High Speed Rail better than flying Tiger

 

News article: High Speed Rail better than flying Tiger

The Zero Carbon Australia Transport Project is currently completing a report assessing a High Speed Rail service operating from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney and Canberra.

  JimYarin Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
The Zero Carbon Australia Transport Project is currently completing a report assessing a High Speed Rail service operating from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney and Canberra. It is the product of 12 months of joint analysis by researchers from Beyond Zero Emissions, a non-profit climate solutions research organisation and the German Aerospace Centre, Germany’s national research institute.



High speed rail in Australia has been discussed for decades. It is widely recognised as a desirable, exciting concept. Anyone who has enjoyed the experience in Europe or Asia is often left asking “Why don’t we have this back home?”. Yet multiple studies and political indecisiveness have made no progress, and positive support for the idea of HSR is often held back by misconceptions about Australia not having enough people to make it viable.



The government-commissioned HSR Phase 2 report from AECOM released earlier this year suggested that HSR could pay its operating costs, but only after the $114 billion capital cost had been paid by the government.
High Speed Rail better than flying Tiger


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a highly revealing report.  not only is the project viable it will provide a return to all Australians.

the report demonstrates the project can be built with fares the equivalent of those on a low cost airline.

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  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
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a highly revealing report.  not only is the project viable it will provide a return to all Australians.

the report demonstrates the project can be built with fares the equivalent of those on a low cost airline.
JimYarin
No its not viable. Multiple reports and investigations by both private and govt have repeatitly proven it is not viable. Since the advent of discount airlines, the private sector has lost interest apart from being a technoloy supplier. There is still no comparable operation of HSR anywhere in the world to match the east coast proposals. Ticket prices elsewhere on full or near full cost recovery would strongly dispute the argument that the fares will be similar to that of a low cost airline.

The arguments abotu Sydney airport capacity has been going on since I was a kid 30 years ago, yet 30 years later, Mascot is still the sole airport for Sydney and will be so for at least another 20 years. Many of the past capacity forecast have ignored technology improvements. However I would agree the options for further capacity are declining.

The issue for regional Australia as discussed in the report ignore the fact that most of regional east coast will be ignored by HSR. However a progressive improvement to the current 19th century trunk line infrastructure would offer alot more to more people for less and still deliver real CO2 savings but getting more freight off the roads and onto rail as well as providing medium speed rail capabiilty (up to 200km/hr for pax.

HSR is not an economicly viable means of providing commuter transport.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Have any ticket prices actually ben mooted?  I would like to get a view of what prices we would be talking about.  Who are these guys who published the report?

Regards
Brian
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
No its not viable. Multiple reports and investigations by both private and govt have repeatitly proven it is not viable. Since the advent of discount airlines, the private sector has lost interest apart from being a technoloy supplier. There is still no comparable operation of HSR anywhere in the world to match the east coast proposals. Ticket prices elsewhere on full or near full cost recovery would strongly dispute the argument that the fares will be similar to that of a low cost airline.

The arguments abotu Sydney airport capacity has been going on since I was a kid 30 years ago, yet 30 years later, Mascot is still the sole airport for Sydney and will be so for at least another 20 years. Many of the past capacity forecast have ignored technology improvements. However I would agree the options for further capacity are declining.

The issue for regional Australia as discussed in the report ignore the fact that most of regional east coast will be ignored by HSR. However a progressive improvement to the current 19th century trunk line infrastructure would offer alot more to more people for less and still deliver real CO2 savings but getting more freight off the roads and onto rail as well as providing medium speed rail capabiilty (up to 200km/hr for pax.

HSR is not an economicly viable means of providing commuter transport.
RTT_Rules
Until jet fuel prices soar rapidly, which could be anytime soon.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
Have any ticket prices actually ben mooted?  I would like to get a view of what prices we would be talking about.
"bevans"
More than once, I've (crudely) reverse-engineered the cost structure to get an idea of how much each ticket would need to cost, on average, to ensure the project generated enough returns through fares on its capital investment.

It always ends up far more expensive than flying (I found that we need $200 per ticket on average to cover the construction costs, never mind operation and management costs on top of this), and you can try and dance around the numbers but at the end of the day if you need to make an average of $200 per ticket just to cover the capital expenditure, your project is not competitive with the existing successful aviation industry, and therefore not viable. If you want it to be competitive, you'd need to apply massive subsidies and write off enormous costs, and that's just not on.

I'm sorry, but this is not a viable project. Not in the slightest.

