How would High-Speed Rail Change Sydney and NSW?

The discussion around High Speed Rail (HSR) often focus on benefits for regional areas. This report examines the benefits of HSR for Greater Sydney. The report found that integrating HSR into Sydney’s existing rail network would significantly reduce costs and increase the likelihood that HSR could be delivered within the next 15 years.  The report recommends the need for current state and federal infrastructure planning to be better coordinated to ensure that the future delivery of an integrated east coast HSR network remains affordable.

Transport infrastructure is not an end in itself but is a key factor in nation building and economic prosperity. The NSW Business Chamber and Sydney Business Chamber commissioned this paper in support of our view that what is needed is a bold vision and long term planning by the NSW and Australian Governments working together.

A HSR network along the east coast of Australia will offer a range of benefits to NSW, including better connectivity, delaying the need for additional airports and promoting economic development, particularly in our regional areas. This vision will take time to materialise as HSR connections are invariably built in sections over time as the economic and development case strengthens to make them financially feasible. International experience shows that in almost every HSR case study, existing urban rail infrastructure has initially been used through major cities. Dedicated HSR urban infrastructure has followed the growth of patronage and hence, the economic and financial case.

It would be an understatement to say that NSW is suffering from decades of underinvestment in transport infrastructure. A single, integrated 50-year vision for transport must be developed for Sydney and NSW. This vision cannot be developed by the NSW Government in isolation but must also have buy-in from the Federal Government which not only has a funding program for infrastructure, but is also taking an increasing role in policy-making in this space.

In the meantime, it is essential that corridors are preserved and that future urban rail systems are not designed to make the introduction of integrated HSR impossible. HSR, and Sydney’s transport planning, needs to be developed in an integrated manner. However, this is not occurring.

We commissioned this report to highlight the opportunity that could come with both levels of government working together. In addition, there is no doubt that HSR will require considerable public investment and will be one of the more significant pieces of infrastructure built this century. This is seen by some as a reason why HSR shouldn’t be built. However, we believe that governments could do more to minimise these costs and also bring forward the commencement of HSR by examining opportunities for integrating HSR and Sydney’s suburban rail infrastructure. This report argues that such integration is possible in the initial period of HSR and needs to be an option put on the table and debated.

While this report uses HSR and Sydney’s rail network as the ‘case study’, it is likely to be relevant to other planning tasks. We hope that this report will make governments aware of the risks and costs of planning in ‘silos’ over too short a timeframe, and that it will lead to the adoption of a more integrated approach to planning

Larissa Cassidy

Policy Manager, Infrastructure

02 9458 7359
Larissa manages infrastructure policy at the Chamber and advocates for continued investment in productive infrastructure to boost economic growth and ensure Sydney is connected, productive and liveable. Larissa regularly consults with Chamber members and represents them and the broader business community through preparing submissions to governments, meeting with policy-makers, and project managing in-depth research reports on priority issues for Sydney.