Subs everywhere

David O’Neil writes: Re. “‘Pat it on the bum and get rid of it’: Fairfax’s dirty little subbing secrets revealed” (yesterday). While the Australian media gurus are getting rid of their subs our pollies are planning to acquire more. All too confusing for me.

On high speed rail

Jock Webb writes: Re. “High-speed rail will destroy the bush, but we might need it anyway” (yesterday). I often watch documentaries where people visit historic sites. Interesting, but also depressing. It amazes me, though it should not, to see the rail systems in many countries which Australia would think of as “tinpot”. Freight rail rolls by on huge trains and the passenger trains are bright and clean. What is more, even if they are metro or regional as opposed to the flying TVG they seem to be quite fast. I grew up and still live near the NSW main western line. I have seen our passenger service go from slow but effective mail train to … nothing. The train service which departs from the nearest regional centre could make the trip to Sydney in around three hours or less if it ran at near its best. It takes six, due to garbage track and suburban Sydney, though its highest speed used to be from Strathfield to the city. I like trains, but we need so much more from them. Let’s face it 200 years since the first road over the Blue Mountains and there is still no safe and effective road link and the fastest train I saw recently was 3801 on a sprint. We need rail infrastructure everywhere, but the boom that could have built it will never come again. Where is any sort of plan other than another coastal thought bubble?

Geoffrey Heard writes: It seems to me that HSR is not the answer for Australia because of the longer distances and paucity of passengers, but paradoxically, something slower might be the answer. Why no studies of fairly fast trains?

What about fairly fast trains between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Cairns and whatnot — and new, dedicated double standard gauge lines for them — definitely terminating in the city centres for ease of access as today? I am thinking of trains that might push along at 150 kph and stop perhaps half a dozen times en route. Take Melbourne/Sydney: that would mean a journey of around 8 hours. You could start one train off from Melbourne at 6am and reach Sydney by 2pm. Start at 8am and arrive at 4pm. Or depart at 10pm and arrive at 6am (you might let the night trains run a bit slower, perhaps 120 kph, for a 10 hour trip, 9am-7am). These would be very handy travel times and departure and arrival times. You could do Melbourne/Brisbane and vice versa in a day and a night with a six to eight hours to disport yourself on Sydney harbour in between. I reckon trains with that sort of facility could attract solid custom with the right marketing.

Think also of fast cargo. Why not mixed passenger/goods trains? And fast dedicated goods trains with palletized cargo for quick handling at both ends?

One very big thing about such trains is that they could actually generate wealth and economic activity along their lines because they would cut travel/transport times between the regional centres and the capitals. Train to Canberra would be a viable alternative to plane from Sydney and even from Melbourne (obviously Canberra would have to be included on new lines). Albury would be about two hours from Melbourne, and so on. And travellers could rediscover the ease and simple enjoyment of train travel.