Are we heading towards a major high speed rail project?

 

News article: Are we heading towards a major high speed rail project?

High speed rail is exactly the kind of project that would appeal to Malcolm Turnbull, and there is a renewed push for action.

  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
we remain in the dark ages ?
No. We are not in the Dark Ages because we do not have HSR!!! The Countries that do have HSR have greater population densities and efficient Metro systems. Australia has neither. Lets get our all our capital cities having something resembling a decent commuter rail network before even talking about flaming HSR!!!]

Michael
mejhammers1

Despite some of the rants in these pages, governments can walk and chew gum at the same time. IE improve and expand urban PT capacity and encourage decentralisation of the south east of Australia in particular by encouraging connectivity with capital cities by decentralisation and fast and efficient rail services.

Airlines can't do commuter runs well otherwise we'd already be flying daily from Ballarat or Bendigo to Melbourne etc. and due to the geography the only possibly viable commuter air service doesn't exist... Toowoomba to Brisbane.

Before the naysayers start clicking 'disagree'...I'm talking decentralisation, that is in simple terms encouraging growth in regional centres like Goulburn, Canberra, Wagga, Albury, Wangaratta etc.

Regional cities that have a good quality of life, aren't congested and are fairly self contained employment wise. All these regional centres can sustain much larger populations for tree-change commuters which will assist in relieving the burden of the expanding Melbourne and Sydney which have become very expensive to implement infrastructure which should have been undertaken before the growth...not by catch-up later as is often the case.

Victoria's example of its regional rail renaissance I predicted in these pages over 10 years ago after the completion of its Regional Fast Rail project has come to fruition in a far more successful way in part by people tree-changing to the regional centres of Victoria than even I anticipated and has become an ideal template for HSR despite some shortcomings.

Victoria's example of operating higher speed express trains and slower stoppers on the same tracks will have been studied by others and the same template could be implemented as a bigger template as a foundation for HSR.

Again before the naysayers start... due to the south east of Australia's unique population diversity it's entirely possible to operate express and limited stops services on a HSR and give the existing rail line to overnight freight and existing line speed passenger rail.

I'm not commenting on the economics of HSR...though infrastructure is always expensive, however Australia's south east population is growing rapidly.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australians-flock-to-melbourne-as-victoria-becomes-australias-fastest-growing-state-20150625-ghxj27.html

Mike.

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  mejhammers1 Chief Commissioner



Michael
Despite some of the rants in these pages, governments can walk and chew gum at the same time. IE improve and expand urban PT capacity and encourage decentralisation of the south east of Australia in particular by encouraging connectivity with capital cities by decentralisation and fast and efficient rail services.

Airlines can't do commuter runs well otherwise we'd already be flying daily from Ballarat or Bendigo to Melbourne etc. and due to the geography the only possibly viable commuter air service doesn't exist... Toowoomba to Brisbane.

Before the naysayers start clicking 'disagree'...I'm talking decentralisation, that is in simple terms encouraging growth in regional centres like Goulburn, Canberra, Wagga, Albury, Wangaratta etc.

Regional cities that have a good quality of life, aren't congested and are fairly self contained employment wise. All these regional centres can sustain much larger populations for tree-change commuters which will assist in relieving the burden of the expanding Melbourne and Sydney which have become very expensive to implement infrastructure which should have been undertaken before the growth...not by catch-up later as is often the case.

Victoria's example of its regional rail renaissance I predicted in these pages over 10 years ago after the completion of its Regional Fast Rail project has come to fruition in a far more successful way in part by people tree-changing to the regional centres of Victoria than even I anticipated and has become an ideal template for HSR despite some shortcomings.

Victoria's example of operating higher speed express trains and slower stoppers on the same tracks will have been studied by others and the same template could be implemented as a bigger template as a foundation for HSR.

Again before the naysayers start... due to the south east of Australia's unique population diversity it's entirely possible to operate express and limited stops services on a HSR and give the existing rail line to overnight freight and existing line speed passenger rail.

I'm not commenting on the economics of HSR...though infrastructure is always expensive, however Australia's south east population is growing rapidly.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australians-flock-to-melbourne-as-victoria-becomes-australias-fastest-growing-state-20150625-ghxj27.html

Mike.
@Vinelander "governments can walk and chew gum at the same time".No they can't and they won't. The evidence is there. We cannot even get the Albury to Melbourne right. 4 hours for 300 km. We should concentrate on getting the infrastructure that we have right first, forget about HSR.

Michael
The Vinelander
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Decentralisation is not viable. The reason the population is based on the east coast is because that is where it is the most comfortable to live. It is the part of the country that isn't in drought. It has lots of water and it is where most people have chosen to live.

