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There’s nothing new under the sun. A $2.5 billion high-speed rail service on the main southern line between Sydney, Goulburn and Canberra was touted back in the 1990s.
It’s again on the books after Deputy Premier and Nats Leader John Barilaro announced the government would pump part of its share of the sale of the Snowy scheme money into improving rail safety and speed by upgrading existing regional rail lines but headlined a new corridor for a ‘very fast train’ between Canberra and Sydney.
Of more interest to us, he also said the present Sydney to Dubbo XPT time could be cut by 25 per cent with new trains and track realignment.
The XPT now takes six hours 20 minutes for the trip and this would be reduced by 1.61 hours to 4.84 hours, a time difficult to do in a fast car and pretty well pie in the sky.
But that aside, back in the 1990s Dale Budd, chief executive of a company called Speedrail, said he had a joint venture agreement with a subsidiary of a French company that made Trains a Grande Vitesse, known as TGVs, for a Sydney-Canberra high-speed service.
He said the 300kmh trains could be up and running by 1999 on mostly upgraded existing tracks and would reach Goulburn in 50 minutes, stopping only at Mascot Airport, Campbelltown and Moss Vale. Canberra would be another 25 minutes away.
But the project had its detractors and never got off the ground. One offbeat objection was from the then mayor of Goulburn-based Mulwaree Shire Paul Stephenson who warned a fast train would frighten sheep and cattle.
He said he could have a mob rounded up and ready to go through a gate and then if a train hurtled by at 350kmh, they’d take off so fast he wouldn’t see them again.
Orange Rail Action Group for several years has tried to convince the government to bring the Bathurst Bullet on to Orange, start the XPT from Dubbo and realign part of the line between Orange and Lithgow to speed up train travel but both pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
At least Mr Barilaro has now recognised the need to straighten the tracks and might announce something more concrete before next year’s NSW elections.
This article first appeared on www.centralwesterndaily.com.au
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