In Transport

State Rail Networks To Provide The Backbone For High Speed Rail Lines

Victor P Taffa

The world’s largest island continent has very good rail networks that serve each Capital City. What is missing is a High Speed Rail Service and how this service will fit in with these existing networks. Building Australia’s economy is vital to employment growth.

High Speed Rail aka Japan’s Bullet Train will improve the Rail, Steel and Manufacturing Industries as all rail tracks and railway rollingstock will be built in Australia from scratch. Australia is not the world’s economic doormat and High Speed Rail will restore the financial position of the nation to one of growth.

  • The Colony of Victoria began a Public Passenger Railway from Melbourne to Port Melbourne in September 1854.
  • The Colony of New South Wales began a Public Passenger Railway from Sydney to Parramatta in September 1855 and the Newcastle Line opened in March 1857.
  • The Colony of South Australia began a Public Passenger Railway from Adelaide to Port Adelaide in April 1856.
  • The Colony of Queensland began a Public Passenger Railway from Ipswich to Grandchester in 1865.
  • The Colony of Tasmania began a Public Passenger Railway from Deloraine to Launceston on 10 February 1871.
  • The Colony of Western Australia began a Public Passenger Railway from Geraldton to Northampton in 1879.


Privately operated railways began before these dates however in many instances the railways went broke and so the Government took control of the systems.

Different Colonies had different Rail Gauges and in some instances there were three different Rail Gauges being used in Tasmania at the one time.

The Colonies formed a Federation of States on 1 January 1901 and by 1962 the Sydney-Melbourne Standard Gauge Line was opened by Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies.


Trans-Continental Railway:

The promise of a Trans-Continental Railway that traversed the Nullabor Plains was an inducement to Western Australia to join the Federation in 1901. In 1907 Legislation was passed allowing for a route to be surveyed. The survey was completed in 1909 for a Standard Gauge line to be constructed from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie via Tarcoola. Commonwealth Railways was established and work began on the line in September 1912 in Port Augusta. Work also commenced in Kalgoorlie and the two sections were joined on 17 October 1917. The line became Standard Gauge in 1970. The Trans-Continental Railway has one of the longest straight sections of railway in the world.

The Railway Line from Adelaide to Darwin commenced construction on 18 January 1878 and was eventually completed on 17 September 2003 by Prime Minister John Howard. In reality trains terminate at Palmerston some 30 Km from Darwin CBD.


Spit Tram Ferry On Middle Harbour Sydney New South Wales

Tram Ferry On Middle Harbour Sydney New South Wales











Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC):

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) was established in 1998 by the Federal Government to manage much of the Interstate Rail Network.

The Rudd Government has announced that if re-elected they will establish a High Speed Rail Authority.

Considering the fact that Six Colonial/State Governments have operated Rail Services since 1854 it would seem logical that for Australia to build and operate High Speed Rail Services that the Commonwealth Government work with State Governments to achieve this goal.

The ARTC does not operate any train services but was established to provide and maintain Rail Lines in Five States. When people talk of Australia being over-governed and to abolish State Governments why on earth isn’t the ARTC being brought in to co-ordinate the introduction of High Speed Rail Lines?

The ARTC should be working closely with State Governments to deliver High Speed Rail for Australia. Where High Speed Rail corridors proceed through Metropolitan areas after departing Capital City Stations instead of building new tunnels or independent corridors, existing Metropolitan Rail Corridors should be quadrupled. This approach will save Billions of Dollars and Years and will deliver High Speed Rail sooner for all Australians.

For example the existing Sydney-Melbourne Rail Corridor can be quadrupled for High Speed Rail, existing XPT and Freight Train movements. All four tracks would be electrified. High Speed Rail rolling stock would be built from scratch in Australia and all track manufactured by a renewed Australian Steel Industry.

The Howard Liberal Government introduced the ARTC yet the Rudd Labor Government wants to establish the High Speed Rail Authority just to build Railway Lines. Furthermore tenders to operate a High Speed Rail Service or Services would need to be announced and considered by a Federal Government. A High Speed Rail Authority could operate as a Division of ARTC in the management of the tenders for High Speed Rail Services.