Face up to the fact that people want to live near the major cities. If Sydney decentralises it will be towards wollongong and newcastle and not to Wagga Wagga or Albury.

Fix the existing line and forget HSR.
  ParkesHub Chief Commissioner

.... If Sydney decentralises it will be towards wollongong and newcastle and not to Wagga Wagga or Albury....
simstrain
It already is expanding to the 'Gong and upwards to Newcastle....but decentralisation is not urban sprawl.

I don't think Mike was referring to Wagga or Albury specifically and, generally, I agree with his sentiments.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
NSW = Newcastle Sydney Wollongong

The rest of the state is left wondering.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
I realise Victoria has done it differently to our northern cousins, however with the straighter tracks we have down here and the faster express point to point times compared with car travel, this is a prime reason the Regional Fast Rail model has been such an overwhelming success for the reasons I outlined and hence my suggestion as a template for interstate HSR.

Some of our northern cousins could look at our non-electrified regional lines express point to point times as that template...not that I'm advocating electrification of Victoria's regional lines, but I'm mindful that they are in NSW.

Mike.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
@TheVinelander, the other thing to consider is that the distance to and terrain over which a train must travel to Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and even Albury, is a lot closer and favourable than the Wagga, Dubbo, Moree etc that would be equivalents in NSW.  Victoria and NSW do have some differences.  Id also suggest that Newcastle and Wollongong don't really have equivalents in Victoria (aside maybe from Geelong).  Id say that you probably cant compare the actions of the NSW and Victorian transport systems all that well and say that one is better than the other as they have slightly different jobs to do.  You could make improvements to the Main South, Main West, Main North and Illawarra, but its going to cost a lot more than the RFR project did given the crazy terrain it has to deal with.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Agreed.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

I realise Victoria has done it differently to our northern cousins, however with the straighter tracks we have down here and the faster express point to point times compared with car travel, this is a prime reason the Regional Fast Rail model has been such an overwhelming success for the reasons I outlined and hence my suggestion as a template for interstate HSR.

Some of our northern cousins could look at our non-electrified regional lines express point to point times as that template...not that I'm advocating electrification of Victoria's regional lines, but I'm mindful that they are in NSW.

Mike.
The Vinelander

Victoria is lucky in this regard because for the most part around Melbourne and surrounding areas it is as flat as a pancake and that is why you can have relatively straight track. Yet you still somehow found a way to screw it up and that is why we have nothing to learn from our Victorian cousins.

If you know geography which by the sounds of things you do not. You should realize how much work is needed to build something straight and level out of Sydney. Basically there will need to be 3 bridges built of west gate size and proportions like the hume highway south out of Sydney.

The reason why the HSR proposals cost $100 billion is because most of that is needed to bridge, tunnel and dig through the nearby national parks to Sydney.

What Victorians call regional, we call interurban in Sydney. Most of the the places on the regional network in Melbourne would easily be covered within the Sydney Electric system. At most 300km's is covered by your trains in a single journey. NSW's regional train service on the other hand often covers nearly 4 times that distance on a single journey.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Agreed...Victoria's Regional Fast Rail project was built to a budget but it was also suggested at a time when what you call inter urban rail travel wasn't actually booming down here...in fact it may still have been in decline, so it was a big call in 1999 for a government to suggest in Opposition that project. The government of the day called it the Farce Rail Project, but they've had to eat their words in recent years and its success is now almost legendary by Vic locals who were used to slow and infrequent train services till 2005.

HSR, when it eventually gets the nod has some challenging terrain to traverse in NSW compared to Victoria which as you say is entirely different. However bridge and tunnel building has come a long ways since you guys built the coat hanger, and the costs and economy of scale will have reduced those accordingly.

Mike.
  Grantham Minister for Railways

Location: I'm with stupid!
The other thing is - how would even HSR compete with the already cut-throat airlines?

I'm an advocate of low speed rail. If there was more than one train a day then it would be obvious that the service was in use. But why are we even thinking about replacing a single daily service with dozens of trains on brand new (and very expensive) alignments?

Frankly, if it takes twelve hours to travel a thousand kilometres as a passenger then is that such a bad thing?

I think you'd be more likely to get your investment back if you built a new railway alignment for high speed freight trains. Wink

M
  locojoe67 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Gen X purgatory/urban Joh-land
Based on our track record, cultural pennypinching would kill off HSR viability in practice if capital availability and GFC the sequel doesn't do so in utero.

The Victorian Regional Fast Rail farce illustrates one of the key risks of advocating high cost rail projects: cost cutting on essential elements such as flyovers and new rail to save money (and don't mention the single gauge sleepers...).

