High Speed Trains - I want them now

This is one awesome looking train
I catch a lot of public transport.

Sydney’s a big city and parking/driving is an expensive exercise so I try to catch public transport as much as possible to save money.

The only problem is: it’s magnificently inconvenient.

Sydney’s public transport system leaves a lot to be desired.  The busses are always late, the trains are slow and go to only half the locations you hope for, and both are far too expensive.

When I was overseas, I managed to see what real public transport was like.  New York, for example, has a subway that takes you everywhere you want to go. 

No matter the time, no matter the location, there was a train waiting for me to hop on and take me wherever I wanted to go.

But by far the most effective public transport solution I’ve seen was when I was in Italy and caught the ‘bullet train’.

This train took me from Milan to Bologna in next to no time because it was hurtling down the tracks at over 250kph.

In less than an hour (the equivalent of a commute on a bad day between Bondi and Sydney’s CBD (a cool 15km journey)) passengers can travel from one metropolitan centre to the next, some 200km away.

Japan, perhaps, shows the best example of the effectiveness of high speed trains.

The route between Tokyo and Osaka is one of the busiest in the world and everyday 120,000 passengers are taken from one city to the other, on trains that leave every ten minutes.   The trains travel well over 300kph.

According to The Economist: Although humans, not robots, are at the controls, the average delay is a miraculous 36 seconds. To take all those passengers by air would require 667 aircraft, each with 180 seats, or five times Japan’s fleet of Boeing 737s.

Excuse me for getting a little carried away, but that’s absolutely awesomely amazing.  And it makes me wonder why the heck Australia hasn’t done something similar.

Think about it; implementing three high speed train lines could revolutionise the landscape of south-east Australia.

I reckon if there was a high speed train route between Melbourne to Canberra to Sydney, one between Sydney and Wollongong, and one between Sydney and… hmmm, I dunno, somewhere regional like Newcastle or Bathurst, the flow-on effects on a whole bunch of demographics would be astounding.

All of a sudden, people could legitimately live hundreds of kilometres away from their workplace and still be at work in 90 minutes or less.

Suddenly, Australia’s biggest barrier to population expansion (its remoteness) could be transformed.  Regional areas around Canberra, Newcastle, and central NSW would become places people would seek-after to live as they could legitimately work in the big cities.

Canberra’s population would significantly increase as less people are driven away by its remoteness and… well… boringness.  Public servants, for instance, wouldn’t come for two years and then leave.  They’d come and stay for good.

Local economies of these regional places would thrive, bringing life to their struggling retail sectors as more people move in and buy fridges, TVs, beds etc.

The NBN would actually have a purpose, providing sizeable population centres with high speed internet access instead of selectively small populations in marginal Labor electorates.

The lefties would be happy as it would incentivise public transport – removing cars from the roads and taking planes out of the sky,decreasing CO2 emissions.

Qantas could scrap its domestic airline service and focus solely on Jetstar, and it would have a legitimate excuse to do so since it’s been running at a loss for years.

Infrastructure, planning, engineering, design and logistics companies would see a massive boost of income, especially if a commercially viable PPP could be organised to build the things.

These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg.  Australia needs high speed trains because they’re fast, efficient, and they’re exactly what a dispersed and remote population needs.

So, everyone, let’s climb on board with this idea.

I’d stay and write more, but I’ve got a train to catch.


Angus said…
Two comments. The first is best done by referencing a legendary French economist Frederic Bastiat: http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/the-wisdom-of-bastiat/

Particularly these bits:
1) "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."
2) Some eager beaver, intent on the local interests of Bordeaux, had proposed that a new railway from Madrid to Paris should have an artificial break, with change of trains at Bordeaux. This would benefit local hotels, carriers, port­ers, and others standing to gain employment from such a break. An excellent idea, comments Bas­tiat. But why stop with Bor­deaux? Why not break the rail­way at half a dozen other way stations, for the same supposedly beneficial results? Better yet, why not construct a railway line that is all breaks, a "negative rail­way"?

- The point here being that if you build this railway, everyone will demand a stop in their backyard (the opposite of NIMBYs) and it wont be fast.

The second point is that unlike Japan, Italy, China, France, Switzerland and Belgium, we dont have lots of people in a little space. The economics dont stack up. Watch this:
Cost of train line: $35 billion (http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/australia-the-slow-coach-in-starting-fast-trains-20120115-1q1fg.html)
Estimate depreciation: 10% = $3.5 billion per year.

So - before you have operating costs, you are up for $3.5 billion per year. If a ticket costs $150 each way, that means you need 23 million people doing the trip each year to pay for the DEPRECIATION alone. Once you add in the operating costs, I suspect you are nearer 50 million pax per year.

I'll rest my case here for now.
Steve Garner said…
I was going to write that it is not commercially viable but Angus said it much more clearly. At least with the sale of Sydney Ferries we may get a system that is a benefit to the public not the employees.
Tim H said…
Valid points but...economics shmeckanomics- Its a 300KM/H Train!!!! Plus it looks so cool that i'm certain someone should be thrown in jail for NOT building them.
Dylan Malloch said…
I agree with Tim. Travelling that fast on a train is awesome, and to not have one between Melbourne and Canberra and Sydney seems crazy.

Also, I like trains.