The government-commissioned HSR Phase 2 report from AECOM released earlier this year suggested that HSR could pay its operating costs, but only after the $114 billion capital cost had been paid by the government.
"Misguided Report"
114 billion dollars squandered to satisfy some fetish for phallic nosecones. It's beyond idiotic.
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
Note, you could also pull off 200kph freights as well in theory. More so express mail and whatnot. Even could do limited "van" type goods.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
Note, you could also pull off 200kph freights as well in theory. More so express mail and whatnot. Even could do limited "van" type goods.
"speedemon08"
For what purpose? Freight is fine on conventional rail, though that conventional rail could certainly do with a bit of help.

ummm.... why does "Tiger" figure in the title when it doesn't even rate a mention in the article? What has one airline (I presume that it refers to the airline company) done that merits its singling out over others and then doesn't justify its heading by relevant comment?
"3l diesel"
As I understand it, it was until recently a foreign-owned airline that had been grounded for safety violations and was notorious for disruption and poor customer service. As such, its negative image has been used to try and paint a more general negative perception of flying in the minds of general public.

I flew one Tiger sector (MEL-SYD) recently for a "Raw fare" of $50. As Watson has basically said above, you can't get an economic fare that cheap on HSR.
"3l diesel"
Yep, and it can't even match the standard 'deal' $139 single fare on Qantas.

HSR might have a place on a leg like SYD-Newcastle, Bathurst, Goulburn etc. But if a bog standard intensive commuter rail like the Sydney system has to be substantially subsidized to keep operating (not that this is wrong either), by what criteria do we find an economic ticket price and a good return on investment in a prospective HSR project?
"3l diesel"
That is a beautiful question.

RTT is very correct in the remarks about fixing up a 19th century standard interstate alignment first.

I do fear that pushing for projects like this can do more damage to the existing rail infrastructure than good. Comments about "zero emissions"... - what with? Wind farms are highly unreliable, solar is very expensive daytime only, hydro has been exploited almost completely in Australia, or maybe is nuclear power in Australia is to be a reality. Rail, at least the east coast rail, (I understand the WA iron ore railways are very well built and operated) needs far more urgent attention and less distraction.
"3l diesel"
Zing!
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
More than once, I've (crudely) reverse-engineered the cost structure to get an idea of how much each ticket would need to cost, on average, to ensure the project generated enough returns through fares on its capital investment.

It always ends up far more expensive than flying (I found that we need $200 per ticket on average to cover the construction costs, never mind operation and management costs on top of this), and you can try and dance around the numbers but at the end of the day if you need to make an average of $200 per ticket just to cover the capital expenditure, your project is not competitive with the existing successful aviation industry, and therefore not viable. If you want it to be competitive, you'd need to apply massive subsidies and write off enormous costs, and that's just not on.

I'm sorry, but this is not a viable project. Not in the slightest.

114 billion dollars squandered to satisfy some fetish for phallic nosecones. It's beyond idiotic.
Watson374

Is is not viable only because of the size of the construction cost? If this was to be lowered them the financial equation would look better.  I have also said previously I am not sure we should be judging the project on costs alone. There are a lot of costs in aircraft delays, fuel surcharges, traffic issues to the airport and security screening etc.  An airline traveller has many delays and queues to deal with.

Regards
Brian
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
The user experience of HSR is really fantastic; I say this as someone who's used the TGV in France - far easier than catching a plane and you don't have to go though all the bother of having your baggage searched/checked in and the annoyance of being there at least an hour before the flight, just get on and go.

Watson has an absolutely valid point though, with ticket prices needing to be that expensive for the longer sections it's probably not that viable at the moment; shorter haul sections where it can beat air travel would be better to try first like Sydney-Canberra and if that works they could think of applying it to other sections.  However we don't know the future of where the oil price is headed - at the moment it's apparently headed towards $1.80 a litre or so in the next month but one day we're going to hit peak oil, there's no doubt in my mind about that.

When that happens there'll be no such thing as a $50 Tiger fare any more, it will be more like $200-300 for each domestic leg like it used to be... maybe more.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
The airline sector between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the busiest in the world and also one of the most expensive?  Why?  Perhaps there needs to be some competition?

Regards
Brian
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
The airline sector between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the busiest in the world and also one of the most expensive?  
bevans
Rubbish.  There are sectors within Australia even that have far higher average fares.  Australian aviation is reasonably competitive.  That's actually an advantage for the HSR proposal, because in the face of modal competition the aviation sector is limited in how it can respond in terms of price.  Read the HSR phase two report for details.
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
And how do you factor in all the lost jobs in the aviation industry because people aren't flying any more?
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
The airline sector between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the busiest in the world and also one of the most expensive?  Why?  Perhaps there needs to be some competition?
"bevans"
Rubbish.

