Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Philip Laird, Honorary Principal Fellow, University of Wollongong

The Melbourne-Sydney air corridor is now the second-busiest in the world. That’s true for either the number of passenger planes flying between the two airports or by counting actual passenger numbers, now over 9 million passengers a year. That’s an increase of 28% since 2009.

On an average day, some 12,330 people get on a plane in Sydney to fly to Melbourne. A similar number make the reverse journey.

Most passengers will have taken some time to get the airport and waited well over half an hour at the airport just to get on the plane. Once on board, the cramped conditions in economy once prompted comedian Jean Kittson to observe that even battery hens feel sorry for the passengers.

Read more: Let's get moving with the affordable medium-speed alternatives to the old dream of high-speed rail

Contrast this with getting on a high-speed rail (HSR) train that can travel at speeds of 250km/h or more from city centre to city centre on selected routes. Starting with Japan in 1964, these trains now operate in 12 countries in Asia, Europe, the UK, and now Morocco.

Australia’s high-speed rail investigations since 1984 have cost an estimated A$125 million in today’s terms. However, not even one kilometre of corridor has been reserved. High-speed rail has often been promised, often before elections (including a Melbourne-Geelong service in the latest one) – as The Chaser observed in 2016 – only to vanish afterwards.

We can halve train travel times between our cities by moving to faster rail The Coalition’s election promises included A$2 billion for high-speed rail that would halve travel time between Melbourne and Geelong. James Ross/AAP

How does this compare to other countries?

Japan’s network has been slowly but surely extended, from the initial Tokyo-Osaka 515km Shinkansen in 1964 to more than 2,750km of lines on new dedicated track. More lines are under construction. To date, there have been more than 10 billion passenger movements with no loss of life from collision or derailment.

We can halve train travel times between our cities by moving to faster rail Japan has had high-speed rail services since 1964. JR Central Sydney office, Author provided (No reuse)

China has had a rapid rollout of trains moving up to 350km/h. Starting in 2008 with Beijing to Tianjin taking 30 minutes to cover 120km, China’s high-speed rail network now extends over 20,000km. This includes Beijing-Shanghai (opened in 2011 with a fatal collision that year) and Beijing-Guangzhou (the longest HSR route in the world). In 2018, the short Guangzhou-Hong Kong section opened.

China now has the world’s biggest high-speed rail network.

Germany’s high-speed rail is of interest to Australia, with a mixture of new track construction (Neubaustrecken) one section at a time and upgrading of existing track. This progressively improves rail capacity and reduces travel times.

Many other countries have medium-speed rail, with trains moving at speeds of 160-240km/h. In Uzbekistan, for example, Talgo tilt trains take about 2 hours to move between Tashkent and Samarkand. This is a distance similar to Sydney to Canberra, which is currently a train journey of over four hours.

We can halve train travel times between our cities by moving to faster rail A Talgo Afrosiyob tilt train in Uzbekistan covers the same distance as the Sydney-Canberra line in half the time. Talgo, Author provided (No reuse)

So what’s stopping Australia?

High-speed rail has been studied repeatedly since 1984 in Australia. The Howard government raised expectations before the 1998 election with a Sydney-Canberra Speedrail proposal. John Howard said this “nation-building project” would deliver “ourselves – and our children – a visionary new transport system of which we can all be proud”.

The proposal was to use existing track from Sydney’s Central Station to near Campbelltown, then new track to Canberra airport. The train would take just 84 minutes to complete the trip. The cost was then about A$4.5 billion, with the private sector to finance all but about A$1 billion.

The Howard government withdrew support for the project in December 2000. Instead, it commissioned yet another study and shut down high-speed rail for another decade.

We can halve train travel times between our cities by moving to faster rail An image of how the Sydney end of the Sydney-Canberra Speedrail line would have looked. ARHSnsw Rail Resource Centre, Author provided (No reuse)

The Gillard government commissioned more studies. In 2013 the cost of a new Sydney-Canberra high-speed rail sector was estimated at A$23 billion with an east coast network to cost A$114 billion.

