High-speed rail plan: Brisbane to Gold Coast in 21 minutes
High-speed trains are already operating in countries like China. Photo: AP
A proposal for high-speed trains would see the commute between Brisbane and the Gold Coast slashed to just 21 minutes, but the reality could be some time off.
A future Very Fast Train service, travelling at 350km/h, would also reduce the commute to the Sunshine Coast by three quarters, from 128 minutes to just 31 minutes. It would use technology currently being embraced in Europe.
However, unless a federal government study due in July 2011 prioritises the idea, the concept was still 30 to 40 years away.
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon, in Brisbane yesterday for talks with state and local infrastructure authorities, said introducing high-speed rail in eastern Australia in stages was the best way forward.
"Cooroy to Brisbane, or Brisbane to the Gold Coast would be the most sensible way to introduce it," he said.
"You need to ascertain, once and for all whether high speed rail is going to have a future in Australia and where it is going to run."
The implications of an east coast High Speed Rail system to southeast Queensland were outlined in the East Coast High Capacity Infrastructure Corridors report, prepared by consultants AECOM for IPA.
The report found that the introduction of a train running at 160 km/h from Cooroy - inland from Noosa - to Brisbane's CBD would lure commuters, boosting rail travel from 6 to 35 per cent of trips.
The faster the train, the more likely commuters would be to use it - at 350 km/h, the train would likely attract 84 per cent of commuters, while just 12 per cent would make the trip in a car.
On the Gold Coast it would have a similar impact on car traffic. Today, 93 per cent of journeys between the Gold Coast and Brisbane are done by car, taking advantage of the widened Pacific Motorway. Just seven per cent of trips are by rail.
However a train travelling at 350 km/h would attract 27 per cent of commuters.
The study shows there are clear commuter advantages in southeast Queensland for VFTs, despite high-speed rail requiring separate lines that could not connect to existing lines.
The east coast HSR project would cost about $80 billion, with AECOM's report showing acquiring the land corridor from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast would cost about $13.7 billion.
Delaying the land purchase would push the property price cost to $57 billion by 2030.
Mr Lyon said the time should be spent carefully defining where the HSR should be built.
"No-one is saying that we should have a high speed rail network down the east coast of Australia now," he said.
However, he said the route should be identified and preserved. A route allowing "straight corridors" meant trains could travel up to 350 km/h.
"At that speed high speed rail is competitive with air travel because it goes straight, city to city," Mr Lyon said.
He said HSR led to regional development, allowing important infrastructure to cater for population growth.
"The experience in Europe shows extensive regional development opportunities," Mr Lyon said.
France, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Britain, Portugal and China are just a few of the countries with high-speed rail.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, who announced a $20 million study into HSR during the federal election campaign, said the IPA/AECOM study was a worthwhile start.
"But we have a much more detailed report coming as a result of our election commitment – $20 million - to look in great detail at all of the challenges and to look at, importantly, the economics and financing of any high speed rail proposal," he said.
The first stage of the report is due July 2011 and to be finalised late in 2011.
This week, brisbanetimes.com.au has shown Brisbane road traffic peak hour is creeping increasingly earlier as people struggle to get to work.
Engineers Australia this week gave Queensland a C- for its progress on roads, saying building and maintenance was not keeping up with demand.