There is a sale on Qantas right now, with SYD-MEL going for just $85. The LCCs are offering even less. This is not "one of the most expensive" routes; because of yield management (something the railways could use), no route has a real set price. To assert it is "one of the most expensive" air routes is beyond far-fetched.

Competition? Why yes, that already exists. Qantas and Jetstar versus Virgin and Tiger. Competition already exists.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
I wonder how many times this subject will be raised here, then thoroughly repudiated by those who know and recognise that HSR is not a viable project. It seems this subject gets raised almost weekly now, and the result is always the same.

  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

If everyone wants to play the viability game - then our metropolitan commuter rail operations aren't viable, our highway system isn't viable and if the full cost of aviation infrastructure was passed on to airlines...they wouldn't be viable either. Viability shouldn't be confused with need - I'm not going as far as to say HSR is 'needed', but infrastructure cost shouldn't be its only measurement. Social need has to be mixed in as well to find the real balance.
  Peter Spyker Train Controller

And how do you factor in all the lost jobs in the aviation industry because people aren't flying any more?
Ballast_Plough
Well, you don't. You don't keep industries around just because they employ people. That's why we're in the mess we are with car manufacturing; the government keeps throwing money at car manufacturers, despite the fact that they aren't making something that we want to buy anymore, purely to keep people employed. Cut them adrift and let them swim on their own.

It's the same with aviation. If rail is a better way to do it, then that's what we should do, regardless of how many jobs are lost in aviation.

Now, that said, I have no idea whether HSR is viable. Personally, I think that we should be spending money on getting our metropolitan public tranport networks working properly before we even consider spending money on high speed links.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Is is not viable only because of the size of the construction cost? If this was to be lowered them the financial equation would look better.  I have also said previously I am not sure we should be judging the project on costs alone. There are a lot of costs in aircraft delays, fuel surcharges, traffic issues to the airport and security screening etc.  An airline traveller has many delays and queues to deal with.
bevans

There may be options to reduce construction cost, but as the advisory group report highlights, many of those options involve a reduction in the quality of the service provided (or an increase in environmental impacts, which means community acceptance will be less).  Rather than getting from Sydney to Melbourne in less than three hours CBD to CBD, you start looking at longer journey times.  The thinking is that if you get much above three hours then you are on the other side of tipping point, where despite airport congestion, longer boarding times, distance of the airport from the CBD, etc, the plane is still more attractive.  

There is no point spending only $40 billion to build Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne HSR, if the operation then doesn't achieve sufficient patronage such that it doesn't require significant government subsidy.  That would be a disaster.

Perhaps also "quotes" from construction companies for the work will come in at less than expected, but given the costs quoted are pretty consistent with overseas and other Australian examples, and that something the size of the HSR project is going to stress local construction capability, I wouldn't be counting on it.

If a domestic airline is quoting you a retail fare without including fuel surchages, the you should report them to the ACCC, as they are breaking the law.

The questions are how much extra are people willing to pay and how much extra journey time are people willing to endure to avoid all the issues associated with aviation.  If the answer either of those two is "not much", then HSR has a problem.

If everyone wants to play the viability game - then our metropolitan commuter rail operations aren't viable, our highway system isn't viable and if the full cost of aviation infrastructure was passed on to airlines...they wouldn't be viable either. Viability shouldn't be confused with need - I'm not going as far as to say HSR is 'needed', but infrastructure cost shouldn't be its only measurement. Social need has to be mixed in as well to find the real balance.
"sulla1"


But most of the costs of the current avaiation system between Brisbane-Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney are passed onto users.

It is ridiculous to pretend that the provision of an additional inter-capital passenger transport mode, that delivers outcomes that are more or less the same as the current system, has anywhere near the national economic benefit of the national road network, or of the metropolitan public transport systems, or of the national rail freight network, or whatever.  

What is the social need for HSR?

(It is completely misleading to look at one-off discount fares and use that to decide what typical aviation fares are.  If everyone on the service bought that sort of discount fare on an on-going basis the service would be withdrawn.  Similarly, it is misleading to look at the "full" fare values.  The answer lies somewhere in between.)
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

