplicated and electrified.

High Speed Rail can operate at speeds of 450 km/h for the following routes:

  • Sydney-Melbourne CBD in 4 hours.
  • Sydney-Brisbane CBD in 4 hours.
  • Sydney-Adelaide CBD in 6 hours.
  • Sydney-Perth CBD in 24 hours.
  • Sydney-Canberra CBD in 1½ hours.
  • Sydney-Newcastle CBD in 1½ hours.
  • Sydney- Wollongong CBD in 1½ hours.
  • Sydney-Alice Springs CBD in 3 hours.
  • Sydney-Darwin CBD in 6 hours.
  • Sydney-Broken Hill CBD in 2 hours.
  • Sydney-Mt Isa CBD in 4 hours.


These times are factored from Sydney as a departure point. High speed services would also operate to and from other destinations.

Tourists normally like to see what a large city has to offer. Sydney is a magnet for tourists and so high speed rail must operate to the Central Business District.

Interstate trains currently serve Keswick rather than Adelaide and Palmerston rather than Darwin. The travel times listed for Adelaide and Darwin include new and/or upgraded railway stations.

The effect of trains completing their journeys to Keswick and Palmerston is the equivalent of interstate trains terminating at Redfern instead of Sydney Central station.

The same argument also applies for a second Sydney Airport location. Newcastle has often been mentioned however tourists and business travellers who want to come to Sydney find the proximity of Kingsford Smith Airport to the Sydney CBD is an asset that few major cities around the world can boast.

High speed rail travel from Sydney-Perth would bridge the East-West divide that is amongst the widest in the world.

The Trans-Continental Railway was opened in 1917 and in 2010 is still a single track line. The Indian-Pacific traverses the continent in three days and has one of the longest straight stretches of track in the world.

As this is one of the great railway journeys the current service is restricted in operating capacity when a breakdown occurs. This does occur and is why the line requires duplication. In addition to duplication there should also be twin siding tracks to allow a high speed electric train to span Australia in 24 hours.

The benefits of high speed trains are obvious. In order for this to occur the existing lines require duplication, electrification and the elimination of many windy sections of track.

Australia is a vast continent. The ‘tyranny of distance’ can be overcome and ensure that all the people living throughout regional and rural Australia can access the benefits of the large cities and vice versa.

Tasmania Rail Ferry:

Currently a ferry operates between Victoria and Tasmania. During holiday periods the ferry has a high demand for patronage and bookings are required well in advance of travel.

A Rail Ferry would operate in the same way as the existing service. Rail ferry services could utilise the same facilities as the car ferry wharf however a new wharf near to Williamstown will enable trains to serve an upgraded Williamstown Line. Alternatively existing wharve facilities could be used.

Normal trains would operate and a certain length of train would board the ferry on rails. At Devonport the trains would leave the ferry and join with normal Tasmania rail services.

Tasmania has not had normal passenger services since 1978. The Tasmania Railways were bought by Australian National Rail and have since been bought back by the Tasmanian Government.

Rail ferries are not new in Australia. During the golden era of the Sydney Tramways, tramcars left the Neutral Bay lines and joined the Manly system via a tram ferry. Tramcars boarded the ferry and were taken across the Spit at Middle Harbour.

Railway line construction does not remove the need to maintain or upgrade roads. However given the large expansion of residential areas over many decades without a railway line it is quite apparent that there is a bias against the construction of railway lines.

The difference between the cost of construction of roads and railway lines is marginal.


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