NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has taken a trip on one of Japan’s iconic bullet trains, which can reach speeds of up to 300km/h, with an eye to speeding up his government’s vision of faster rail travel back home.
Mr Perrotett, who is on a 10-day Asia trade mission, travelled from Tokyo to Hiroshima on Saturday with Transport and Veteran Affairs Minister David Elliott, and high school students from across the state who joined the trip to learn more about the horrors of World War II.
The state government committed $500 million in the latest budget for a high-speed rail link between Newcastle and Sydney via the Central Coast, which the premier says shows his commitment to making faster rail a reality for NSW commuters.
“Our focus has been half a billion dollars, and the federal government … has put aside the same amount … to improve the tracks, and improving the tracks means trains travel faster,” Mr Perrottet told reporters outside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
“It’s important to plan for the future and that you dream about what travel could look like in decades.
“Fast rail, like what we’re seeing here from Tokyo to Hiroshima, is not coming anytime soon to NSW.
“But we’re looking at ways we can preserve corridors and invest for the (rail) system we have in place to become more efficient so commuters can get from Sydney to the Central Coast faster.”
Torkel Patterson, a member of the board of Central Japan Railway Company which operates the country’s world-renowned bullet trains, briefed Mr Perrottet on Saturday on how Australia’s east coast could enjoy a similar travel experience.
He suggested the route should be Newcastle-Parramatta-Badgerys Creek and onto the nation’s capital Canberra, with Melbourne as the final destination.
A stand-alone model by-passing other networks – as used by Japan’s bullet trains – would involve tunnelling through the roughly 870km terrain, Mr Patterson told AAP aboard the Shinkansen N700 train on Saturday.
Mr Patterson suggested a joint 50-50 federal-state partnership to fund the costly project.
Mr Elliott was upbeat about the prospect of a bullet train becoming a transport reality in NSW but did not commit to a timeline.
“Will we see this sort of rail transport in NSW in the future? Absolutely we will,” he said.
“When you look at travel times, a dedicated corridor is most appealing but like everything we do in government there’s going to be a cost-benefit analysis.”
But talk of bullet trains and faster travel times will continue to take a back seat as the government and commuters contend with further industrial action on the state’s rail network next week.
The NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union has called for a four-hour stoppage starting on July 28, with the action expected to have an impact in the hours before and after workers down tools.
The union and government remain at loggerheads over a new enterprise agreement as well as safety concerns over the currently mothballed Korean-built New Intercity Fleet.
Mr Perrottet was forceful on Saturday in refusing to commit to the $264 million slated for union-requested safety modifications to the fleet without an enterprise agreement being completed first.
“I’m not going to put hundreds of millions of dollars to modify perfectly good trains and then have an enterprise agreement that doesn’t get finalised,” he said
“As a result, the trains don’t get on the tracks and we continue to have industrial action in our state. That’s not going to happen under my watch.”