Why we need High Speed Rail in Australia

 

News article: Why we need High Speed Rail in Australia

[color=#000000][size=3][font=Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]It is an interesting time in Australian Politics.

  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta


It is an interesting time in Australian Politics. Some may not agree but in my view we are in a period of political wilderness. We struggle as Australians to understand why poor decision making flows from Canberra and the respective state and territory governments around our country.
We struggle to understand why we can't get what we need and why can't we actually get the right projects off the ground, projects which are good for this country.

The answer is of course economic and fiscal rationalism benefiting those organisations who choose to rely upon it. We continue to fall behind the rest of the developed world on many critical issues including infrastructure and education. Organisations and politicians don't always have our best interests at heart.
Why we need High Speed Rail in Australia


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You appear to have forgotten to answer the question posed in your title. But I'll bite regardless.

A simple question - why should the taxpayer be asked to put up $100 billion to allow businessy types to have more convenient travel between capitals?  Remind me of the lasting social benefit that this brings?  Why should society devote a significant chunk of its resources for the benefit of a select part of the population that are already relatively well off?

If HSR is so good, what things should governments and society not spend money on instead in order to fund it?  Health?  Education?  Public Transport?  The NBN?  To fund $100 billion capital you need to shift about $5 billion a year from somewhere else, on an on-going basis.  What's it to be?  When you polled the Australian people, did you put that real choice in front of them?  Did they volunteer how much extra tax they were willing to pay?  What they were willing to go without?

When advocates in regional communities began spruiking this, were they similarly volunteering how much they'd be willing to tip into the pot by some means?  Were local governments happy to commit their rate payers for a couple of billion or did they just have their begging bowls out in front of the federal purse?

If HSR is that worthwhile, perhaps we should shut down the existing passenger rail systems in the three capitals on the east coast?  That would more or less free up the required public funds.  You might upset a few "special interest groups", but I'm sure the fact that they can then travel between interstate capitals, for about the same price as they current fly, taking about the same time, would more than make up for it.  Are you still keen?

If you could get between Sydney and Canberra by train in less than sixty minutes for about double or more the cost of the plane, would that interest you?  Because that's the sort of cost that you should be considering, in the absence of a huge taxpayer subsidy.

Most things look like a good idea - until someone has to pay!

Let us say some benevolent entity happened to donate the $100 billion - are you telling me that with all the discussion about infrastructure shortages in urban and freight transport, the pressing needs associated with the aging population, the need to remain productively competitive relative to other world economies, the compelling benefits that result from improving education levels, the chronic disadvantage that a large chunk of the indigenous population still endure, the potential challenges associated with Australia's reliance on high carbon energy sources and industries, etc, etc the best thing you could think of to spend that windfall on is a high speed train??  WTF??

Regardless of your point of view, putting this project in the same league as the NBN in terms of the breadth of social benefit or even just the cost/benefit ratio is laughable.  Similarly, pretending there's some overarching conspiracy by airlines or whoever to suppress the project in the face of the very publicly available studies and discussion is just plain silly.  Conspiracy is the last refuge of those that have lost the rational argument.

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  JimYarin Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Good review bevans. I also understand more about my the #NBN is important to Foxtel and Rupert. You can't yet get a high speed train between melbourne and Sydney or Melbourne and Adelaide but you guys get a road no-one wants?  

  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
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If you could get between Sydney and Canberra by train in less than sixty minutes for about double or more the cost of the plane, would that interest you?  Because that's the sort of cost that you should be considering, in the absence of a huge taxpayer subsidy.

Most things look like a good idea - until someone has to pay!
donttellmywife

Does the cost of a ticket from Sydney to Canberra on the airline include the costs of parking and also waiting for the plane, security checking and other time wasted in flight delays?

Perhaps, and this is one of my point,s it would be a lot cheaper to travel the same distance (actually it would probably be less distance) by rail than aircraft even if the ticket face value was more.  You need to think about the environment, the cost of fuel in the future (fuel levy on airlines) and the cost of delays etc and you have a very viable alternative.

You can't just look at this project from a purely financial viewpoint.  if this was the case over the past 40 years, we would not even have dams and other vital infrastructure.

Regards
Brian
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Does the cost of a ticket from Sydney to Canberra on the airline include the costs of parking and also waiting for the plane, security checking and other time wasted in flight delays?

