If Australia beats Obama to a high-speed rail system, that's just going to be embarrassing. But they are discussing it down under, and Australian design firm Hassell took the initiative to draw up an idea of what the trains themselves would look like. And if their illustrations are any indication, the answer is: like Amtrak crossed with J.J. Abrams' Star Trek.
Hassell's spokesperson tells Co.Design that the concept, called A-HSV (for Australia - High Speed Vehicle) "was initiated [internally] in part as a design response to national debates on housing affordability, sustainability, and regional economics and social connectivity." Which means there's no one clamoring to actually build the A-HSV. Still, "the Australian Federal Government has commissioned a strategic study on the implementation of high speed rail due out in July 2011," Hassell assures us. So their concept isn't just idle experimentation.
But even if it was, it's pretty bad-ass. That's on purpose: according to the press release, Hassell took visual inspiration from the Holden Monaro, Australia's homegrown equivalent of the Ford Mustang, which they describe as "responsive to the Australian context." When I asked what that meant in plain English, Hassell replied: "Australians are conditioned to travelling or commuting long distances between many locations by car or aeroplane. By paying homage to the classic Australian Holden Monaro, the design of the train draws upon the lines of this classic car appealing to the collective cultural memory of car travel on the Australian continent."
So basically the A-HSV is supposed to make train travel feel sexy, uninhibited, ultra-fast — oh, and environmentally sustainable too. (That's everyone's argument for a high-speed rail network, and Australia is no different.) Browse the slideshow of Hassell's concept art and see what you think for yourself.