What is the social need for HSR?
That's the big question...and it's probably about growth and development in the Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney corridor. We can do what we do now and let Sydney and Melbourne sprawl endlessly, or we can slow the sprawl by turning regional cities along the corridor into satellite commuter communities for the state capitals. That appears to be the common result of high speed rail elsewhere in the world, and it's that kind of regionalisation of populations that the aviation industry can't really supply at low cost. We've seen how the Velcocities have changed Victorian travelling habits, HSR is just the next step. We shouldn't just think of HSR as the people moving between the capitals, if anything it's about mobilising the people who live in between. On the surface, that's the social need I can see, maybe there's others, and maybe sharing sprawl isn't enough, but it is certainly one tangible benefit that can't be achieved with Mascot and Tullamarine.  
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
What is the social need for HSR?
That's the big question...and it's probably about growth and development in the Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney corridor. We can do what we do now and let Sydney and Melbourne sprawl endlessly, or we can slow the sprawl by turning regional cities along the corridor into satellite commuter communities for the state capitals. That appears to be the common result of high speed rail elsewhere in the world, and it's that kind of regionalisation of populations that the aviation industry can't really supply at low cost. We've seen how the Velcocities have changed Victorian travelling habits, HSR is just the next step. We shouldn't just think of HSR as the people moving between the capitals, if anything it's about mobilising the people who live in between. On the surface, that's the social need I can see, maybe there's others, and maybe sharing sprawl isn't enough, but it is certainly one tangible benefit that can't be achieved with Mascot and Tullamarine.  
Sulla1


No, HSR is not just the next step. The whole attraction and indeed the high construction cost of HSR depends on it NOT stopping at all those pissant regional towns. It is meant to go from one destination to another as fast as possible, and it becomes less of an attraction to potential passengers if it stops at all those places, and less efficient due to the energy required to get back up to speed again.

Everyone who wants HSR seems to want a Stopping-All-Stations option, and it does not work that way.
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
Everyone who wants HSR seems to want a Stopping-All-Stations option, and it does not work that way.
TheBlacksmith

Exactly why RFR fails on the Gippsland line. Too many stops.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
What is the social need for HSR?
That's the big question...and it's probably about growth and development in the Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney corridor. We can do what we do now and let Sydney and Melbourne sprawl endlessly, or we can slow the sprawl by turning regional cities along the corridor into satellite commuter communities for the state capitals. That appears to be the common result of high speed rail elsewhere in the world, and it's that kind of regionalisation of populations that the aviation industry can't really supply at low cost. We've seen how the Velcocities have changed Victorian travelling habits, HSR is just the next step. We shouldn't just think of HSR as the people moving between the capitals, if anything it's about mobilising the people who live in between. On the surface, that's the social need I can see, maybe there's others, and maybe sharing sprawl isn't enough, but it is certainly one tangible benefit that can't be achieved with Mascot and Tullamarine.  
Sulla1
But what's the social benefit of that?  Relatively wealthy people with well paying city based jobs find it more convenient to have a country weekender?  Middle income professionals who don't want to leave the regions (why?) get to access slightly higher paid jobs in the city (but with the downside of higher commute costs)?  

Satellite commuter communities sound like a disaster in the making.  Are we sure this is actually a broad social benefit?  Are those that are living in these communities happy to pay increased taxes (higher rates or land taxes, perhaps?) to cover the cost that society incurs in order to provide them with a commuter service that almost certainly loses money?

If the reason is "Sydney and Melbourne are too full", then why are we building the line all the way between them?  Why is the federal government getting involved (or solely carrying this) - that's a pure question of state and local government level town planning.

Regional development is often touted as one benefit, but practically that's going to be the development of one region at the expense of another.  From a national (or perhaps even state) point of view, that's not a net benefit.  You are not going to get huge amounts of industry relocating to Australia because we have HSR.  You are not going to get large numbers of international tourists coming here instead of New Zealand because we have HSR.  It is a local optimisation.

If you are flying or driving or catching the train between Sydney and Melbourne you don't come across large swathes of land that is yet to be exploited (or protected in National Parks and similar reserves) in some way.  Land use is more or less consistent with what's appropriate.  100 years ago, when they were poking railway lines out into the sticks, that wasn't the case.  The provision of transport enabled new industries (mostly agricultural) to develop.  What new stuff is HSR enabling now?

(To re-iterate, I don't share the pessimism of some posters here and I think it is a great idea to plan for this sort of thing, reserve and protect corridors, carry out studies looking at the best corridor and the best engineering, perhaps even start spending some real money acquiring properties.  But we need to be realistic about the project, its costs and benefits, and not get deluded by some sort of major infrastructure fetish.)
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

No, HSR is not just the next step. The whole attraction and indeed the high construction cost of HSR depends on it NOT stopping at all those pissant regional towns. It is meant to go from one destination to another as fast as possible, and it becomes less of an attraction to potential passengers if it stops at all those places, and less efficient due to the energy required to get back up to speed again.

