Fast track plan for two-hour train travel to Sydney
AN AMBITIOUS plan for a high-speed east coast rail line would bring Grafton to within two hours of Sydney and five hours of Melbourne.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese will release the report today.
The Daily Examiner can reveal Grafton, Casino, and Coffs Harbour would be among 12 regional stops along the 1750km route.
Getting from Coffs Harbour to Sydney would take one hour and 50 minutes under the plan and only marginally longer from Grafton and Casino.
At the moment it takes about 10 hours to get from Grafton to Sydney on Countrylink and a further 10 hours to Melbourne. Coffs Harbour to Brisbane would take one hour and 11 minutes - a trip that now takes five hours.
But if the project does ever get off the ground, North Coast residents won't get to enjoy the benefits until much later this century.
Building the route - estimated to cost $114 billion in 2012 terms, or $65 million a kilometre - would happen in five stages.
Work on the Sydney-to-Canberra route would begin in 2027, with plans for it to be operational by 2035. The $34 billion Gold Coast-to-Newcastle route would be the final stage built, starting in 2048 with the first services in 2058.
Accelerating the project could be possible, the study found, which would bring the end date forward five years.
Linking Casino to Grafton would cost $55 million/km, while Grafton to Coffs Harbour is slightly less at $50 million/km.
The 12 regional stations were selected on the basis of potential patronage.
"To minimise cost and avoid disruption to built-up areas, these stations would be located outside the current urban areas, although they would typically be within 10 to 20km of the town centre and would have both car-parking facilities and facilities to interchange with local public transport services," the report reads.
A combination of express and limited-stop services for regional areas would be offered. Two regional services from Brisbane and four from the Gold Coast would leave every hour.
Mr Albanese, who commissioned the study in 2010, said high-speed rail (HSR) was a potential "game-changer" in terms of the way Australians lived, worked and took holidays.
"It also has the capacity to better integrate our regional and metropolitan communities, ease congestion on our roads as well as provide a new foundation for a low- carbon, high-productivity economy," Mr Albanese said.
But he admitted the project would not be without myriad technical, logistical and financial challenges.
"To this end, I am today initi- ating a comprehensive program of public consultation and debate on the role HSR could play in Australia's transport future. As part of this, I am inviting feedback and views on the report and its findings from all interested parties by June 30," he said.
Mr Albanese will establish a high-level group to work with the HSR unit to advise the government on community issues.