The harm of grog

Helen Robertson writes: Re. “More data confirms non-existence of alcohol ‘epidemic’” (Friday). I’m pleased less people are being harmed directly and indirectly by alcohol consumption. However, there are still major problems for some, and I see it in my daily work as a rural GP. It is like the campaign against smoking; just because the situation is improving, it doesn’t mean you stop campaigning.  I acknowledge that alcohol can be consumed in small amounts without harm (unlike tobacco), but that doesn’t negate the importance of trying to find ways to prevent heavy drinking.

Why Melbourne needs an airport train

Geoffrey Heard writes: Re. “Would a train to Melbourne Airport be worth it?” (Thursday). I am not the full bottle on this, but:

Environment Victoria did a remarkable job on this and the fast trains back in the day. Seriously remarkable! Peter Batchelor, then the minister for transport, even launched its report — then the road and car interests both in and out of the transport bureaucracy overwhelmed it, of course.

But in reference to the airport, there are a number of key factors that make Melbourne’s situation significantly different from that of Sydney and Brisbane.

  1. If I remember correctly, the two people who did the investigation and the report plumped for a train linking into the regional fast train line to Ballarat at around Deer Park or Maribyrnong or somewhere in that general vicinity and running to the city with only one or two stops.
  2. A Melbourne airport train would link into a much more comprehensive rail system than that of Sydney or (particularly) Brisbane, so it could be expected to do better than either of them. Also it would be  fast (the Brisbane train runs at pre-climate change glacial speed; I have used it a number of times and am convinced it is speed limited so as not to challenge the freeways).
  3. Oddly enough, while the train would cater for travellers, its biggest clientele would be commuters who worked in the airport and in the vicinity of the airport. The line would not necessarily terminate at the airport. note in this respect that Tullamarine is a thriving industrial area unlike the situation in, say, Brisbane.
  4. With a couple of appropriate stops and parking, it would link the airport environs and the residential development areas in the west and south-west of Melbourne plus the regional centers of Geelong and Ballarat to the airport so that those areas could become preferred living areas for people working in the airport and environs.
  5. While Davies speaks of the expense of rail, he says nothing about the expense of freeway space. The Skybus actually is enabled through the provision of road space for it and 40 minutes (or whatever) from the CBD to the airport can only get worse. Extra freeway space which would be needed to cut those times is extremely expensive (I remember the Craigieburn extension of the Hume Freeway cost about the same as it would have cost to lay a new standard gauge railway track all the way from Melbourne to Sydney, just to give an idea of the scale of the difference in costs) — far exceeding the cost of a railway line. Subsidising the Skybus? it would never do anything like the job a railway link would do.
  6. The rail link could also carry freight both too and from the airport.

From my own experience, I have used the Brisbane train a number of times. It suffers from two things — it is slow and  the airport has been constructed to give preferential access to road vehicles. I remember the airport train in Hongkong, where you booked in your baggage at the station where you boarded the train, it travelled swiftly to the airport, and you walked unencumbered from the train, which pulled up at the airport door. With internet boarding passes and whatnot today, wouldn’t that be just great? Lodging your baggage at Spencer Street (yes, I am a crotchety old curmudgeon) or Flinders Street, then out to the airport and walk half a dozen steps into the door, then straight down to the departure lounge, with the same ease of movement operating in reverse for arrivals.

For travelers, trains are much more comfortable than buses and they are much, much safer.

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Peter Fray
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