In another example, the Federal Government is on record as saying that Inland rail must be cheap and frugal, despite a business case backed by increasing freight volumes, so why expect HSR be treated any differently? Splashing all the investment on one project will not address the myriad of worthy projects that could produce worthwhile outcomes, with inland rail being just one of many that come to mind.

But given this myopic investment approach on big ticket, high visibility projects, I fully expect the new dedicated HSR tracks would start at Goulburn and end at Seymour. Passengers for Canberra would need to change to light rail to complete the transfer. Seat belts and air bags would also be mandatory.

I suggest that lobbyists would be better served advocating for medium speed rail, which would be cheaper and achieve many of the same objectives. This focus on end-to-end trips, with little consideration for regional movements, is another facet that really damages the potential to develop and cultivate intra-regional transit using an improved rail network.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Decentralisation-via-HSR is an absolute furphy of an argument. East Coast HSR as envisioned would be hideously overbuilt for supplanting existing travel between regional cities and state capitals. Existing travel is mostly done using infrequent air services or in a car. That's the competitor, not the hourly airline services on inter-capital routes.
For that, you need a service that is faster than a car going non-stop, which translates to a 130-160kph average speed. If you run that service more than a couple of times a day, you're going to be competitive with air travel too. You can do that with diesel tilt trains (or electric ones, if you have the cash) and some improved alignments - which is exactly what Medium Speed Rail is. It's an '80%' kind of solution.

If you only want to replace domestic airlines on the East Coast, you're going to need something faster than 'conventional' HSR with its 350kph maximum speed - Maglev, Hyperloop, whatever. Speeds in the ballpark of at least 500kph would be required. This is going to sound 'defeatist', but the population sizes and distances between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - the hard numbers, not feelings - justify the frequent airline services between them. HSR or a higher-speed alternative is just not worth the effort to capture those time-sensitive passengers. The economies of scale that the airlines have on those routes mean that plenty of cost-sensitive passengers use them too.

There's basically one inter-capital corridor that works for conventional HSR: Canberra-Sydney. That's highly competitive with existing high-frequency air travel at a 350 kph max speed when you only have a maximum of 3 stops in between the Sydney and Canberra CBDs.

So lets say you actually want decentralisation using quality passenger rail services to drive regional growth instead of using it as a fig-leaf for a horrendously expensive inter-capital air travel competitor. If you didn't have Shinkansen Syndrome, what might be an alternative?

How about a British (or Swiss) InterCity kind of model for passenger rail? A network (as opposed to a spine) of medium-speed rail routes radiating from state capitals to major nearby regional centres. In essence it would be a basket of projects like a substantial upgrade of existing regional services such as the Victorian RFR lines, a new service to Toowoomba, improvements to the electrified interurban corridors in Sydney and Brisbane, a Melbourne-Seymour-Shepparton-Albury MSR line... maybe even a Sydney-Canberra HSR line with some private sector investment.
On most of those lines you'd be substantially upgrading the alignment quality (less curves, better grades), putting in a minimum of fully duplicated track, in-cab signalling and if you want to run freight too, third track sections to act as passing lanes/loops. Tilt trains would be a must and in a fair few cases electrification might be needed too.

You spread the money around and get better value-for-money at the same time - but at the cost of helping kill the HSR dream.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Agreed almost completely @LancedDendrite.  The only thing i don't think is worth it is SYD-CBR HSR.  Leave that as MSR too with good frequency and you'll take out the airline market totally and pick up coach and car markets too.
  mejhammers1 Chief Commissioner

Why does the argument always come back to investment?  Australia is a society not a business we don't just build infrastructure when an accountant says we should (sorry Victoria excluded)
bevans
Because the cost would be horrendous. Better to realign existing rail corridors.

Michael
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
@bevans @mejhammers1 to unpack this a little more, its because government budgets are limited, who are currently the main funders of this infrastructure.  until we work out how to better fund this stuff, its going to be the same long slog.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Why does the argument always come back to investment?  Australia is a society not a business we don't just build infrastructure when an accountant says we should (sorry Victoria excluded)
Because the cost would be horrendous. Better to realign existing rail corridors.

Michael
mejhammers1


Mr Mejhammers1...as you will eventually go to your grave vehemently opposed to any HSR anywhere in Australia in the centuries ahead, please enlighten us how you would go about realigning the geographically challenging existing rail corridors from EG...Penrith to Lithgow or Hornsby to Broadmeadow.