Perhaps, and this is one of my point,s it would be a lot cheaper to travel the same distance (actually it would probably be less distance) by rail than aircraft even if the ticket face value was more.  You need to think about the environment, the cost of fuel in the future (fuel levy on airlines) and the cost of delays etc and you have a very viable alternative.

You can't just look at this project from a purely financial viewpoint.  if this was the case over the past 40 years, we would not even have dams and other vital infrastructure.
bevans
A decision by a user as to the mode of travel implicitly takes those costs into account, if the user is a) a rational actor and b) experiences the externalities.  [I appreciate the concept of a rational actor might be foreign to a rail fan forum, but they exist.]  The problem with this project is that all those additional costs, including externalities, don't come vaguely close, not by a long shot, to covering the upfront capital costs using typical government cost of capital assumptions.  If it was close we wouldn't be having this discussion!

(You can force the situation to give rail's the upper hand here - as I mentioned in the other thread you could introduce a significant surcharge on air fares.  Did you run any polls looking at that option?  I think we all know what the outcome would be, but that is the sort of discussion (maybe not the specific outcome) that needs to happen if this project is to go anywhere sensible - how do you link costs back to the beneficiaries.)

You never look at projects only from a financial viewpoint.  But having a positive benefit to cost ratio is not on its own sufficient to go ahead with something.  You need to consider whether there are better options out there, that can deliver equivalent or greater benefit for less cost.  If you really are motivated by traveller time savings or environmental issues then it is pretty easy to come up with far superior options - read any "foaming" thread in these forums for some suggestions!  Then we still come down to the fairness issue - why are you spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars for the benefit of a relatively small group of relatively well off people?  Why?

That said, many of the other "nation building" type projects that get thrown in for comparison with this one had positive financials!  The Snowy Mountain scheme is a classic case - look at all the early feasibility studies and you can clearly see that there was a requirement that the project's return beat the government bond rate (I recall they were using 5% or so).  The Sydney Harbour bridge I suspect (I don't know for sure - but the debt has been paid off, supposedly by tolls.  If others know details to the contrary I'd be interested in knowing.) similarly met that criteria.  Other various irrigation, power supply, town water supply, etc, schemes also would at least have made that government bond rate hurdle.  The best bits of the HSR project only make 1%!  So plenty of so called vital infrastructure would indeed still be built, if for some bizarre reason financial return was your only criteria!

Maybe we'll run out of jet fuel or whatever next week, in which case things will change (though as often said, if that did come to pass then getting people between state capitals quickly is not likely to be a priority for a government faced with a the real prospect of a starving population).  Population and hence demand for travel is likely to progressively increase.  At some stage in the future, it would be unwise to pretend that there wasn't potential for a HSR service to be worthwhile building.  Consequently if you want to make a strategic decision to prepare for these possibilities by reserving corridors, etc, then by all means do so for some nominal investment now.  I don't have a problem with that - I actually think that would be wise.  But fundamentally, I do not see the point in leaping in now and penalising the many for the benefit of the few.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
So, a cost of about $4,500 for every single person in Australia for a rail network that only benefits a small number of people who live on the east coast. I would never use it, and neither would about 70% of Australians.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
So, a cost of about $4,500 for every single person in Australia for a rail network that only benefits a small number of people who live on the east coast. I would never use it, and neither would about 70% of Australians.
TheBlacksmith

This is where I think you are wrong.  (all due respect)  I think people would use it if it were constructed correctly. Did the government not do some polling about the project and some canvassing of the route?

My point is that people in regional centres on route could use the train to get to and from work daily.  Yearly tickets could be issued.

Have you thought about the building boom that would come from the train's route?  It would deliver a bonanza for builders working on houses in regional centres like Wang, Seymour and others.

Regards
Brian
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
This is where I think you are wrong.  (all due respect)  I think people would use it if it were constructed correctly. Did the government not do some polling about the project and some canvassing of the route?

My point is that people in regional centres on route could use the train to get to and from work daily.  Yearly tickets could be issued.

Have you thought about the building boom that would come from the train's route?  It would deliver a bonanza for builders working on houses in regional centres like Wang, Seymour and others.

Regards
Brian
bevans

I commuted for many years between Garfield and Melbourne, and it made for a 12 hour day for me. On the platform at 7.00AM and back again on the same platform at 7.00PM. It makes for a long day and people get sick of it. There is no fun in commuting that sort of distance every day.

And the ticket cost to commuters would be much higher than the current regional fares.

