By Kevin Erickson
- Professor Andrew McNaughton supports upgrading the Sydney to Canberra train line
- Basic infrastructure improvements could reduce travel times to three hours
- Improving the train line would lead to increased demand and more frequent trains
- Upgrading the train line could help build the case for a new high-speed rail line in the future
The Current Train Line
The train journey between Sydney and Canberra takes over four hours, which is slower compared to other modes of transportation such as driving, taking a bus, or flying. The track is in need of upgrades as it was built to 19th-century freight train requirements.
Professor McNaughton, a leading rail expert, believes that modest upgrades to the track, such as straightening out bends, could cut travel times to roughly three hours, making it comparable to travelling by road. He believes that these upgrades would lead to increased demand and more frequent trains, which would help take cars off the Federal and Hume highways and potentially build the case for a new high-speed rail line in the future.
Current and Future Plans
The ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, has urged the NSW and federal governments to fund improvements to the train line. In 2020, the line was added to Infrastructure Australia’s priority list for upgrades, including potential straightening and duplication. While previous proposals for high-speed rail to Canberra have been shelved due to cost and competing transport infrastructure priorities, the Albanese government is currently in the process of setting up its promised High-Speed Rail Authority to build a network along Australia’s east coast, with priority given to planning a link between Sydney and Newcastle.
Professor McNaughton believes that a high-speed line that cuts travel time to less than 90 minutes would transform the ACT region and nearby towns. However, he notes that building such a line would require an entirely new track and a substantially different, much straighter route. While investing in upgrading the train line is a big long-term opportunity, it remains to be seen when or if faster rail will be headed to the capital.
Improving the train line between Sydney and Canberra would make it a more viable alternative to driving or taking a plane, benefit the local economy, and potentially help build the case for a new high-speed rail line in the future. While it remains to be seen if this will happen, it is clear that upgrades to the track would make a significant impact on the travel industry.
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