Despite enthusiastic support from the Qanda set, high speed rail between the major capital cities isn't a reality in Australia.

Wikivoyage mentions high speed trains from Brisbane to Rockhampton, and from Brisbane to Cairns, presumably the Tilt Train. Wikipedia's articles on the Tilt Train (Queensland) and the V/Line VLocity mention maximum speeds of 160 km/h, though the Tilt Train article mentioned a record of 210 km/h back in 1999.

Does Australia have any trains that can go faster than 160 km/h? If not, is it because of a government limit?


3 Answers 3


Both the XPT and the Tilt Train can go faster than 160 km/h, and have done so for short distances in trial runs. Full list here.

However, in operation both are capped at a maximum of 160 km/h, and typically average out much slower (the Sydney-Melbourne XPT barely beats 80 km/h for the trip).

As for why specifically 160 km/h, it's a typical cut off worldwide for "higher speed trains". Exceeding that is generally considered to require high-stability concrete ties for tracks (Australia still mostly uses wood) and no level crossings (rural Australia has hundreds).

  • 4
    Yeah -- the concrete ties aren't too terribly hard to put in (and are a nice upgrade all around for mainline track, no matter what sort of trains you're putting on it); HOWEVER, trying to get rid of that giant pile of level crossings on a rural line...good luck with that one!! Dec 6, 2015 at 16:35
  • 2
    You also have the reasoning of track buckling which Australia is prone to as temperatures climb past 30oC constantly. A high speed train hitting buckled track (which in some instances can happen in just a few seconds - rendering checks almost useless) would almost certainly lead to a fatal disaster. May 23, 2016 at 0:43
  • 2
    @TheWanderingCoder I'm not sure that is a real problem anymore: southern China, southern Japan and Taiwan (maybe also Spain) all have temperatures regularly reaching 30℃+ and high-speed rail run just fine (well, most of the time), so I'm sure this has been dealt with very well.
    – xuq01
    Dec 29, 2018 at 8:06

Does Australia have any trains that can go faster than 160 km/h?

Yes. The top speed of the Melbourne-Sydney XPT is 190km/h. The Queensland tilt train can do 210km/h.

  • 3
    They can do it, but do they have timetables in which they do actually reach and maintain speeds over 160 km/h?
    – Willeke
    Dec 6, 2015 at 10:38
  • I was on Eurostar and my TomTom told me that I was exceeding the speed limit (for cars) by 190km/h.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:34

190 km/h is academic for the XPT.It's original Paxman Valenta engines were downrated from the British HST that the XPT is based on, with the real power car providing even less power as it generated electricity for the passenger cars. All up and XPT consist has about 70-75% of the power of the HST. The diesel Tilt Train is a higher performer than the XPT, it has a high power to weight ratio as do many of Australias modern DMUs,but the electric tilt train & modern EMU sets are all faster. If the Melbourne- Sydney line was electrified, any of the modern EMUs would be faster than the XPT in total time.

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