The latest move to link Sydney and Canberra via high-speed rail is no election stunt, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says.
The premier on Tuesday said NSW would develop a fast-rail plan focused on regional centres including Newcastle and Bathurst - not the long-talked-about east-coast line between Melbourne and Brisbane.
"I'm not going to wait for other states and the federal government - we've waited for too long," she told reporters.
"NSW will start the process."
An expert panel chaired by a British rail infrastructure expert will advise on the options available for a fast rail network across four potential routes:
* a northern line to Newcastle via Gosford
* a southwest line to Canberra via Goulburn
* a south coast line to Nowra via Wollongong
* a western line to Orange via Bathurst and Lithgow
Work will start by 2023 with an eye on upgrading existing rail corridors before building new lines.
The premier denied her $4.6m fast-rail panel was an election stunt.
"Far from it," she said.
"This is a government getting on with what it does well - that is providing for the future of its citizens."
No Australian passenger train has ever exceeded 215km/h and most lines' top speed is 160km/h.
But the coalition government says travel times to Goulburn (170km from Sydney) and Canberra (250km from Sydney) could be cut down to just 30 minutes and one hour respectively if planned routes are delivered.
Professor Andrew McNaughton, who will chair the advisory panel, said he would look for the most practical option - not the flashiest or the fastest.
"If you make it the Concord for the rich, you've defeated the whole purpose of doing it," he said.
"Whether you are the richest or poorest in the state you have one thing in common - how much time you have."
In August, the NSW Labor opposition and ACT's Labor government promised $10 million for a feasibility study in 2019 on Sydney-Canberra rail.
Sydney to Canberra was the suggested, $23-billion first step of now-defunct federal High Speed Rail Advisory Group's east-coast rail line.
HSRAG in 2013 said Australia needed to focus on building smaller, discrete projects as France did for its now nationwide LGV network.
The NSW Business Chamber said rail was cost-effective for both passengers and freight.
"While fast rail between major capital cities has long been discussed and put in the 'too hard basket', not enough focus has been placed on bringing Sydney and regional centres together," chief executive Stephen Cartwright said in a statement.