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The VFT rides again!

By 19 September 2010 40

The Age reports that the ancient mirage of the Very Fast Train has again been sighted with the federales ponying up $20 million to look at the idea again.

Worryingly there’s feature creep before a sleeper laid with the trunk route of Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne now sprouting Brisbane and Geelong.

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40 Responses to The VFT rides again!
#1
Felix the Cat1:19 pm, 19 Sep 10

I can’t see it being feasible. Even traveling at 350km/h it’s still going to take about an hour to get to Sydney which is a similar time to what an aircraft does it in. Aircraft don’t need a multi billion $ track to run on, they just fly through the sky. Only infastructure they need is an airport at start and finish of journey and last time I looked they already had that. Airfares are around $80-$90 one way to Sydney or Melbourne, how much are fares going to be for the VFT that costs $20M just have a feasability study (I’ll do a feasability study for them for half that…) and billions more to actually build it, if it is approved. Might be OK for freight if the freight companies can get a good deal though I don’t think Central Station in Sydney is equipped to handle freight.

And who is going to pay for it? Govts don’t seem to like paying for infastructure these days (eg motorways and tunnels) so it will be up to a private company to build it.

#2
deye2:16 pm, 19 Sep 10

I can see it being feasible. Regarding the multi billion dollar tracks, well the airports at each end would be about a billion each, then there is all the infrastructure around the airport to get people into and out of it. Consider also that tracks would service points in between, not just the points at each end. Also consider that if going from Canberra CBD to Sydney CBD it takes a lot longer than the one hour of the flight. (getting to the airport, check in time, security time etc)

Given our susceptibility to morning fog at certain times of the year it would make more sense to take the train for business day trips.

It all depends on just how it is set up, how frequent it runs, what the ticket prices are and how it is integrated into the other transport systems.

It wouldn’t necessarily be just business travellers either, It could for example be nice to be able to hop on a train in Canberra, go and have an evening out in Sydney and make it back home at a reasonable hour. For the towns in between it could lead to opening better commuting options at each end, leading to advantages for those regions (and challenges from having more people living there no doubt).

#3
Trunking symbols2:41 pm, 19 Sep 10

Forget about the VFT, I’m still waiting for the Multi Function Polis. Waiting, waiting, waiting …

#4
Postalgeek2:54 pm, 19 Sep 10

Felix the Cat said :

I can’t see it being feasible. Even traveling at 350km/h it’s still going to take about an hour to get to Sydney which is a similar time to what an aircraft does it in.

Not necessarily. You’ve forgotten to factor in travelling to the airport, checking in at least 45 minutes prior to departure, runway clearance, taxiing to and from terminals, baggage claim, and then travel from the airport.

If someone can step onto a train in a CBD and then step off it in a different CBD, it may be a lot faster, it will be certainly more convenient, and arguably more spacious and pleasant, than flying.

#5
Thoroughly Smashed3:01 pm, 19 Sep 10

Felix the Cat said :

Even traveling at 350km/h it’s still going to take about an hour to get to Sydney which is a similar time to what an aircraft does it in.

When was the last time you got from the entrance of Canberra airport to the exit of Sydney airport in less than an hour?

Depending on ticket prices and where the lines go, it potentially opens up the possibility of reasonable commutes over much larger distances to any major city on the line.

As far as freight, options for that will come out in the feasibility study. Also, motorways operate very differently to rail infrastructure. I’m going to wait for the feasibility study.

#6
Mr Waffle4:07 pm, 19 Sep 10

Ever since I used the bullet trains in Japan I’ve wanted one here. I know it probably isn’t feasible, but I still hope for it. I’m not so good with flying (or rather, turbulence) so it’s the bus to Sydney for me, and I don’t even want to think about going to Melbourne (I had panic attacks the last two times I flew to Melbourne thanks to turbulence, so never again). So yeah.

#7
eh_steve4:58 pm, 19 Sep 10

A few benefits that I can see:

It would be awesome to be able to use that form of travel without having to take your shoes and belt off, go through a metal detector, have an random explosives test, blah blah blah.

I’m not sure what the selt beat arrangements would be, the thought of being able to get up and move at any stage of the journey appeals to me.

All the restrictions on using electronics would be removed. On many of my flights I enjoy the chance to be productive so it would be good to be able to just sit down, get on the laptop and not have to switch it off until I disembark. You can plug in wireless dongles and hit speeds of more than 10-12 mbps too, being able to access fast internet in transit would be a huge plus.

Comfort could be another advantage, rail travel in my experience is often far more comfortable than air travel, you feel less like you are being herded in and shipped off.

