A new plan for fast-rail in NSW has been unveiled with its proponents trumpeting practicality, not vanity.
Travel times between Sydney, Canberra and other regional NSW centres could be slashed by up to 75 per cent under a bold new high-speed rail plan.
It’s not the first time fast trains have been promised but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian insists it’s not an election stunt with an eye on the March poll.
She has appointed British rail infrastructure expert Andrew McNaughton to advise the government on the feasibility of building a fast rail network across four potential routes that include Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Ms Berejiklian said the plan was different to previous iterations of fast rail on the east coast because it was not looking at connecting Melbourne or Brisbane.
Work will start by 2023 with an eye on upgrading existing rail corridors before new lines, she said.
“This isn’t something we’ve just come up with now, we’ve been working on this for a long time,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday.
“This is a social issue, not just an economic issue.
“It’s about giving our citizens choice about how they live, where they live and how they can be better connected.”
The coalition government says travel times to Goulburn and Canberra could be cut down to just 30 minutes and one hour respectively if planned routes are delivered.
Prof McNaughton, who has worked on high speed rail in the UK, said he would look for the most practical option – not the flashiest or the fastest.
“If you make it the Concord for the rich, you’ve defeated the whole purpose of doing it,” he said.
“Whether you are the richest or poorest in the state you have one thing in common – how much time you have.”
While $4.6 million has been committed to develop a plan, how much the whole project or parts of it will cost is up in the air.
As is where the money will come from.
“We need to see what were dealing with in this first stage before we talk about that,” she said.
“Let’s make those decisions at that point.”