And the 70% I refer to are those who do not live on the east coast or have no reason to travel between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

A building boom? What from? The relatively few people who would decide to move to a distant regional centre and then commute each day. The actual numbers would not fuel a boom, more like a pop.
  62440 Chief Commissioner

There seems to be a suggestion that the HSR is for a few business types only. Check the airlines, we are heading for 100 planes a day between SYD MEL, one of the world's busiest corridors. That suggests over 10000 people currently use the route each day. An HSR is almost guaranteed to pick up half of that, probably more, so straightaway you have 5000 people a day. A stop at Canberra would pick up nearly all the SYD CAN and MEL CAN business as city to city travel would be much quicker by rail.
New traffic would be generated from Albury, Wagga Wagga and Goulburn in particular.
10000 people each weekday is 2.5M a year, worth thinking about.
Business travel from CBD to CBD would almost certainly be dominated by rail with the ability to catch the train minutes after leaving the office. Suburb to suburb should be faster with links to every suburban rail service from the terminals.
Business types can use phones and wifi without interruption for the entire journey so companies will like that!
Just look to Europe to see what HSR impacts, air routes are closing down there.
As far as costs go, SYD is approaching capacity in planning timescales and a new airport with links will cost a fair chunk of the cost of HSR. HSR will put off the need for a second Sydney airport for the foreseeable future.
The stage north to Brisbane is a logical extension, maybe not with the potential of SYD MEL.
Flight times are 1.25 or 1.35, add check in and travel to and from the airport, especially Melbourne, and HSR is competitive. I commuted between Melbourne and Sydney weekly for a few months and would have used the HSR if there was one.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
There seems to be a suggestion that the HSR is for a few business types only. Check the airlines, we are heading for 100 planes a day between SYD MEL, one of the world's busiest corridors. That suggests over 10000 people currently use the route each day. An HSR is almost guaranteed to pick up half of that, probably more, so straightaway you have 5000 people a day. A stop at Canberra would pick up nearly all the SYD CAN and MEL CAN business as city to city travel would be much quicker by rail.
New traffic would be generated from Albury, Wagga Wagga and Goulburn in particular.
10000 people each weekday is 2.5M a year, worth thinking about.
Business travel from CBD to CBD would almost certainly be dominated by rail with the ability to catch the train minutes after leaving the office. Suburb to suburb should be faster with links to every suburban rail service from the terminals.
Business types can use phones and wifi without interruption for the entire journey so companies will like that!
Just look to Europe to see what HSR impacts, air routes are closing down there.
62440

I have little doubt that should this system be built, it would attract significant patronage, along the lines of what you describe.  But so what?

If the government offered free beer to part of the population, I'm sure that part of the population would drink lots of beer.  Doesn't mean its a good idea though.

Back to the basic point - why should the taxpayer be asked to hand over lots of cash for the benefit of interstate capital travellers?  They don't now.  Why is it different if they catch a train rather than catch a plane?

As far as costs go, SYD is approaching capacity in planning timescales and a new airport with links will cost a fair chunk of the cost of HSR. HSR will put off the need for a second Sydney airport for the foreseeable future.


There is a large difference between the likely cost of a second airport for Sydney and the expected cost of the Melbourne to Sydney segment of the HSR system.  As a thumbsuck (it depends on what you build) something like $5 billion would get you an second airport sufficient for the next couple of decades.  Sydney to Melbourne (with spur to Canberra) HSR is more like $50 billion.  This is before you get to the question of who pays.  Over the medium to long term airport users pay for the construction cost of the airport.  That's no likely to be the case for the HSR construction cost.

The recent HSR study does not expect that the HSR system will prevent the need for a second Sydney airport.  It might defer demand (but as you say - we are pretty much already at the point where there's sufficient demand for a second airport - we are likely to have a second airport before HSR construction even starts), but only by a decade or two.
  Daryl Junior Train Controller

Location: Carrum Downs
We'd probably have to have a population density approaching European or Chinese cities.
I'm not sure of the figure for Australia, 100 million?

It would be interesting to guage the effect on regional China since this happened recently.

Or something else might happen. What if the cost of petrol and diesel went through the roof? It seems the slightest twitch in the world will send the price of petrol up.