The more I think about it the more I think I would choose rail travel over air travel, depending on what the fare ends up being.

#8
BenMac5:16 pm, 19 Sep 10

It would be awesome to be able to use that form of travel without having to take your shoes and belt off, go through a metal detector, have an random explosives test, blah blah blah

I can still see this being used for a VFT. It would be a major piece of infrusture with a lot of potential casualties if something were to happen.

#9
mcs5:36 pm, 19 Sep 10

I think it is going to be difficult to have it revealed to be ‘feasible’ financially, but I know I’d much rather an hour train that dumps me at Central than a flight that gets me into Sydney Airport and still have to get into town.

You need to remember that the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne air triangle is the 3rd busiest air corridor in the world, so there probably is the business travel in the region to potentially make a service viable. Even at 3 hours from Melbourne to Sydney, if it can be made that the prices are reasonably competitive with air travel, than it would do ok. For train travel is far more comfortable than air travel, and far more convenient for doing business work on as well.

After riding high speed rail in Europe, I’d love to see it here, but it won’t happen anytime soon.

#10
Spectra5:58 pm, 19 Sep 10

I can still see this being used for a VFT. It would be a major piece of infrusture with a lot of potential casualties if something were to happen.

Pretty unlikely – even in the most security paranoid of countries, the US, you pretty much just wave your ticket at them and wander onto the train.

#11
54-116:00 pm, 19 Sep 10

I agree with the positive comments. I believe that the VFT is the future way to go.

deye outlines many of the advantages. Another is the damage being done by aircraft using fuel in the atmosphere. This appears to be far more environmentally damaging than fuel used at ground level.

I hope the feasibility study proves the benefits of the VFT.

#12
Rawhide Kid Part36:07 pm, 19 Sep 10

I thought they already did a feasability study. And what was the result of that?

#13
caf6:20 pm, 19 Sep 10

Yeah, Japanese have managed to set the bullet trains up so that you just validate your ticket, walk onto the platform and hop onto the train.

It’s that hop-on/hop-off convenience, along with the ability to work the whole way, that would be the killer features.

#14
caf6:22 pm, 19 Sep 10

(A bit sad that this appears to be the only article in the beautiful Boondoggles category – surely there’s a bunch of older articles begging to be reclassified…)

#15
Felix the Cat7:21 pm, 19 Sep 10

deye said :

I can see it being feasible. Regarding the multi billion dollar tracks, well the airports at each end would be about a billion each, then there is all the infrastructure around the airport to get people into and out of it.

We already have those though a second Sydney airport has been on the drawing board for donkeys years but doesn’t seem to be any closer to happening.

deye said :

Consider also that tracks would service points in between, not just the points at each end. Also consider that if going from Canberra CBD to Sydney CBD it takes a lot longer than the one hour of the flight. (getting to the airport, check in time, security time etc)

But is it going to stop at towns in between the capitals? There has been no mention of other stops that I’m aware of. Only likely places to stop IMO would be Goulburn and maybe Wollongong (Sydney bound) and then maybe Albury (Melb bound). If they have too many stops it would make the trip take too long and defeat the purpose of having a VFT. Not to mention wearing out the brakes of the train as it slows down for towns multiple times from 300km/h.

deye said :

Given our susceptibility to morning fog at certain times of the year it would make more sense to take the train for business day trips.

Good point except this probably only happens half-a-dozen times a year.

deye said :

It all depends on just how it is set up, how frequent it runs, what the ticket prices are and how it is integrated into the other transport systems.

As I said in my first post if it costs $20M (WTF?) just to have a feasibility study it will cost an absolute bomb to actually build, and take 20 years, if it is given the green light.

#16
deye8:37 pm, 19 Sep 10

Felix the Cat said :

deye said :

I can see it being feasible. Regarding the multi billion dollar tracks, well the airports at each end would be about a billion each, then there is all the infrastructure around the airport to get people into and out of it.

We already have those though a second Sydney airport has been on the drawing board for donkeys years but doesn’t seem to be any closer to happening.

Both of them have recently spent or are currently spending approximately 1/2 a billion dollars in upgrades.

#17
Thoroughly Smashed8:52 pm, 19 Sep 10

Felix the Cat said :

Not to mention wearing out the brakes of the train as it slows down for towns multiple times from 300km/h.

I don’t think even cup-half-empty explains this.

#18
Pandy9:01 pm, 19 Sep 10

It is a vanity project for politicians.

The recent keynote speaker at a railway conference in New Zealand, said so. He also said,VFT are good to 300kms at at 600kms, planes are more viable and quicker. What more VFT only makes sense when cities of 5 million are linked together.