In its 2017 budget, the Turnbull government moved the focus to medium-speed rail or “faster rail”. The National Faster Rail Agency will come into being on July 1.

What are the prospects for faster rail?

There is a good case for pursuing “faster rail”, given the difficulties of making progress on high-speed rail. Australia could follow the lead of Germany and other countries in building isolated new sections of track to high-speed standards, one at a time. These sections can link with existing mainlines, to allow for new trains to run faster than cars.

This has worked well in Victoria since 2006 with the introduction of regional fast rail on four corridors. These trains run at up to 160km/h on upgraded tracks. Further track upgrading is under way in Victoria.

We can halve train travel times between our cities by moving to faster rail Faster VLocity trains now connect Victoria regional centres and Melbourne. Mattinbgn/Wikimedia, CC BY

Queensland and Western Australia also have trains that can move at 160km/h on good tracks.

However, in New South Wales, the preponderance of mainline track with “steam age” alignment with many tight curves means intercity train speeds are too slow. The NSW government, along with ordering new intercity trains, has retained an overseas expert, Professor Andrew MacNaughton, to advise on high-speed rail versus faster rail and track upgrades to speed up trains. This is for the four main lines from Sydney to each of Newcastle, Orange, Canberra, and Wollongong.

These lines offer good potential to speed up trains by rebuilding old sections of track. In fact, between Sydney and Junee, there is scope to reduce the point-to-point distance by 60km to speed up freight trains plus reduce fuel use and emissions.

This track upgrade, along with tilt trains, would also allow the 11-hour Sydney-Melbourne XPT travel time to be cut to about six hours or less.

Authors: Philip Laird, Honorary Principal Fellow, University of Wollongong

Read more http://theconversation.com/we-can-halve-train-travel-times-between-our-cities-by-moving-to-faster-rail-116512


The Conversation

Politics

Senator Colbeck named Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport

Liberal Senator for Tasmania Richard Colbeck has expressed his excitement in taking on responsibility for the portfolios of Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and S...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Senator Canavan: Statement on Queensland Government's decision on Adani

I welcome the Queensland Government's announcement regarding timelines for Adani's approvals, but I don't thank them. The thanks go to the people of Central Queensland who have forced this outcome t...

Senator Canavan - avatar Senator Canavan

Australians reject Labor’s marine park lock outs

Australians have rejected Labor’s plans to return to their disastrous marine park lock outs policy. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Richard Colbeck said the strong result fo...

Senator Colbeck - avatar Senator Colbeck

Business News

The right way of compliance training: LMS

Does your business fall in the category of a small business, medium business or a highly regulated enterprise? Regardless, compliance training is unarguably necessary for everyone. However, many ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How Car Trailers Benefit Small Farmers

Farming activity requires moving implements, fertilizer, seeds, pesticides, equipments, tools and a host of other things to and from the farm, nearly as a regular activity. Even when your farm is at c...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Ensure a Successful Letterbox Drop

With the clamour surrounding social media and digital marketing, you might be wondering why you should revert back to the older technique of a letterbox drop.When done right, a letterbox drop can be...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

What to Pack for a Tropical Vacation

Going on a vacation is one of the favourite activities for most of us. Sunny beaches and blue sea as far as your eyes can see; all you have to do is relax and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. How...

Brigitte Evans - avatar Brigitte Evans

Golden Year Guide - Preparing For Post-Retirement Travelling

Retirement is something that many of us spend most of our lives looking forward to, it is supposed to be what all that hard work and sacrifice is for. A lot of us have big plans for when we retire, ...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Glamping Winter Getaways Perfect for this Season

Glamping, also known as “glamorous camping”, is such a huge trend right now all across the globe. Of course, this is no exception for travellers in Australia. From adorable cottages to luxurious be...

Laura Grant - avatar Laura Grant

ShowPo