Instead of spending $52 Million to establish a separate High Speed Rail Authority given the history of Railway Development in Australia it would seem to be more logical that a High Speed Rail Authority would be a Division of ARTC and save $52 Million.

The Rudd and Gillard Governments have been working closely with the Victoria Government to build the Regional Rail Line that will separate Regional Trains from Metropolitan Trains on the Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat Lines. This example is how the Federal Government should work in with State Rail Networks when building High Speed Rail.




Rail And Truck Ferry

Rail And Truck Ferry

















High Speed Rail Operations:

Conventional thinking on High Speed Rail is that it will only operate down the East Coast of Australia. Given the fact that Australia has only 23 Million people and is the largest island continent in the world for High Speed Rail to be really effective in Australia it has to operate to every Capital City including Hobart via a Rail Ferry.

Japan and Europe have large, densely populated cities near to each other. On the other hand the Sydney-Melbourne Air Route ranks amongst the Top 5 busiest in the world. What works for Japan and Europe will work for Australia in its own relative way.

Conventional thinking on High Speed Rail in Australia is that the Sydney-Melbourne route must be built first. Yet the easiest route to build is the Sydney-Perth route because of the flat nature of the Nullabor Plains. The cost of building High Speed Rail from Sydney-Perth would be cheaper than building the Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane routes. With High Speed Rail the Sydney-Perth Line would be duplicated and also additional sidings installed to facilitate Freight and Indian Pacific Train movements.




Rail Ferry

Rail Ferry















Rail Ferry Across Bass Strait:

The Rail Ferry across Bass Strait would depart from the Williamstown Line in Victoria and also in Devonport, Tasmania. Rail Ferries can be rail only or capable of holding trains and trucks. A Rail only Ferry is preferable in order to separate rail and truck movements particularly for loadings in Williamstown, Victoria. The existing Car Ferry across Bass Strait would remain in operation.

Blue Mountains:

The terrain of the Great Dividing Range and Blue Mountains in New South Wales impacts on the cost of construction quite significantly as opposed to the Nullabor Plains.

A new rail line would extend the Richmond Line to Mount Victoria. The Richmond Line would be completely duplicated. This new line will allow for straight running services around the Blue Mountains. The Indian Pacific would also use this new route.

Rail Gauges:

Given the history of different Rail Gauges in Tasmania the best solution for High Speed Rail Gauges for all Mainland Cities is to be Standard Gauge. The High Speed Rail Gauge from Melbourne (Including a Rail Ferry) to Hobart is Broad Gauge. To mix Broad Gauge with Narrow Gauge is quite easy. The third Broad Gauge Rail is laid alongside the outside Narrow Gauge Rail and this then allows for Broad Gauge High Speed Rail and Broad Gauge Freight trains to operate. Broad Gauge Freight trains can then easily operate between South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.




Rail Ferry

Rail Ferry












Northern Territory Statehood:

Along with Statehood for The Northern Territory in the newly named State of Northern Australia a new Railway Station would be built for the CBD of Darwin. Railway Lines from a new Darwin Station would serve Darwin’s Metropolitan area along with High Speed Rail connections to Alice Springs, Adelaide CBD, Perth and Brisbane.

In 1984 Interstate trains were made to terminate at Keswick instead of Adelaide. As a Casino was being built the right decision was made for the times. With the commencement of High Speed Rail Adelaide’s existing Platforms will have to be lengthened to accommodate High Speed Rail and Interstate trains.

High Speed Rail is achievable within our lifetime. It does not require new layers of bureaucracy that will add costs, years and arguments with State Governments to deliver.

High Speed Rail is a Nation Building project that will restore the Rail, Steel and Manufacturing Industries to prominence.

High Speed Rail will boost employment in the short term and long term.

High Speed Rail will improve existing Metropolitan Rail Networks and bring Electrification to new areas.

High Speed Rail will introduce a Rail Ferry to Tasmania and restore passenger rail services to Tasmania.



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