AUSTRALIA: The Australian Railway Association has published a report commissioned from Arup which sets out a three-step plan to provide faster, more reliable and more frequent rail services through upgrades to the existing network and the creation of dedicated fast lines.
The Faster Rail Report considers three speed bands: fast rail (160-200 km/h), faster rail (200-250 km/h) and high speed rail (>250 km/h). It recommends that Australia should:
- immediately address regional rail deficiencies by investing in existing infrastructure to increase train speeds, frequencies and reliability;
- plan and deliver faster or fast rail over the next five to 10 years to bring the regional rail network up to global standards and be competitive with road transport;
- prepare for high speed rail in the long term to make rail competitive with air travel, and start acquiring land now.
The report makes six recommendations for the successful implementation of faster rail.
1. Develop a long-term national vision:
- widen the faster rail programme to commence upgrading of the regional network;
- develop a national rail network plan;
- establish stakeholder and community consultation programmes to inform the plan and build support.
2. Support better social and economic outcomes for all regions:
- update regional land use and economic plans, and confirm the unique opportunities for each town along faster rail corridors;
- identify complementary measures to achieve better social and economic outcomes for regional areas;
- engage with the community, businesses to develop long term visions for regional centres.
3. Establish a policy framework for consistent delivery of faster rail:
- work with Infrastructure Australia to develop a ‘place-based’ business case and appraisal framework that accounts for wider social and economic benefits;
- develop a national transport network plan that informs the national population and settlement strategy;
- establish a programme to learn from past experiences by applying post-opening project evaluation techniques.
4. Establish a governance framework to deliver fast rail:
- establish a shared governance model through mega-region deals;
- consider models that provide transport authorities with the ability to develop station precincts;
- identify clear responsibilities for authorities to realise the benefits of faster rail;
5. Develop a co-ordinated funding approach:
- ensure three tiers of government work together to hypothecate funding for faster rail;
- consider a range of funding mechanisms;
- develop an investment strategy for the national rail plan.
6. Stage and target investment in rail:
- immediately address regional rail deficiencies by investing in existing infrastructure to increase speed, frequency and reliability;
- plan and deliver faster or fast rail over the next five to 10 years to bring regional rail up to global standards and be competitive with road transport;
- prepare for high speed rail in the long term by preserving the corridor.
‘With an additional 10 million people expected to move to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane by 2060, faster rail will be essential to support urban renewal in key regional centres’, said ARA Chief Executive Officer Caroline Wilkie. ‘Highways in and out of Sydney are already reaching capacity, which means we must invest now in faster rail to support the east coast’s sustainable development.’
Commenting that ‘for too long rail investment has lagged behind road funding and the regional rail network is now below global standards’, Wilkie said ‘it is time to bring Australia up to standard and tap into the new demand for regional development resulting from Covid-19.’