A feasibility study has commenced to determine the economic benefits and financial viability of a high speed rail network along Australia's east coast.

A consortia lead by AECOM Australia (comprising KPMG, Sinclair Knight Merz and Grimshaw Architects) will identify possible route and station options, a process which will provide the basis for determining indicative transit times and construction costs.

This first stage is expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

Beginning shortly thereafter, the study's second stage will determine an optimum route alignment, identify patronage levels, develop cost estimates and investigate financing options.

The study is intended to provide the basis for public debate about whether this technology is an appropriate response to Australia’s future transport needs.

The Department of Infrastructure and Transport is setting up a formal reference group to ensure the views of organisations such as the Australasian Railways Association and the CRC for Rail Innovation as well as state and territory authorities are taken into account.

Terms of reference for the study are available at http://www.minister.infrastructure.gov.au/aa/releases/2011/February/AA011_2011.htm