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Why we’re not going to see a Very Fast Train any time soon

By johnboy - 25 May 2011 32

fast trains

The Economist have an interesting article on the economics of very fast trains, particularly comparing Japan’s Tokaido route with the planned San Francisco to Los Angeles train in California.

Considering that every five years or so a Lyle Langley wannabe proposes a taxpayer funded VFT linking Canberra to Sydney as a universal panacea this is a subject of enduring interest.

They had this to say on the subject of such trains more broadly:

The sole reason why Shinkansen plying the Tokaido route make money is the sheer density—and affluence—of the customers they serve. All the other Shinkansen routes in Japan lose cart-loads of cash, as high-speed trains do elsewhere in the world. Only indirect subsidies, creative accounting, political patronage and national chest-thumping keep them rolling.

But a bigger question is why we have to jump straight to bullet trains and maglev when we talk about improving rail infrastructure in Australia (and in particular to Canberra)?

Surely getting a proper railway line (that’s electrified dual track) to a transport hub in Canberra (at least a bus interchange if not Civic) is a precursor before we start snart hankering to sniff it through a cane on a supersonic train?

[Photo: CC Attribution Licence. Credit: BY-YOUR-?

What’s Your opinion?


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32 Responses to
Why we’re not going to see a Very Fast Train any time soon
1
random 2:08 pm
25 May 11
#

They can’t entirely get their story straight; here’s another article about the (high) profitability of TGV trains in France. (Apparently the high-speed routes subsidize local services.)

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2
johnboy 2:15 pm
25 May 11
#

article from 2008 and no subsidy analysis.

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3
p1 2:30 pm
25 May 11
#

johnboy said :

But a bigger question is why we have to jump straight to bullet trains and maglev when we talk about improving rail infrastructure in Australia (and in particular to Canberra)?

It would be nice if they could have a pretty normal train system running from Canberra to Sydney (Melbourne to Brisbane Via Canberra and Sydney would be nice) which drops people centrally and has duel tracks (even if it isn’t electrified). Surely it would be able to support itself in moving heavy freight which would otherwise go inland on trucks?

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4
johnboy 2:32 pm
25 May 11
#

electrification really helps with the cost of freight too!

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5
Keijidosha 2:39 pm
25 May 11
#

I’m not an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that the train only needs to be faster than a car or bus with fares that are comparable to either, or at least cheaper than a plane ticket.
Build a dual line that runs from Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra and the snowfields and you have your freight/commuter/tourist market sewn up.

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6
Pommy bastard 2:47 pm
25 May 11
#

p1 said :

which drops people centrally and has duel tracks (even if it isn’t electrified).

They’d only end up fighting over it….

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7
basketcase 2:55 pm
25 May 11
#

Be nice if they had an ordinary rail service in and out of Canberra that didn’t take 90+ minutes to Goulburn. The rest of the trip is OK.

The simple fact of life is that there is no political will to sustain a loss making service, nor should there be.

Secondly, I am surprised that this subject should be aired now, election times are normally when these pipe dreams are trotted out.

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8
p1 2:56 pm
25 May 11
#

Pommy bastard said :

They’d only end up fighting over it….

Touché

Doesn’t even really need to be a whole lot faster then Cars and buses for the tourist market, and defiantly doesn’t for freight.

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9
imnotmatt 3:00 pm
25 May 11
#

JB, given that one of the key reasons the current service is so slow is because of the poor quality track and alignment, and much of the capital costs in high speed lie in building new track and alignment, I’m not quite sure what’s the appeal of your halfway option.

Duplicating and electrifying the current track wouldn’t achieve much in the way of travel time reduction for passenger journeys, and I doubt it would help freight, as they’re not going to buy new locos unless you electrified the whole Mel-Bris-Syd freight corridor.

If you wanted to solve these problems by building duplicated/electrified track on a new alignment, then surely this is basically HSR.

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10
p1 3:00 pm
25 May 11
#

basketcase said :

The simple fact of life is that there is no political will to sustain a loss making service, nor should there be.

If a rail network existed which could handle a substantial component of what now transits out roads, it would not necessarily be loss making when looked at from a holistic point of view.

Of course, after spending a few billion on setting it up, some smart politician would see a way to make a few million privatising it…

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11
Chop71 3:04 pm
25 May 11
#

Keijidosha said :

Build a dual line that runs from Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra and the snowfields and you have your freight/commuter/tourist market sewn up.

Oh yeah simple and direct route just tunnel through those mountains in a dead straight line, should take mo more than 1000 years. Thanks for keeping the dream alive

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12
p1 3:17 pm
25 May 11
#

Chop71 said :

Keijidosha said :

Build a dual line that runs from Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra and the snowfields and you have your freight/commuter/tourist market sewn up.

Oh yeah simple and direct route just tunnel through those mountains in a dead straight line, should take mo more than 1000 years. Thanks for keeping the dream alive

We will also need a stop at the canal that lets ocean in to flood central Australia so it is an inland sea again, that way people can go boating.

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13
imnotmatt 3:24 pm
25 May 11
#

p1 said :

basketcase said :

The simple fact of life is that there is no political will to sustain a loss making service, nor should there be.

If a rail network existed which could handle a substantial component of what now transits out roads, it would not necessarily be loss making when looked at from a holistic point of view.

One of the issues is that the government operates the Hume and Federal Highways at a substantial loss. It’s difficult to migrate traffic from road to rail when one’s free and the other’s not.

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14
johnboy 3:25 pm
25 May 11
#

and yet somehow, over 100 years ago, the railway ran all the way from Sydney to Cooma.

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15
Keijidosha 3:38 pm
25 May 11
#

johnboy said :

and yet somehow, over 100 years ago, the railway ran all the way from Sydney to Cooma.

Somehow the crafty buggers also managed to tunnel the Snowy Mountains Scheme 50 years ago.

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