Sydney–Canberra rail connectivity and capacity

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Connectivity between Sydney and Canberra
Priority Initiative
National Connectivity
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Near term (0-5 years)
Proposed By
NSW Government & ACT Government
Date added to the IPL
26 February 2020


The Sydney to Canberra corridor plays a significant role in Australia’s regional transport network.

However, the 320 km rail line between Sydney and Canberra is constrained by terrain, ageing infrastructure and track sharing with freight movements, leading to slow train speeds and long journey times for passengers.

In-vehicle journey times between Sydney and Canberra are currently about 1 hour by air, 3 hours by car and over 4 hours by train. As a result, only 1% of people travelling between Sydney and Canberra choose to travel by train.

The number of people living between Canberra and Sydney is forecast to grow by 1.5% each year to 2036, increasing pressure on the road network and airports.

Improving rail services in this corridor would provide more transport options for travellers, improve travel-time reliability for rail passengers and reduce pressure on the air corridor.

Proposed initiative

The opportunity is for a range of potential upgrades to enable faster rail services between Sydney and Canberra to improve the customer experience, increase productivity and provide a competitive alternative to driving or flying.

These potential upgrades may include:

  • track straightening and duplication

  • track formation renewal

  • electrification and signalling upgrades

  • new rolling stock.

The initiative requires a coordinated approach between the ACT and NSW governments, as well as the Australian Government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

It should also consider the potential role of high speed rail in the future. Preserving a corridor for a high speed rail line on the east coast of Australia is separately included on the Infrastructure Priority List as a High Priority Initiative.

Next steps

Proponent to identify initiatives and develop options (Stage 2 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework).