Does Australia need high speed rail? Transport Australia Society, Panel Discussion

Transport Australia Society

Join the Transport Australia society for a panel discussion and Q&A including speakers from a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds


Peter Thornton - “Let’s get real about Rail”

Peter has over 30 years involvement in proposals and studies for High and Very High Speed Rail Links in Australia. He has been an adviser to the Commonwealth Government of Australia, the New South Wales State Government, a Joint Secretariat of the Governments and the private sector on this matter. He commenced his interest in High Speed Rail when assisting Systra’s staff working on the VFT project in the mid 1980’s. The report which he directed in 2001 on an East Coast High Speed Rail cited below remains on the Commonwealth’s Government website as a definitive reference on high speed rail in the Australia context. Most recently he has lead studies for TFNSW into forms of rolling stock which could deliver significant travel time saving in the regional and long distance rail corridors emanating from Sydney.

Peter was appointed by Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Rail (Rail CRC) as one of three Independent expert reviewers of its 2009 report entitled: “High-speed Rail: Strategic information for the Australian context”.

Peter has presented papers at international conferences on High Speed Rail in Australia and in Madrid and was a delegate to the EurailSpeed 98 Conference in Berlin. He was a delegate to the “Financing & Developing High Speed Rail in the USA” Conference held in February 2010 in Chicago.  He chaired and presented at High Speed Rail conferences in Hong Kong in July 2010 and 2011 and at the 7th World Congress on High Speed Rail Beijing December 2010.

Ken Doust  - “Lessons from previous HSR Studies and next steps”

Ken has a broad knowledge of the transport industry and the NSW framework in which rail transport operates. Ken is passionate about infrastructure systems that are sustainable and he has been involved with high speed rail research and planning since 1985.  He has a long-term corporate knowledge of the NSW portfolio of railway infrastructure, spanning 30 years within engineering, maintenance, asset management and regional infrastructure planning in the legacy railway agencies, including strategic planning roles within City Rail and in the private sector. Ken is now the Course Coordinator for Engineering Management at Southern Cross University and an adjunct at the UNSW Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI).

Ian Bell – “A Long Term Finance Expert’s View ”

Ian Bell is a qualified Actuary and ex-investment banker and corporate finance adviser and the creator and developer of “Bells at Killcare" boutique hotel on the Central Coast.Ian nowadays leads a collaborative network of mature professionals in the disciplines of economics, finance, planning and sometimes engineering, forming assignment-specific teams that advise on many different types of infrastructure projects, as well as the structure of the major projects finance industry and the benefits and risks in public-private partnerships. He founded the Project and Infrastructure Advisory division of a major Big 4 firm in the 1990’s but has been operating independently as a consultant in recent years through Financial-Architects Asia.A recent specialist emphasis on transport infrastructure has led his team into analytical modelling of toll roads, infrastructure related to air and sea ports and mass transport including light rail, passenger and freight rail. His research work has involved close study of past High-Speed Rail attempts and studies, and new financing concepts in the areas of road pricing and HSR.In 2012 his team submitted concepts for a Long Term Infrastructure Funding Corporation to the Federal Government and Infrastructure Australia. In 2012-13 they presented ideas for network tolling of Sydney motorways and certain arterials to large superannuation funds and Transport for NSW.

In 2015-16 Ian has worked closely with engineers and economists, with input from transport planners and associates, to devise plans for Sydney FastLink, a high-speed rail link from the new airport at Badgerys Creek (Western Sydney Airport), via the Western Sydney Employment Area & Parramatta, to Sydney CBD, in a future vision for a High-Speed Rail network between Newcastle, Sydney, south towards Canberra, and connecting Wollongong to Campbelltown.

Dierk Hartmann –“Exploring the characteristics of Australian high speed rail

Dierk Hartmann is managing partner of Sydney based transport consultancy Axess Advisory. Dierk is a transport economist with expertise in transport planning, rolling stock, maintenance and performance benchmarking. He has supported the planning and delivery of major public transport service delivery and transport infrastructure projects in Australia and New Zealand. Dierk is currently supporting the Customer Services Division and Freight, Strategy and Planning Division of Transport for NSW in improving service delivery to Sydney and regional NSW customers. Before moving to Sydney almost 10 years ago, Dierk lived and worked in the United States and China and worked in senior roles of a global rolling stock manufacturer and an international rail consultancy in the UK, Germany and Australia

Katherina Gerstmann -  The European Experience

Katharina has over 18 years’ experience in the design, construction and development of rail track systems, with a speciality in the design of concrete slab track systems and noise and vibration mitigation measures. Katharina will share some of her multi-disciplinary experience with major European highspeed rail projects, including the recently opened Gotthard-Base-Tunnel, and the challenges faced.

Michelle Zeibots -  Moderator

Michelle is a transport planner, specialising in the analysis of sustainable urban passenger transport systems. Her research and consultancy work draws together operational, behavioural and governance features relating to multi-modal urban transport networks. Michelle is Research Director of the UTS Transport Research Centre, a multi-disciplinary, cross-faculty research hub within UTS.

For more information or to send through particular topics that you would like to see covered during the discussion please email:

Event Details

Event Status



Wed 22 Feb 2017 - 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm



Registration Closes

Wed 22 Feb 2017 - 12:00 pm


NSW Parliament Theatrette
Macquarie Street
Sydney New South Wales 2000



EA and TAS Member Rate: $30.00 ($27.27 excl. GST)
Other Society Member Rate: $60.01 ($54.55 excl. GST)
EA Student Member Rate: $30.00 ($27.27 excl. GST)
Non-Member Rate: $60.01 ($54.55 excl. GST)


Transport Australia Society

Maximum CPD Hours

2 hour(s)

Event Contact

Engineers Australia Member Services
1300 653 113