What if there was a breakthrough in battery design and electric cars became cheap and flooded the market? I think there will be government will to always keep the cost of travel high in Australia, ie through a extra tax on electricity that is used for electric cars to keep the cost the same as petrol cars. Or maybe a road usage charge based on GPS technology combined with speed records to keep speed limits. The government will want to keep the fuel levy equivalent on electric cars. Not at first, but surely it will come.

There was a recent article on buses running in Korea which are charged by induction from cables buried under the road. A network of cables under the roads would be expensive. Maybe the easily funded roads can include a couple of cables? And the buses would have more flexibility than trolley buses. We would need more power stations.

When I read about the endless reviews on HSR, I wonder how the Snowy Mountains scheme got off the ground. Today the environmental impact studies would take years. Beyond the electoral attention span of the main parties.

In my experience in government, management always went for the short term gains.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
So, a cost of about $4,500 for every single person in Australia for a rail network that only benefits a small number of people who live on the east coast. I would never use it, and neither would about 70% of Australians.
TheBlacksmith
Last time I checked around 80% of Australia's population lived along the eastern seaboard from the Sunshine Coast to Geelong... Not exactly a small number...
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
I commuted for many years between Garfield and Melbourne, and it made for a 12 hour day for me. On the platform at 7.00AM and back again on the same platform at 7.00PM. It makes for a long day and people get sick of it. There is no fun in commuting that sort of distance every day.
TheBlacksmith
I travel from Ballan to Melbourne every weekday and sometimes on a weekend as well, and I'm into my 27th year which is longer than many posters in these pages have been born Exclamation

Ballan, same distance as Garfield give or take, I usually depart on 6:32AM train and arrive home at 5PM, unless I start and finish later. It's impossible to get 'sick of it' as my quality of life in Ballan, IMO far exceeds those who live with the city noise, pollution, crime, traffic gridlock, none of which have any direct bearing on my life whatsoever.

Over a 25 year average V/Line trains are getting faster and the RRL will enable additional services to operate.

People are moving to the regions from the city in huge numbers, as V/Line's annual patronage will attest and a HST is simply an extension of that.

Mike.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
Last time I checked around 80% of Australia's population lived along the eastern seaboard from the Sunshine Coast to Geelong... Not exactly a small number...
The Vinelander

And of the people I know, about 2 to 3 regularly travel between Melbourne and Sydney, no-one else makes that trip. I think I will stick with my original statement that 70% or more would NOT use such a service. Even if there was a significant number of business people who used it regularly, why should the majority of Australians pay an enormous amount for the benefit of a few.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: North of the border!
And of the people I know, about 2 to 3 regularly travel between Melbourne and Sydney, no-one else makes that trip. I think I will stick with my original statement that 70% or more would NOT use such a service. Even if there was a significant number of business people who used it regularly, why should the majority of Australians pay an enormous amount for the benefit of a few.
TheBlacksmith

Yep. Besides it's entirely academic as no guvmnt is going to find the sort of money needed.
  doggie015 Junior Train Controller

Location: On a bus going from esplanade busport to canning bridge so I can catch a train to Esplanade station
It saddens me that all of the high-speed rail links proposed are not really needed as standard speed rail is already good enough for such short distances. The only high speed line where there would be a worthwhile decrease in time with surface travel would a line from Perth - Melbourne and that route is ALREADY serviced well enough by aircraft that can travel faster than a surface vehicle anyway! What is the point of making such a large investment for such little benefit and a project that was redundant before it was even started!
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
People are moving to the regions from the city in huge numbers, as V/Line's annual patronage will attest and a HST is simply an extension of that.
The Vinelander
How's V/Line's operating cost recovery going?

Remind me why the federal purse should subsidise the unsustainable lifestyles of a few?
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
V/Line's patronage growth has been artificially stimulated by political decisions (interference if you wish) cutting fares to the point where collecting revenie at all costs almost as much as the fares paid.  In other words it is moving towards a fully-subsidised system with cost recovery a very small percentage indeed of fare revenue.

Notwithstanding, that has shown that under the right conditions passengers will use a railway system even if it is old and in places decaying rapidly.  Victoria has made significant strides over the past few years to address that decay but still has a long way to go.

High speed rail in Australia should be hand-in-hand with Federal management of the key interstate routes.  That does not have to equate to "federal control" or "federal ownership" but can be structured such that Canberra ensures the ongoing sustainability and investment in those routes which continue to be managed by state based or private operators.

