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High Speed Rail development continues in Asia . . . and in Australia ?

By Philip Laird


Completion, Construction and Proposal Development in Asia


On 16 March 2024, Japan officially opened its latest section of High Speed Rail – a 125 km extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Tsuruga.


Extension of Hokuriku Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Tsuruga. Map courtesy West Japan Railway Company.

 

The new section of track is in the prefectures of Ishikawa and Fukui that have a combined population of about two million persons. It is intended to assist regional development, improve access to Tokyo and boost tourism to the region.


For a detailed description of the the new extension, and planning for the remaining section (Tsuruga to Kyoto), see Railvolution article Hokuriku Shinkansen extension to Tsuruga inaugurated.

 

In October 2023, Indonesia’s first high speed rail line between Jakarta and Bandung was opened to the public. Built with assistance from China, the 142 km line has trains that can travel at up to 350 km/h. By the end of the year, it had already carried over one million passengers.


Jakarta - Bandung High Speed Rail route map.


In India, good progress is being made in constructing an initial high speed line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. All going well, Stage 1 of this 508 km line will be operating by 2026. The project is regarded as transformative and the beginning of a new era of transportation for modern India.


Mumbai - Ahmedabad High Speed Rail route map. Proposed extension of the route and future routes also shown. Map courtesy The Metro Rail Guy (TMRG) and the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL)

 

Thailand expects to have two high speed lines open by 2028, and continues to develop urban rail in Bangkok.


In Malaysia, steps have been taken to restart the Kuala Lumpur - Singapore high speed rail project with a view to having it entirely funded and led by the private sector - see this report from South East Asia Infrastructure.


And in Australia ?


The closest Australia has come to having High Speed Rail was the Speedrail proposal between Sydney and Canberra that was initially enthusiastically supported by the Howard government in August 1998.


The proposal was pragmatic – using upgraded existing track between Central Station and Sydney Airport to Macarthur, then dedicated new track to Canberra Airport. The Speedrail consortium (Alsthom and Leightons) were committed and proactive:


  • investing over $25 million to design the new track (using CSIRO developed route optimisation technology)

  • securing a line of credit of about $3.5 billion

  • reaching an agreement with Qantas to provide ticketing and onboard service on the French TGV trains.


The construction cost was about $4.5 billion. However the Howard government declined to cover the funding shortfall of about $1 billion.


It was a lost opportunity for Australia. The tax revenue forgone by the freezing of fuel excise in March 2001 and generous tax concessions about this time by the Howard government would have soon recovered this amount.


Other Australian News

 

The Heavy Haul Rail conference was held in Perth on March 13 – 14. It was organised by Informa Connect (www.informa.com.au) and 450 persons attended, including many from interstate and some from overseas.

 

As well as giving attention to decarbonisation, the conference addressed rail safety and resilience.  Several speakers noted that recent rain events have led, yet again, to closure of the Trans Australian Railway with two speakers expressing the hope that the forthcoming federal Budget (due 14 May) will provide funds to improve resilience of this vital rail corridor.

 

It would be good to see some funds provided in the budget for upgrading the rail link between Australia’s two largest cities (on top of that provided for Inland Rail from Beveridge to Albury , Albury to Illabo (near Junee), Illabo to Stockingbingal (new section of track) and Stockingbingal to Parkes). It would be even better if these funds were extended to allow a start of work on a new section of track from Macarthur to near Mittagong built to high speed rail standards.


It is to be hoped that the new High Speed Rail Authority will be able to deliver some high speed rail for Australia.


Philip Laird is an Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and a Companion of the Institution of Engineers.

Philip is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Calgary in Canada. He was the inaugural National Chairman of the Railway Technical Society of Australasia and is a member of the Rail Futures Institute.for Au able to deliver some High Speed Rail for Austral

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