Mike.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Watching this thread with a passing interest... my two cents:

  • Victoria's "Regional Fast Rail" actually has nothing to do with the decentralisation of jobs and industries and everything to do with the stupidly high cost of living in Melbourne expanding the commuter belt out to cities like Ballarat and Geelong. All it's done is exponentially increase the number of people travelling into Melbourne to work from extreme distances at taxpayer expense without actually moving any of the jobs or industries out to those destinations. In fact unemployment in places like Ballarat has been getting markedly worse in the last few years, suggesting that the march of jobs into Melbourne has continued unabated.
  • We don't have any history in this country of undertaking those large rail projects (like HSR) - it's more likely you'll see something like a new faster road going under the Great Dividing Range between Campbelltown (NSW) and Mittagong before you'll ever see improvements to the rail service to Canberra. It just ain't gunna happen - it's 'Straya mate. We don't do big rail things.
  • While the global price of oil remains in the sub-US$50 range there's no way HSR could ever hope to come anywhere near full cost recovery against the airlines.
  a6et Minister for Railways

Why does the argument always come back to investment?  Australia is a society not a business we don't just build infrastructure when an accountant says we should (sorry Victoria excluded)
Because the cost would be horrendous. Better to realign existing rail corridors.

Michael


Mr Mejhammers1...as you will eventually go to your grave vehemently opposed to any HSR anywhere in Australia in the centuries ahead, please enlighten us how you would go about realigning the geographically challenging existing rail corridors from EG...Penrith to Lithgow or Hornsby to Broadmeadow.

Mike.
The Vinelander
Re-aligning the Blue Mountains would be horrendously expensive especially if it was to service the towns on the line, bypassing Lithgow would probably remove customers & therefore reduce viability. Realistically there is no real benefit for the overall line, unless some form of tilting trains were built to serve all the locations, but how much time in travelling would be achieved.

West of Lithgow there are enough locations that could be realigned for all forms of trains that would cut a fair bit of time from the running especially between Wang & Bathurst.

As for the North to Broadmeadow, there are quite a few spots where realigning would make some reasonable benefits as against what we now have especially to the North of Wyong, depending on whether one is looking to include local services as well as long distance services that operate with both passenger & freight haulage could open up a few more options, that would cause a lot of NIMBY responses.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Whilst I am an advocate for HSR, the reality is that our cities require investment in public transport improvements that cover everything from major rehabilitation, expansion of capacity on existing routes and the construction of new routes.   Melbourne is a case in point and you could throw literally mega millions into that Cities network and realize far greater benefits in better development of the City, reduced traffic congestion etc the benefits of which far outweigh that of HSR.   Similarly Sydney is the same, its rail infrastructure is way way ahead of Melbourne in terms of quality and reliabity but there is billions still needed to increase overall capacity and the construction of new routes etc.  There is also the issue of enhancing the performance and capacity of both the Newcastle and Wollongong Lines and these again require billions to undertake.  Yes some of those projects are underway or stand out as priorities but they need funding that ultimately comes from the state partially or in full depending on the financing/funding arrangements.   I use these as examples only as it can be argued that just about every state has similar needs.

If I was going to do anything in terms of rail investment between say Sydney and Melbourne it would be investing in that corridor to improve performance for both freight and passenger traffic.   Prof P Baird has outlined the major deviations and alignment upgrades that are needed north of Junee and south of Sydney that would deliver a real step change in service quality and transit time for both freight and passenger services.   There's nothing magical needed to provide a track structure that can accommodate freight trains running at more consistent higher average speed between Sydney and Melbourne especially if the 7 (if I recall) major deviations are constructed and the route where required rerailed in 60kg/m rail etc.   Victoria's RFR routes, the Prospector in WA and the Tilt trains in Queensland are all operating at 160km/hr and in some locations potentially higher on track that is just bog standard stuff.   Putting in $6B to $7B to do a decent job enables improved freight opportunities, enables regional passenger services focussed on Sydney and Melbourne to achieve much more potential than they do now and if configured and designed properly the major new new deviations could form part of the future alignment for HSR.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
If I was going to do anything in terms of rail investment between say Sydney and Melbourne it would be investing in that corridor to improve performance for both freight and passenger traffic. Prof P Baird has outlined the major deviations and alignment upgrades that are needed north of Junee and south of Sydney that would deliver a real step change in service quality and transit time for both freight and passenger services.
Trainplanner
You mean Professor Phillip Laird of the University of Wollongong, right? The author of this paper: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1777&context=infopapers
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
If I was going to do anything in terms of rail investment between say Sydney and Melbourne it would be investing in that corridor to improve performance for both freight and passenger traffic. Prof P Baird has outlined the major deviations and alignment upgrades that are needed north of Junee and south of Sydney that would deliver a real step change in service quality and transit time for both freight and passenger services.
You mean Professor Phillip Laird of the University of Wollongong, right? The author of this paper?
LancedDendrite


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  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Fixed the link.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Thanks for obtaining the link. Working from mobile phone so I'm limited in what I can do.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Fixed the link.
LancedDendrite

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