Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Canberra’s had enough of the slow train to Sydney

By Andrew Leigh MP - 20 April 2017 19

Talgo_250_renfe_08_HDImagine the rail trip from Canberra Train Station to Sydney Central taking just two and half hours? Point to point, and for sheer comfort, rail would be competitive with air travel.

Of course, as things stand the current train time from Sydney to Canberra takes over four hours – considerably longer than the time to drive by car or coach. Many in the Canberra community and along the train route have expressed to me their concern that this is disadvantaging those who would prefer to travel by train, and leads to additional congestion on the roads.

Following a strong campaign from Canberrans, Guillermo Martinez Acero, from Spanish rail company Talgo, travelled to Australia last week to meet with me and community members. Senor Martinez Acero brought with him an intriguing and exciting proposal – Talgo is prepared to pay for one of their trains to be brought to Australia and tested on the existing tracks.

Talgo was making this offer, he said, because they are very confident that their product can almost halve the journey time. Their confidence is based on having worked with several other jurisdictions, including the United States and India, to provide an option which upgrades the rolling stock, without needing to spend significant sums on track upgrades.

We’d all love a high speed rail line, which would upgrade the track and reduce the journey time to an hour or so. But if that isn’t feasible, then we shouldn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Now is also a good time to upgrade because the current rolling stock, purchased by the New South Wales government in 1983, will likely need to be replaced in the coming decade or two. If we can’t have a super-fast bullet train on new tracks, let’s at least cut the journey time down by using a higher-speed train on the existing tracks.

Although it is early days, Talgo’s visit to Canberra highlights the range of affordable options available for the NSW government to shorten rail travel time between Sydney and Canberra. Naturally, any investment of this kind would need to be accompanied by an open tender and a proper cost-benefit study. However, it seems to me that Talgo has provided a unique and valuable opportunity to NSW Berejiklian government to get some useful data about the possibilities for rail travel in the state, at no cost to the taxpayer.

A modern, electric high-speed train would bring more people to Canberra from Sydney and reduce road traffic on the Hume and Federal highways. Remember, in the early years of Canberra, most federal members of parliament arrived in Canberra by train. Now, as far as I’m aware, none do.

Andrew Leigh is the Member for Fenner. His website is www.andrewleigh.com.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
19 Responses to
Canberra’s had enough of the slow train to Sydney
1
Tim Bohm 11:39 am
20 Apr 17
#

Wow! Andrew Leigh has almost done something for Canberrans!

Let us be clear on what he has actually done here, he has written a letter to the NSW Transport Minister “urging” the NSW government to consider this proposal. This is in the same week leaked NSW cabinet documents reveal a directive to NOT fund any new public rail infrastructure in the state and to focus on roads and tollways.

If Leigh really wanted high-speed rail rather than 10 seconds in the media (this is his first appearance four & half months into 2017), he should pick up the phone and talk to CLARA (Japanese HSR), or the Centurion GROUP (Chinese HSR) both privately backed consortiums who have East Coast high-speed rail plans on the table.

2
dungfungus 11:55 am
20 Apr 17
#

This proposal was reported on in the Canberra Times recently.
I sent the link to RiotACT but they failed to take it up.

Interestingly, The ACT government appears not to have made any comment on the proposal. So much for the MOU with NSW about regional development that Katy Gallagher signed when she was Chief Minister.

I don’t think the ACT government will give any support to this proposal as they have other plans for the existing interstate rail infrastructure. That really doesn’t matter as I am sure the service can be terminated at Queanbeyan and the “CountryLink busses” can go the extra mile into the ACT.

Also, this improved service would have to be subsidised by the NSW government to make it viable for the operator so it depends on them more than anyone else to make it happen.

3
Mark_Dando 12:34 pm
20 Apr 17
#

As a regular traveller between Canberra and Sydney I’d love this to happen but am sceptical about the claim that this train could do the trip within 2.5 hours without any significant upgrading of the track.

