Apr 12, 2016

The little policy that couldn’t: high-speed rail’s failures to launch

A brief history of all the times governments tried and failed to get high-speed rail chugging along.

Josh Taylor — Journalist

Josh Taylor


One of the tropes of an election is that the closer we get to one, the more likely we are to get some policy announcement about high-speed rail and, what a shock, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered yesterday.


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10 thoughts on “The little policy that couldn’t: high-speed rail’s failures to launch

  1. jmendelssohn

    All the groans about the never ending Very Fast Train to Melbourne, and why it never happens remind me of the never ending proposal for an Eastern Suburbs Railway that was first proposed in the 1920s, stopped first by the Great Depression then World War II, before becoming a running political joke in the 1950s, 60s, 70s. The joke ended in 1979 when it was opened by the Wran government.
    Despite people at the time saying it was a waste of money and buses along Oxford Street were adequate, I understand it is well used.
    Whoever has the nous to actually build a decent train service to Melbourne via Canberra and satellite cities will be undertaking a public good.

  2. klewso

    “Would you buy a red herring off this man?”?

  3. Bill Morton

    ” would take commuters between Sydney and Melbourne, and Sydney and Brisbane in as little as three hours. Tickets between Sydney and Melbourne would be comparable to flight costs — between $99 and $197.”

    Does anyone believe that?

    Just track maintenance after a proper wet season would cost a fortune, and some cows on the track, or a car stalled on a rail crossing could see travel times blow out.

    And what of the patronage required to drive the ticket prices that low? If 5% of Melbourne worked in Sydney there would probably be enough patronage.

  4. Norman Hanscombe

    Why Crikey continues to ugnore what the Japanese High Speed Trains Company told Australian audiences re the impracticality of doing it here is difficult to understand, unless of course it’s because they see revenue flows for themselves which could be affected if the full story was told.
    Naturally, as a capitalist enterprise it’s understandable they would do this.

  5. Bob the builder

    @Bill #3

    Are you serious – cows on the track, cars stalled on crossings???

    This is a proposal for a very fast train, not a tram to Bondi. Cows on the road doesn’t stop freeways being built and one of the reasons is they build fences and overpasses …

    FFS …

  6. Bill

    I just love high speed rail, but seriously, here, with our population. The article says that the service would carry 84 million passengers a year. Doing the sums on that, if you had hourly services 365 days a year you would have about 10,000 passengers per service. Now, not everyone will be travelling the full distance, so each seat might be occupied a number of times (Melb-Canb, Can-Syd, Syd-Newcastle, Newcastle to Coffs, Coffs to Gold Coast, GC to Brisbane). But even allowing the most optimistic seat occupancy, it is very hard to see this adding up. So how about just a Fast Train, Canb to Sydney that might work

  7. Lord Muck

    Personally, I would prefer medium-speed rail (say 200 kmh/hr cf. 80 km/hr currently) between capital cities and some regional cities to flying between the East Coast capital cities. Why is MSR never an option for the East Coast? Is it less effective as a political pipe dream? It would be a lower cost option than the VFT and would greatly benefit the regional areas.

  8. Wayne Cusick

    Norman, what did the Japanese High Speed Trains Company say?

  9. Wayne Cusick

    Bill Morton: “And what of the patronage required to drive the ticket prices that low? If 5% of Melbourne worked in Sydney there would probably be enough patronage.”

    The Melbourne-Sydney air route carries roughly 8m passengers per year (ranked third in the world).

    Sydney-Brisbane has around 4.5 million passengers per year (ranked =10th).

    Brisbane-Melbourne >3m, Gold Coast-Sydney >2.5m, Gold Coast-Melbourne 1.7m.

  10. AR

    I’d settle for a decent rail service throughout NSW/VIC, paid for by having ALL containers removed from long distance trucking.
    It would revitalise the Interior and decentralise the overcrowded megacities, with truckers moving the containers short distances from rail hubs to destinations.

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