I guess he is not going to be called on to be part of the study team.

#19
sepi10:01 pm, 19 Sep 10

If it is going to take 20 years to build, then even more reason to just blo*dy get going with it.

they have been talking about this VFT for about 20 years already anyway.

Just get on with it!

#20
caf10:40 pm, 19 Sep 10

The recent keynote speaker at a railway conference in New Zealand, said so.

Oh well, in that case…

#21
dvaey12:16 am, 20 Sep 10

Felix the Cat said :

Even traveling at 350km/h it’s still going to take about an hour to get to Sydney which is a similar time to what an aircraft does it in.

And who is going to pay for it? Govts don’t seem to like paying for infastructure these days (eg motorways and tunnels) so it will be up to a private company to build it.

Firstly, the drive to Sydney hasnt been 350km for a long time. Even a greyhound bus will get to the outskirts of Sydney in under 2hrs, so 1hr would allow for a couple of stops.

Secondly, maybe you missed the whole federal government infrastructure program thats been talked about for many years? Besides, why not just funnel the money into railcorp and have them manage it?

Felix the Cat said :

Not to mention wearing out the brakes of the train as it slows down for towns multiple times from 300km/h.

deye said :

Given our susceptibility to morning fog at certain times of the year it would make more sense to take the train for business day trips.

Good point except this probably only happens half-a-dozen times a year.

I havent been following the technology used with these trains, but VFTs tend to be powered by magnets and would use the same for braking. You dont slow down 200 tons from 300km/hr, with brake pads.

Having been on a late night flight into Canberra (7pm) that was turned away due to fog, and the fact that we’re still getting foggy days 3 weeks into spring, I think maybe youre new to Canberra winters.

#22
deye1:50 am, 20 Sep 10

The 300 km distance makes the Sydney – Canberra part the perfect starting point. It seems to me that having Parliament here would mitigate the need for a large population as there is a fair amount of government related travel between the two places.

#23
deye1:53 am, 20 Sep 10

additionally if you read the Zero Carbon plan for Australia http://beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-2020 they want to remove all domestic air travel and replace it with electric rail. Personally I think they have Buckley’s chance of doing that, but even if they were to convince people to do part of the plan it would add to VFT’s viability.

#24
outdoormagoo9:07 am, 20 Sep 10

Felix the Cat, I am not sure how often you fly in winter but I have done it 3 times (6 if you count return trips) in the last 4 months. Each time to Sydney on an early morning flight, and the quickest from entering Canberra (not quite) International Airport and exiting Sydney Airport was just under 2.5 hours. The longest trip was just over 5 hours after my flight was cancelled due to fog.

Only one of the Canbeera-Sydney flights was on time. One was delayed due to fog and one was cancelled due to fog. One of my return flights was cancelled due to fog and the other two were on time.

On a foutrth occasion I booked the flight and it was cancelled, they offered me a flight that would get me there at just after 12pm. I cancelled my ticket since I needed to be at a meeting at 9am, so it was a waste of time.After that I gave up and drove to Sydney because it meant I would get to where I needed to be at the time I needed to be there.

I would love a VFT to Canberra, at least it will get me there on time unlike Qantas and Virgin Blue.

#25
Pandy9:17 am, 20 Sep 10

“remove all domestic air travel and replace it with electric rail”

So I will be able to catch a train from Canberra that takes me to Launceston across a big bridge?

What about taking train from Sydney to Mt Hotham?

#26
Postalgeek9:18 am, 20 Sep 10

Well, sooner or later, the need for an alternative to petroleum-reliant aircraft is going to become an imperative rather than a viability study.

#27
p19:50 am, 20 Sep 10

If the money that has been spent on every feasibility study on a VFT over the last fifty years had been placed in a savings account, we would have enough to pay for it now.

#28
mutley11:09 am, 20 Sep 10

Can we have VFLightRail? Then the rail nerds will spontaneously combust

#29
p111:24 am, 20 Sep 10

mutley said :

Can we have VFLightRail? Then the rail nerds will spontaneously combust

If we make it light enough, it will be able to fly. Then, can run these new VFLR(F) trains from airport to airport…

Seriously though, I am all for a seriously large infrastructure project in this country. At least then, in 20 years when we look back at the massive national debts we all owe, and the huge reduction in quality of life which has occurred, at least we will have a good train system.

#30
monomania11:54 am, 20 Sep 10

A fast train becomes more viable if potential development between the Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney is taken into account and the increased land values somehow be returned to the project. I think this was a consideration when the project was first proposed.

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