The head of Aurizon Holdings, Lance Hockridge, has slammed the latest high-speed railway proposal arguing, instead, for the existing infrastructure as a "springboard".
The railroad sector has seen a "lifetime's supply" of national building proposals he told a business lunch on Tuesday, pointing to the Alice Springs to Darwin project and the Melbourne to Brisbane inland railway.
"They seem to be getting more fanciful," he told the luncheon.
"It's nice to be visionary but Australia needs to get real ... we would be much better advised to focus on sustainable growth using existing infrastructure as a springboard.
"We should focus on leveraging as much as possible our existing networks because optimisation of brownfield is the right answer."
Aurizon, the former Queensland Rail, was privatised and floated on the sharemarket in 2010.
Since then, it has undertaken a heavy reorganisation, which so far has resulted in the workforce being cut by 15 per cent.
Mr Hockridge said the mounting pressures on the resources sector meant the focus must increasingly be on boosting operating efficiencies of existing assets.
"The resources boom clearly has moved from high commodity prices into the next chapter of cost containment, capital efficiency and restructuring," he said.
"Breakneck expansion has given way to a more sober environment."
As part of this, the group has boosted the payload of its coal trains in the Hunter by more than 10 per cent and by more than 26 per cent on the Newlands system in Queensland by "using the same crew numbers and without buying new capital gear".
"This is about squeezing more out of what we've already got and being truly efficient," Mr Hockridge said.
As part of this, Aurizon is now working to double train lengths of up to four kilometres carrying more than 20,000 tonnes of coal, he said.