A train trip from Sydney to Brisbane could take as little as three hours on a 350km/h high-speed rail link, a federal government study has said.
A line linking Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne would cost between $61 billion and $108 billion to build, and would involve laying 1600km of new track.
"Imagine boarding a train in the centre of Sydney — no racing to the airport, no delays, no lost luggage, no taking shoes off — and then being whisked 350 kilometres per hour, arriving three hours later in the heart of Brisbane or Melbourne," said Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.
The option to travel by train will have fewer security and portable technology restrictions compared to air travel. Passengers won't be told to turn off electronic devices, they will be able to make and receive phone calls and surf the internet.
The Federal Government has released the first stage of a $20 million implementation study into high-speed rail.
It expects speeds of up to 350km/h, which would see train travel times between Sydney and Brisbane slashed to just three hours — down from the 14 hours it takes now.
Train travel from Sydney to Newcastle would be cut to 40 minutes from two hours.
The study estimates one-way fares of $75 to $177 from Sydney to Brisbane.
Equivalent three-hour trips from Sydney to Melbourne would cost $99 to $197, and $16.50 for daily commuters from Sydney to Newcastle.
About 54 million passengers could be carried each year by 2036 — half of which would have flown between Sydney and Melbourne, the world's fifth-busiest air corridor.
Each full train carrying 450 passengers would take an equivalent 128 cars off the road.
Albanese said that the high-speed rail would reduce carbon pollution, ease road and airport congestion and better integrate regional and metropolitan communities.
"For many Australians, high-speed rail would be an attractive alternative," he said in a statement.
The study was announced ahead of the August 2010 election, and was pushed by the Australian Greens.