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Apr 11, 2013

Bring on the $114 billion high-speed rail network — it’s a no brainer

Melbourne to Sydney by rail in under three hours? Don't listen to the inflated forecasts of cost and time that the federal government has released today, argues Tim Bohm, president of the Bullet Train for Australia political party. It's a no-brainer -- build it.

While it is certainly progress that the federal government’s $20 million Phase II Report on building a high-speed rail (HSR) network down eastern Australia is finally being released today, why the report has been delayed for more than five months is a mystery.

The report, meant to outline the route, stations, and financial viability of HSR, shows major benefits of building the network:

  • 80% of the population will have access to bullet trains;
  • big cities and regional towns will benefit;
  • tens of thousands of jobs will be created;
  • travel times will be slashed;
  • most importantly, every dollar invested will bring a $2.30 return returned to the Australian economy, ensuring financial viability; and
  • enormous environmental benefits.

But by pushing a figure of $114 billion as the total cost to build the network, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese is trying to paint HSR as too expensive. The picture painted in this review shows the total costs of HSR on the entire east coast — without mention of benefits to the local economies, populations, or industry-related job creation. When factoring in the other cost-saving benefits such as a second Sydney airport, combined with a projected $262.2 billion dollar return into the Australian economy for its investment in HSR, the feasibility of HSR is a no-brainer.

Lastly, the reported timeframe would make it the slowest construction of HSR on earth. Comparable projects around the world have proven that HSR building can be measured in years rather than decades. The Singapore and Malaysian HSR link will be built in seven years; UK HSR will take 13 years; Thailand HSR will be complete in five years; and the California HSR is set to be all done in 16 years, with functioning routes in five years.

Estimations of 52 years for Australian HSR prove that Albanese refuses to take HSR seriously as a feasible option.

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22 thoughts on “Bring on the $114 billion high-speed rail network — it’s a no brainer

  1. Wombat

    If the report had the HSR being completed by 2030 I would have been sceptical. 2050? That’s pushing something beyond the Never-Never, off the edge of the unknown world. So blatant they must think the average punter is thick as mud. Oh wait

  2. ggm

    Mate, Libs don’t do trains. Tony said so. Abbott is a ute-man. Never mind they have maglev in Shanghai. He just doesn’t do trains.

    Also, much though it pains me to write this, the green element repudiate the concrete footprint. I think its bunkum, but wiser heads might need to adjudicate. I thought smart crete absorbed CO2 but apparently the dumb kind we make railroad ties out of don’t.

    As a boy, I watched Deltics cruise up and down the east coast (ex-LNER) line. I cannot wait to get my book out, and write down the shinkansen numbers as they fly past. That, or hopefully the occasional Bayer-Garrett which will trundle along puffing steam…

    Keynes, where are you. we need you.

  3. Harry1951

    I understand the feasibility study for his project was agreed to as part of the deal with the Greens to secure their support for Labor. The report thus delivers on that commitment but I can’t see either of the major parties agreeing that it should proceed. This is the depressing reality.

  4. Ron Chambers

    In Europe high-speed rail caused a dramatic fall off in airline traffic: trains are faster because you don’t need to drive out to an airport, more reliable, safer, more frequent and just as fast – no sitting around the airport for hours. The airlines will be lobbying furiously today. Did you know a previous Minister for Transport got the nickname Minister for QANTAS?

  5. Glen

    Sure seems expensive; even questionably so. Based on recent project completions on the NSW Pacific Highway Upgrade, you can still buy rural dual carriageway in hilly terrain for $20M/km. It’s 1700km from Melbourne to Brisbane, so that amounts to $34B. What does the other $80B buy, on rail v road? We’re not even going through (as opposed past) Canberra and Gold Coast.

    [I’ve worked on the PHU and moderately high speed rail alignments in Queensland (yes, there are some…). The requirements are different, but not as far apart as you might think.]

  6. Glen

    To begin to answer my own question, there’s $33B in tunnels alone — half of that in and out of Sydney (perhaps we should bypass?).

    The consultants priced tunneling at $230M/km, which looks OK. (Brisbane is currently buying road tunnels of similar proportions for $190M/km.)

  7. mikehilliard

    I think this is such a cool idea @ Albo was so totally into it even when he knows he will be dead & gone before “the first (HSR) train out of Sydney’s almost gone” (credits Cold Chisel)

  8. Stephen

    Labor could have left an indelible mark with HSR.

    Instead we get the NBN.

  9. mattsui

    One of the main shinkansen lines out of/in to Tokyo boasts an often filled capacity of 450,000 passengers per day. That’s a viable railway (and that’s why they’re in the process of boosting their engine speed to 360 km/h).
    The state and federal governments would need to work pretty closely together to pull something like this off – given what we’ve seen at coag and especially with regard to the Murray-darling (a much more pressing issue) – when is this likely to ever occur?
    Even after September, when we’ll probably have governments from the same party in three key states and federally, there’s no chance. As mentioned here already, the Liberal party think trains are for the proletariat and, therefore not on the radar.

  10. jackspratt

    This is pie in the sky and will never happen. Do what is feasible. Don’t try to compete with aircraft on a 900km route (Syd-Melb) or 1000km (Syd- Gold Coast-Brisb). Vast majority of HSR is less than 400km per route. What is viable is a serious upgrade of existing lines which has to be done for freight anyway toherwise the semis and B doubles will tear the roads to shreds every two years or so, hence it makes economic sense from the taxpayer’s point of view.

    The put high tech trains for passengers on the upgraded track such as the Alstom (ex Fiat Pendolino) tilting train. It would cut the Melbourne Sydney time down to 6 hours without ridiculous investment of what is being proposed above. You then upgrade the rail corridor bit by bit, starting with electrification, concrete sleepers, smoothing of curves, grade separation, and so on. The Alstom Pendolino will get up to 200km/h on existing upgraded track, 250km/h on duplicated new sections, such as Sydney to Newcastle.