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von der Heidt, T, Gillett, P, Charles, MB & Ryan, N 2009, 'Contractual arrangements and their implications for the provision of an Australian HSR system', paper presented to the Next Generation Infrastructures Conference, Chennai, India, 9-11 December.


There has been much debate over the past few decades regarding the desirability of implementing an Australian high-speed rail (HSR) system along the nation’s eastern seaboard. The cost of building such infrastructure has meant that governments have been reluctant to pursue its development. Changing contextual circumstances, such as the imminent introduction of an Australian emissions trading scheme, concerns about peak oil, restrictions on airport capacity and the desirability of enhancing Australia’s transport infrastructure, have added impetus to the call for an Australian HSR system. The magnitude of the investment required to implement HSR in Australia implies that a wide range of public-private relationships would be necessary for the construction and management of the network.

This paper draws on international experiences relating to the arrangements between government funders of HSR projects and service providers contracted to provide services in relation to these major public assets. This review is applied to previous proposals for the development of an HSR network in Australia, as a means of analysing the contractual issue which need to be addressed in any future infrastructure development with respect to rail. In particular, the paper will examine the extent to which international contractual arrangements are able to provide an insight into relationship between funding the construction of these assets and their management in an Australian context.