The story of the new railway built along the west coast of India is fascinating in view of the need to estimate the construction time of High Speed Rail (HSR) along the Australian east coast.
In the Labor Government’s 2013 HSR Report construction of HSR between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane was to take 35 years to complete. It was to be built in sections. This was because there was a shortage of labour as mining was spending billions on expansion which absorbed the labour available. (The 35 years for HSR gave jobs for life.) Mining is no longer taking labour for expansion, so there is labour available for faster construction of HSR, especially as immigration is bringing in more resources every year for which jobs must be found.
The Indian railway between Mumbai and Bangalore is 476 miles long, almost the distance from Melbourne to Sydney. It is single track, standard gauge through difficult country along the coast.
The route is along a narrow strip of land close to the sea and mountains. The climate is hot and the area is subject to heavy monsoon rains and flooding. The project had to negotiate with 40,000 individual landholders for access through small lots of agricultural land. Engineers had to build 2,000 bridges and viaducts, some very long engineering feats. They had to dig 92 tunnels, one of which was only one mile long, but so difficult that it took 7 years to finish. It held up project completion. There was no shortage of labour in India.
The railway took 7 years to construct and was completed in 2006. It transformed life for the people, who had never seen a railway before.
It should not take more than 7 years to build HSR between Melbourne and Sydney through easier country and climate. In fact, it should be possible to construct HSR between Melbourne and Sydney and at the same time between Sydney and Brisbane in 7 years.
Incidentally, Japan is building HSR for 550 miles inland from Mumbai. The interest rate on 70% of the cost is 0.1% pa.