SCU join interstate train push

CLAIMS a very fast train linking Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney would not be viable have been rejected by a Southern Cross University academic behind a report that inspired debate over the project.

And there is every chance a super-speed train between Brisbane and Sydney could have a stop on the Northern Rivers.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Neal Ryan headed a team that compiled the original report, released late last year, which inspired the Greens to make the train an official policy and led to a $10 million feasibility study now being planned by the Federal Government.

He said he expected the SCU team would be involved in the new study, promised as part of an election deal between Labor and the Greens.

A report from the Federal Department of Transport has said the train would be too expensive and not attract enough passengers, claiming projects in other countries had generally needed to attract 12 million to 20 million passengers to be viable.

At the low end, the department report says even a relatively ‘cheap’ very fast train would need to attract six million passengers a year to pay for itself.

However, Prof Ryan said Australia – and the Melbourne to Sydney route in particular, which he said was the fourth-busiest air corridor in the world – already had enough traffic to justify the expense.

He said building a fast rail link would likely cost in the ‘tens of billions of dollars’.

However, he added: “The issue with Sydney and Melbourne is they can’t keep up with growth ... the alternative is to build another airport. Put that into the mix, what it’s going to cost, and a very fast train is not as silly as it sounds.”

Prof Ryan said he also suspected there was enough passenger traffic between Brisbane and Sydney to justify a northern rail link.

While any serious discussion of potential routes remained a long way off, Prof Ryan said the most likely scenario would be to have the Sydney-Brisbane line loop to the west, avoiding population centres such as the Northern Rivers.

However, he agreed it would make sense to have the line running through the Gold Coast, Australia’s sixth-biggest city.

If planners went for that option, it could send the line running through the Northern Rivers, creating the potential for a regional station, Prof Ryan said.

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