To pick up a point raised above we could probably argue that "70% of people will not use" what ever is provided.  70% probably don't travel by train at all and not a lot more may do so with HSR.  For many their needs are not served by rail for reasons varying between having no need to travel through to having no railway at all.

If we started by costing a 200kph option between Melbourne and Sydney then the cost of a branch to Canberra can be added in to that.  If it doesn't meet the required cost:benefit criteria then there would still be some benefit to the Canberra route taking advantage of the high speed section north of Goulburn.  Just as in France not everywhere is on the TGV network but many regional towns benefit from fast journeys to Paris as the TGV leaves its dedicated route and takes the "classic" line into their town.

HSR would ideally service most of the present towns along the way since this is one of the great benefits of rail over air.  End to end journeys are made now despite the pedestrian journey times and many more would be made if the trip were 7 - 8 hours rather than 11.  Over the distance rail is never going to compete with air purely on time but can do so on total cost and often on convenience to the passenger.

Whether a HSR line would actually offer a direct link from Melbourne to Canberra would depend on the costs again.  I don't see a huge demand for it though the present ground-transport options are few.  Politicians and the business community will continue to fly simply because of the pressures on their time.  

If we start at 200kph and we inbuild the ability upgrade to higher speeds in the future we might one day see rail as a serious option in the country at least between east coast cities and including Adelaide.  If we don't we are in danger of consigning rail to history and relying on our roads for freight and regional passenger transport and on air for long-haul.  Neither is as environmentally friendly as rail and neither is as efficient in terms of moving people or tonnes per  kilometre.  

If we have a dedicated HSR passenger railway we can also remove the "inconvenience" for freight operators of having to share tracks at somewhat slower speeds with the occasional passenger train.  

What future do we want for Australia?
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
But lets be clear - some sort of 200 km/h "medium speed" rail line as an inter-capital service is not even remotely on the agenda at the moment.  That bears no resemblance to the current proposal at all.  I'd need to go back and check some of the historical studies, but I also suspect it falls well outside the scope of those.  

That's probably for good reason.  While the interstate capital travel market is large, the section of the market that might tolerate a travel times of around 7 hours or so is not, particularly if the rail fare isn't significantly less than the air fare.  Then there's the simply reality that over those distances, even with line capital costs excluded, passenger rail does not have a cost benefit over air.  The only reason that the current provider still has the tiniest slither of market share from capital to capital is because it is subsidised to the hilt.

Perhaps there's some potential for a Sydney - Canberra medium speed link to be vaguely relevant, but you still have to face some pretty serious geographical issues that mean the project will come with a hefty price tag.  Again, I think you'd be in the situation of the taxpayer stumping up large amounts of cash for little social benefit.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I have used the TGV in France and the service is phenomenally quick - The French national railways have basically killed air travel between many domestic destinations because using the train is much faster and more reliable than air travel.

The French attitude was that of 'hang the expense' when they started building the network in the 1970's and even though there's been ongoing debate about the addition to national productivity I feel most people would still say 'oui' if asked was it a good idea.  Having said that I also understand the arguments about our population base and distances will probably make such a project prohibitive for us as a nation but peak oil is going to come sooner or later and we need to think about what will happen once cheap plane travel is gone.

With the likelyhood of an Abbott government after 7/9 I think all these conversations are moot anyway - but why not think about a medium-speed service Sydney-Canberra?  The distance isn't that great and it's a ridiculously short flight; it could be a test-study to see if higher speeds are viable to put money in to.  Regional Fast(er) Rail in Victoria tends to prove that if you build it they will come (at least in that instance) so it might be worth a try.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
How's V/Line's operating cost recovery going?

Remind me why the federal purse should subsidise the unsustainable lifestyles of a few?
donttellmywife
In your opinion, V/Line should be the only government run commuter railway most probably in the world to cover all of its operating costs Question

You seem to have a quaint opinion of how an extremely successful railway, read V/Line should be run.
It's probably just as well you don't work in the policy area of DoT otherwise you'd be contributing to the end of the Napthine governments chances of re-election.

Mike.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I feel compelled to ask - why are there people who are seemingly anti-rail even on this discussion board?  I also don't buy the 'little social benefit' argument.  Any money spent to keep people out of their polluting, crash-prone and anti-social cars is money well spent in my opinion.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: North of the border!
I feel compelled to ask - why are there people who are seemingly anti-rail even on this discussion board?  I also don't buy the 'little social benefit' argument.  Any money spent to keep people out of their polluting, crash-prone and anti-social cars is money well spent in my opinion.
don_dunstan

Pro rail doesn't mean HSR at any cost, just like pro military doesn't mean Nimitz Class Aircraft Carriers at any cost.

