Why Australia may never see fast rail
Long-held dreams of bullet trains whizzing Australians up and down the east coast are unrealistic and should be abandoned, a new report says.
Analysis by the Grattan Institute found high-speed rail did not stack up for Australia and should be scrapped in favour of restoration projects.
It found Australia's relatively small and dispersed population would mean linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne with a bullet train was not viable.
The report also warned against taking on face value the emissions reduction benefits of rail over air travel.
"A bullet train would hinder rather than help efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050," the report states.
"A rigorous independent cost benefit analysis conducted today would be unlikely to find net benefits to society."
The report says plans for a high speed rail network like those in Japan or France "should be abandoned".
"A bullet train might have captured Australians' imagination, (but) it is not a good use of public money," is states.
The report noted governments from both sides have presented visions of fast trains that "seduce" the public.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has been a vocal supporter of fast rail to link capital cities.
Speaking at the National Press Club two weeks ago, he said such projects should receive federal government funding.
"We must invest in nation-building infrastructure including iconic projects like High Speed Rail and we should be building trains here," he said.
"Government procurement policy in rail manufacturing has produced superior outcomes to imports, and created regional jobs in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia."
The report noted Labor had long supported an east coast bullet train and in 2013 commissioned a feasibility study that costed the project at about $10,000 for every taxpayer.
It also found Coalition governments had generally focused on connecting cities to regions via rail, but found the result would be materially the same.
"Faster trains are unlikely to ease pressure on capital cities," the report read.
"They're unlikely to do anything much for most people in the regions either.
"Trains go both ways, and it's much more likely that benefits will flow towards big cities because people and businesses tend to prefer cities."
Originally published as Why Australia may never see fast rail