Everyone who wants HSR seems to want a Stopping-All-Stations option, and it does not work that way.
"TheBlacksmith"


Better not tell the French and the Japanese that's how HSR is meant to be used, they'd be pretty surprised. If you want to travel between Sydney and Melbourne in two hours, catch a plane. Stopping at the four largest regional cities between Sydney and Melbourne and having a four trip...it's not exactly a milk run.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

But what's the social benefit of that?  Relatively wealthy people with well paying city based jobs find it more convenient to have a country weekender?  Middle income professionals who don't want to leave the regions (why?) get to access slightly higher paid jobs in the city (but with the downside of higher commute costs)?  

Satellite commuter communities sound like a disaster in the making.  Are we sure this is actually a broad social benefit?  Are those that are living in these communities happy to pay increased taxes (higher rates or land taxes, perhaps?) to cover the cost that society incurs in order to provide them with a commuter service that almost certainly loses money?

If the reason is "Sydney and Melbourne are too full", then why are we building the line all the way between them?  Why is the federal government getting involved (or solely carrying this) - that's a pure question of state and local government level town planning.

Regional development is often touted as one benefit, but practically that's going to be the development of one region at the expense of another.  From a national (or perhaps even state) point of view, that's not a net benefit.  You are not going to get huge amounts of industry relocating to Australia because we have HSR.  You are not going to get large numbers of international tourists coming here instead of New Zealand because we have HSR.  It is a local optimisation.

If you are flying or driving or catching the train between Sydney and Melbourne you don't come across large swathes of land that is yet to be exploited (or protected in National Parks and similar reserves) in some way.  Land use is more or less consistent with what's appropriate.  100 years ago, when they were poking railway lines out into the sticks, that wasn't the case.  The provision of transport enabled new industries (mostly agricultural) to develop.  What new stuff is HSR enabling now?

(To re-iterate, I don't share the pessimism of some posters here and I think it is a great idea to plan for this sort of thing, reserve and protect corridors, carry out studies looking at the best corridor and the best engineering, perhaps even start spending some real money acquiring properties.  But we need to be realistic about the project, its costs and benefits, and not get deluded by some sort of major infrastructure fetish.)
"donttellmywife"


What's the social benefit of having an entire Federal Election decided in the western suburbs of one city? The regional growth HSRs can provide could reshape Australia's future urban landscape. Do we really want the conurbations of Sydney and Melbourne hitting eight or ten million each while places like Albury and Wagga become increasingly irrelevant and remote?
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Better not tell the French and the Japanese that's how HSR is meant to be used, they'd be pretty surprised. If you want to travel between Sydney and Melbourne in two hours, catch a plane. Stopping at the four largest regional cities between Sydney and Melbourne and having a four trip...it's not exactly a milk run.
Sulla1
That's not the model currently envisaged here (things can always change, but at the moment - its not what you describe).  In order to get a sufficient number of users (contrast the size of the regional centres in Australia with those on the French network, and remember that Sydney-Albury doesn't rate anywhere in terms of the airline route rankings) about half the services would run very limited stops (perhaps express).  A second tier of services would then be "less limited" services for the regional centres (and perhaps Canberra and the Gold Coast), then you might have a third tier that provides commuter services.  In some respects everyone is happy.

I don't think there's much point providing a four hour end to end service as your primary service between Sydney and Melbourne - the airlines would romp it home in terms of market share.  If you don't get significant market share over that distance, your HSR system is financially stuffed.

As I said - things can always change (or be changed).  But one thing that has to be clearer to everyone before we charge off and build this thing is exactly what is being built.  I think at the moment "HSR" means quite a lot of different things to different people, but you are only going to build one system.  You don't want to start running trains and then have people start thinking that they would be able to use a pensioner excursion ticket to get from Sydney-Melbourne in under three hours, for an extreme example.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
What's the social benefit of having an entire Federal Election decided in the western suburbs of one city? The regional growth HSRs can provide could reshape Australia's future urban landscape. Do we really want the conurbations of Sydney and Melbourne hitting eight or ten million each while places like Albury and Wagga become increasingly irrelevant and remote?
Sulla1
Marginal electorates get attention, regardless of where they are.  The election is decided across all electorates, as it has always been.

There is a vast amount more to "regional" Australia than the areas served by the HSR corridor.  Effectively what you are doing is penalising those other areas (since it is only federal money at this stage), in favour of the communities along the line.  The national benefit is... zero.

You are not going to fix the relevance or irrelevance of Albury and/or Wagga by turning them into commuter cities, particularly given the distance that they are from Sydney and Melbourne.  You need to actually move more economic activity there.

Problems caused by Sydney and Melbourne's growth is primarily (but not exclusively) a problem for Sydney and Melbourne, otherwise you are just making those problems worse.

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