There just isn't that sort of money lying around. In the meantime it consumes oxygen that should be directed at what rail needs right now.

Real world... tonight's political debate - road funding in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide and a second airport for Sydney. SFA about rail and nothing about HSR Shocked
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Aswering many of above

Lesson: France vs Australia 101

- Petrol price in France, $A2.20/L, Australia $1.5 - 1.6, need I say more why car is diserable.

- Average person in French cities lives a small apartment for which parking was never provided. So if you own a car, where do you leave it? The bigger the car the harder to find a park. The average Aussie has a house and garage. In France a big car has a 2L engine, In Australia a big car has 4L engine or is a 4x4. Australian big cars are Falcon and commodore and cheap. Big cars in France are so little bought that you tend to find only top model BMW and Audi etc sell them as luxury cars because if you have the $ to fuel and buy it, you have the $ to park it.

- Commuting by HSR, you think your 70% subsidy cost for commuter rail is expensive now. After spending $100B to build HSR, how much do you think the subsidy will be to travel 15-20min faster to the city for those in the fringe areas. How much should I pay those who want to travel 200km daily for work?

- France is not Australia, it is 3/4 the size of NSW with 3x the population of Australia. Paris is conviently centralised in the country making HSR to most parts of the country a practical and viable means of transport to the majority of the French taxpayers. It is also practical route to Brussels and other parts of Central Europe. The trip to London involves a water crossing, hence limits competition.

- The French govt spent a fortune developing HSR and provide a product to sell, just like the Concord (which lost how much $) and Airbus (which makes how much profit compared to investment). Also, why not check out the debt and unemployment levels of France compared to Australia, a legacy of all this spending.

- There is no HSR between Madrid and Paris, 1200km because its not viable

- The rail loving Swiss have not rolled HSR across Switzerland, because their country side is too hilly, yet Switerland is smaller than the Snowies for which prevents direct route Canberra to Mel

- No HSR project has been built that compares with Australia's HSR project proposal. Why because no country that has built HSR has cities so far apart and so lightly populated. Albury and Wagga would rate a mention in France/Japan as a destination. Canberra is only just big enough and questionable to be viable for a branch line.

- The Snowy mountains project is so far from the HSR project its no funny. Snowy mountains used an itellegent approach to enable cheap base load off-peak power to be used to store peak load power effectively turning the mountains into a battery + the additional power supplied by rain. At the time, there was no other viable technology that could match the project flexibiilty and deliver the extra MW's required. If the snowy was to be built today it probably would not happen as its too expensive for the energy delivered, there are other cheaper alternatives. We won't even mention the environmental issues and the snowy at least pays its own operating costs today, HSR will forever be a leach on the taxpayer.

- An estimated 20,000,000 people would use HSR between BRisbane and Mel annually. Between Sydney and Mel its about 12,000,000 if you include Canberra. Or 33,000 people a day. It would probably get the Lion's share Syd-Can + some car traffic and all bus, but is 1m users per year enough? 33,000 people a day is barely a decent HSR train load every hour in each direction. Can-Mel is unlikely to competetive with Air due to change at Goulburn.

- Just because HSR matches or even beats air by a few min, doesn't mean people will flock to it in droves.  Maybe if you could take alot more time off the trip, but 10-15min which is a struggle with current HSR, no!

- IF I have to park a car at airport, I have to park a car at HSR, nothing changes! Trains, esepcially HSR will need more security. Planes, just check the pax and you are good to go. Trains you have 800km of track for which a small log will cause alot of harm at 300km/hr.

- Australia has some of the world's largest reserves of shale oil, guess which fraction of oil is mostly extracted and easily produced on the large deposit in CQ, Jet fuel (Source: shale oil project) and its sulfur free!

- The airline industry is mostly self funded. HSR will be forever a leach on the taxpayer! So as others have said, what do we want to stop being paid for by the taxpayer to the tune of $5B annually? Note, $5B is double the combined subsidy to all passenger rail in Australia. Or in normal peoples terms, salaries for 42,000 teachers/Nurses/police, popular, I think not!

