Is is not viable only because of the size of the construction cost? If this was to be lowered them the financial equation would look better. I have also said previously I am not sure we should be judging the project on costs alone. There are a lot of costs in aircraft delays, fuel surcharges, traffic issues to the airport and security screening etc. An airline traveller has many delays and queues to deal with.
There may be options to reduce construction cost, but as the advisory group report highlights, many of those options involve a reduction in the quality of the service provided (or an increase in environmental impacts, which means community acceptance will be less). Rather than getting from Sydney to Melbourne in less than three hours CBD to CBD, you start looking at longer journey times. The thinking is that if you get much above three hours then you are on the other side of tipping point, where despite airport congestion, longer boarding times, distance of the airport from the CBD, etc, the plane is still more attractive.
There is no point spending only $40 billion to build Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne HSR, if the operation then doesn't achieve sufficient patronage such that it doesn't require significant government subsidy. That would be a disaster.
Perhaps also "quotes" from construction companies for the work will come in at less than expected, but given the costs quoted are pretty consistent with overseas and other Australian examples, and that something the size of the HSR project is going to stress local construction capability, I wouldn't be counting on it.
If a domestic airline is quoting you a retail fare without including fuel surchages, the you should report them to the ACCC, as they are breaking the law.
The questions are how much extra are people willing to pay and how much extra journey time are people willing to endure to avoid all the issues associated with aviation. If the answer either of those two is "not much", then HSR has a problem.
If everyone wants to play the viability game - then our metropolitan commuter rail operations aren't viable, our highway system isn't viable and if the full cost of aviation infrastructure was passed on to airlines...they wouldn't be viable either. Viability shouldn't be confused with need - I'm not going as far as to say HSR is 'needed', but infrastructure cost shouldn't be its only measurement. Social need has to be mixed in as well to find the real balance.
But most of the costs of the current avaiation system between Brisbane-Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney are
passed onto users.
It is ridiculous to pretend that the provision of an additional inter-capital passenger transport mode, that delivers outcomes that are more or less the same as the current system, has anywhere near the national economic benefit of the national road network, or of the metropolitan public transport systems, or of the national rail freight network, or whatever.
the social need for HSR?
(It is completely misleading to look at one-off discount fares and use that to decide what typical aviation fares are. If everyone on the service bought that sort of discount fare on an on-going basis the service would be withdrawn. Similarly, it is misleading to look at the "full" fare values. The answer lies somewhere in between.)