Adelaide-Melbourne fast train service on Spanish company’s wishlist

A Spanish high-speed train manufacturer proposing a passenger rail trial between the Adelaide Hills and city is also interested in running a service between Adelaide and Melbourne, South Australia’s transport chief says.

Mar 28, 2023, updated Mar 28, 2023
Spanish company Talgo wants to bring its trains to South Australia. Photo: EPA/Divyakant Solanki

Spanish company Talgo wants to bring its trains to South Australia. Photo: EPA/Divyakant Solanki

Department for Infrastructure and Transport chief executive Jon Whelan told state parliament’s Budget and Finance committee on Monday that Madrid-based manufacturer Talgo had expressed interest in running a high-speed rail service between Adelaide and Melbourne.

He said it was “no secret” that Talgo wanted to trial their trains across Australia, with the company aiming to “show their technology across the world”.

“They would like to take this further [with] the potential to take to Melbourne or further across the eastern states,” he said.

“That is their aim – to be able show their technology across the world.”

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis told InDaily that Talgo, through their local representative, had “raised the long term possibility to examine the viability of running a fast train between Adelaide and Melbourne”, but no formal approach had been made.

Whelan and Koutsantonis met with Talgo and the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism in Madrid last month.

InDaily contacted Talgo for comment.

The only passenger train service connecting Adelaide to Melbourne is The Overland. That service has been operating for over 130 years, with the 828-kilometre trip taking 10.5 hours.

Talgo is currently in discussions with the state government to trial its railcar technology on a 55-kilometre line between Mt Barker and Adelaide.

The company has estimated that its trains could complete the trip in around 45 to 50 minutes, making it a potentially attractive alternative to driving or buses, particularly in peak times.

Whelan told the parliamentary committee that it was now up to Talgo to seek accreditation to run its trains on the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)-owned rail line between Mt Barker and Adelaide – a process which could take longer than 12 months.

“We are fully supportive of Talgo to run a trial, but… they need to get the approval and the accreditation to run their equipment on a train line that is not in government hands,” the department chief said.

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“They’ve got to secure the funding, which they haven’t secured that from the Spanish Government. We’re working closely with them on that.

“Then, they would need to source a train operator and a locomotive to be able to pull their carriage.”

Talgo has previously said that the trial would come at no cost to South Australian taxpayers, with the required $2.5 million to be obtained via a Spanish Government grant scheme.

A spokesperson from the Department for Infrastructure and Transport told InDaily that Talgo was still in the process of applying for the funding.

“All parties are continuing to engage collaboratively to facilitate the trial,” they said.

“Ultimately the provision of funding is a matter for the Spanish Government.”

Whelan told the parliamentary committee that Talgo trains could reach speeds in excess of 200km/h, but Australian locomotives “probably cap out at about 160-165-kilometres an hour”.

“In the last meeting I had with them they put up some proposals of a locomotive from the UK, but it is run by an operator, so they would need to get that operator involved to also get that accreditation to also operate on ARTC’s line,” he said.

Asked by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo if Talgo had expressed interest in manufacturing trains in Australia, Whelan said: “I think they’d really certainly like to have an opportunity to bring their skill set, but also their structures, and infrastructure and bodies that could operate on a network Australia-wide”.

“That’s what they do – they go all over the world looking to sell their carriages,” he said.

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