- Just because there is a train, doesn't mean people won't drive. I lived 600km north of Brisbane and like most people we frequently drove to Brisbane, why? tickets for 3 people (4 in my family now) is around $1000 return and thats without leaving Brisbane airport. Fuel, $200 and takes only 2-3 x as long to drive. If I am on holidays, the boat is on back and the kids toys in the boot. Flying to a camping spot, won't happen! Business travellers are the usually the ones targetted because they are usually the most likely user!

- then of course, frequent flyer points I can collect and head lots of places. With HSR, mmm!

Reason so many gunzels are anti HSR is not that we are completly against HSR of any kind, its because every study ever done on HSR for Australia has clearly shown its a finacial flop and the build it any cost F__k the taxpayer, is typical Greens brainless forget the real world approach to running a country. I am 100% for HSR, but not for Australia. Syd - Can is a potential corridore, but for MSR where freight and commuter rail can benefit from the same project. I also note, UK has so far resisted the HSR path, even though it is far more suited and more alike to France than Australia.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
In your opinion, V/Line should be the only government run commuter railway most probably in the world to cover all of its operating costs Question

You seem to have a quaint opinion of how an extremely successful railway, read V/Line should be run.
It's probably just as well you don't work in the policy area of DoT otherwise you'd be contributing to the end of the Napthine governments chances of re-election.

Mike.
The Vinelander
If the residents of Ballarat, Bendigo, Bairnsdale or Ballan want to spend their allotment of tax dollars, perhaps working in concert with their state government, on heavily subsidised regional transport in order to achieve some sort of social outcome, to then good luck to them - they benefit, they (as a group) pay.  But it is incoherent nonsensical balderdash to pretend that is what is happening with the proposals for interstate inter-capital HSR.  Whatever social benefit arguments there might or might not be for regional travel do not translate to inter-capital travel, and it is pretty clear that there is a substantial disconnect between who pays and who benefits.

Further, the arguments in favour of heavy subsidy of long distance day-in day-out commuters are weak, but on the other hand there is plenty of evidence of the long term problems that such a policy creates.  All that seems to happen is that you take urban sprawl to new levels, creating a population that is economically dependent on a service that is increasingly expensive for society to provide.  It would also seem that such a policy creates a sense of entitlement that then infests all subsequent thinking on rail transport, in many cases to the long term detriment of rail.  That sense of entitlement may be tolerable when you are talking about a few DMU's a day, but it is downright dangerous from a public policy perspective in the context of the volume of travel that exists between the east coast capitals.

I feel compelled to ask - why are there people who are seemingly anti-rail even on this discussion board?  I also don't buy the 'little social benefit' argument.  Any money spent to keep people out of their polluting, crash-prone and anti-social cars is money well spent in my opinion.
don_dunstan


I don't believe that having an interest in rail transport (or even being a general advocate for it) requires me to remove my brain.

You don't need to spend any money to keep people out of their cars.

Spending money (to the extent of requiring significant operating subsidy!) on competing transport modes strikes me as a solution looking for a problem.  If externalities associated with car use are the problem, then solve that problem!  Introducing competing modes in many cases may result in some mode switches, but it will also result in additional "induced" travel, which is usually counter productive in the long run.  You might need to expand capability in other modes as a consequence of car travel becoming less attractive, but that is an output, not an input.

You can apply exactly the same argument to aviation, if for some reason that offends you.

Fundamentally, the form of transport with the lowest impact on the environment and that requires the least resources is... the transport that doesn't happen at all.  Next in line is the transport that covers the least distance.  It amazes me how these simple fundamentals are overlooked.  Actively encouraging people to arrange their lives to include an expectation or dependence on long distance travel is moronic stupidity.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Can anyone guarantee that the shale oil in the SA outback can be extracted without poisoning the Great Artesian Basin?  No.  Personally I think shale oil is destined to be one of those 'bridge too far' things we probably shouldn't be tapping into... but as far as I'm aware the cost of extraction is still too high anyway.  I'm not a greenie but once the groundwater is poisoned we should probably start looking for another planet to live on; considering how much of this country's agriculture is completely reliant on nice, clean bore water it's a real concern that we are about to muck with that.  I also worry at what point the oceans will acidify if we continue to burn absolutely all the hydrocarbons we can find; again, I don't consider myself a greenie but science says it's inevitable with too much CO2 in the atmosphere.  

People who have children should be concerned about what kind of planet we'll leave behind all for the sake of cheap airfares for that weekend away and a 4 litre car with one occupant burning up the miles.

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