It's the Aussie bullet train which would let you travel between Sydney and Melbourne in under three hours, hurtling along a dedicated high-speed line at speeds up to 350km/h.
The cost? A whopping $200 billion.
The pitch? Built by a private consortium and funded by land development along the 900km rail corridor, it wouldn't cost tax-payers a red cent.
That's the ambitious vision of Melbourne-based Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), which today unveilled its grand vision to the public.
In addition to its hubs at Sydney and Melbourne, and a spur line to Canberra, CLARA plans to establish stations at eight new 'inland cities' along the route near regional towns such as Goulburn, Yass Valley and Shepparton.
Land at each of the eight 'greenfield development' sites has already been secured by CLARA under option agreements signed with land owners.
This would trigger a sale "on condition that we pass the regulatory milestones that we need, which is basically having a mandate from the state government in return for us to provide the rail and civil infrastructure,” says CLARA chairman Nick Cleary.
“They (the new cities) will be stand-alone, sustainable, smart and designed from the Internet up," built to a compact scale with "a design focus is on liveability and connectivity."
The development of those cities would provide a financial funnel through which CLARA would pay for the high-speed lines, trains and stations, with land bought for $1,000 per lot could be transformed into housing developments worth up to $150,000.
CLARA is positioning the high-speed network as both a work of nation-building infrastructure and "a decentralisation program."
“The train allows for the cities to be viable, and the cities make the train viable," Clearly explains.
"Imagine living over 200km from the CBD of Sydney or Melbourne and being able to commute to the city inside 30 minutes. That is the game changer that High Speed Rail offers."
World's best fast train tech
CLARA has shortlisted three "world's best" high-speed rail technologies.
Japan's Super Conducting Magnetic Levitation Train "remains the most advanced and fastest HSR option in the world today", the group says of the 500km/h bullet train, which at that speed would see a non-stop Sydney-Melbourne service of just under two hours.
France's TGV also gets a guernsey, operating "at the highest speeds in conventional train service in the world" by clocking a standard 320km/h on many routes.
China's burgeoning HSR network, which now spans over 19,000km of track, uses trains which "can reach operational speeds of up to 380km/h, although all trains have had their operating speed reduced to 300km/h."
Photo gallery: China's Beijing-Shanghai bullet train
Building the Aussie bullet train network
Turning farmland into superfast rail lines would be done in stages.
The proposed leg from Melbourne to the Shepparton region – costed at $13 billion and involving two new 'second-tier cities' near Strathbogie and Shepparton – first cab off the rank, "with the high speed rail connection and first stage of the new cities online within a decade" according to CLARA.
Attention would then turn to the NSW side of the network, with the line spearing south from Sydney as a further six new cities were developed, with the aim of the full Sydney-Melbourne line being operational by the 2040s.
CLARA has already met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is believed to be enthusiastic over the self-funding project.
However, Turnbull is be the latest in a line of Prime Ministers to back a high-speed link, stretching back to Bob Hawke.
The route has barely changed, although the technology has certainly advanced – but the ever-skyrocketing costs and concerns over economic viability have brought the project off the rails each time.
“I understand the scepticism, but this is a different proposal,” allows former Victorian premier Steve Bracks, who sits on CLARA's high-powered and well-connected advisory board.
“It is a regional development project as much as it is a rail project. I think it deserves consideration because the public benefit would be enormous.”
“Rather than it being a thought bubble from federal or state governments it is coming directly from the private sector," adds fellow CLARA advisor and former NSW premier Barry O'Farrell, " and the bald fact is that only the private sector can deliver and pay for a project of this size."
What would an Aussie bullet train look like?
In 2011, the Melbourne branch of Australian design firm Hassell revealed concept plans for a superfast 400km/h train.
Hassell dubbed its creation the Australian High Speed Vehicle or A-HSV, in a nod to Australia's iconic Holden Monaro HSV high-performance car.
The double-decker carriages adopt a modern and spacious open-plan design for passengers, along with private berths for business meetings or those who just want to work without interruption.
That said, it reminds us of the spacious lounge areas and bars originally planned for the Boeing 747 before the commercial reality of fitting a maximum number of bums on seats took hold.
Does Australia need a high-speed rail network? Can we afford to build it, or can we afford not to built it? And would you choose high-speed rail over flying for trips between Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra?
Share your thoughts with your fellow Australian business travellers in the comments box below.
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