The train would need to maintain an average speed of around 130 kph assuming just two or three stops. Has the Talgo company really investigated the feasibility of this over, for example, the track between Bungendore and Queanbeyan? In the current train, this section feels like riding on a badly maintained attraction at a decrepit theme park.

I suspect a more feasible solution would be for the various governments involved to commit up to $1 billion (the cost of the light rail stage 1) to build a new high speed line between say Canberra airport and main Sydney-Melbourne line, a distance of only about 80 km, and upgrade the main line to Sydney as necessary. The latter component would also have a pay off in delivering better Syd-Mel freight services.

4
dungfungus 1:54 pm
20 Apr 17
#

“A modern, electric high-speed train would bring more people to Canberra from Sydney and …..”

The one shown in the image is electric but Canberra to Sydney services would be with a DMU (dirty diesel power).

Hey! Idea! It could be powered by the diesel converted by the proposed Foy plastic extraction (it’s not recycling by the way) at Hume.

Over to you Mr Rattenbury.

5
dungfungus 1:57 pm
20 Apr 17
#

Tim Bohm said :

Wow! Andrew Leigh has almost done something for Canberrans!

Let us be clear on what he has actually done here, he has written a letter to the NSW Transport Minister “urging” the NSW government to consider this proposal. This is in the same week leaked NSW cabinet documents reveal a directive to NOT fund any new public rail infrastructure in the state and to focus on roads and tollways.

If Leigh really wanted high-speed rail rather than 10 seconds in the media (this is his first appearance four & half months into 2017), he should pick up the phone and talk to CLARA (Japanese HSR), or the Centurion GROUP (Chinese HSR) both privately backed consortiums who have East Coast high-speed rail plans on the table.

Well, that revelation means the end of the line for this proposal, despite the tilt Andrew Leigh has put on it.

6
John Moulis 11:15 am
21 Apr 17
#

While they are at it can they do something about the woeful mobile phone coverage on the route? I was shocked when the mobile displayed the message No Service just outside Queanbeyan. There wasn’t coverage again until Tarago then it dropped out until Goulburn. After that I got coverage at Mittagong then the next coverage wasn’t until Sydney. As for Wi-Fi on the train itself? Forget it. They couldn’t even get the auto doors between the carriages to open properly. Truly a third world service.

7
dungfungus 12:24 pm
21 Apr 17
#

There is a rumour, maybe an urban myth, that all mobile phone activity is jammed in the vicinity of HQJOC for security reasons. The railway line actually runs very close to the complex.

I’ve never bothered to try my mobile on the train – I prefer to chill out and enjoy the magic of rail travel; like Michael Portillo.

Best solution is to get a Telstra “blue tick” smart phone. They will work almost anywhere in Australia.

8
tim_c 1:04 pm
21 Apr 17
#

If they simply repaired the current track they could run the current trains at freeway speeds or slightly higher – then the train would probably be nearly as quick as flying by the time you park at the airport, walk from your car, queue, check-in, go through security, etc.

Even the old XPT train from the 1980s had a cruising speed of 140km/h, but could only do that on a decent track.

9
tim_c 1:07 pm
21 Apr 17
#

Mark_Dando said :

As a regular traveller between Canberra and Sydney I’d love this to happen but am sceptical about the claim that this train could do the trip within 2.5 hours without any significant upgrading of the track.

The train would need to maintain an average speed of around 130 kph assuming just two or three stops. Has the Talgo company really investigated the feasibility of this over, for example, the track between Bungendore and Queanbeyan? In the current train, this section feels like riding on a badly maintained attraction at a decrepit theme park.

I suspect a more feasible solution would be for the various governments involved to commit up to $1 billion (the cost of the light rail stage 1) to build a new high speed line between say Canberra airport and main Sydney-Melbourne line, a distance of only about 80 km, and upgrade the main line to Sydney as necessary. The latter component would also have a pay off in delivering better Syd-Mel freight services.

A tilt-train was trialled between Canberra and Sydney a few years ago. It could only use its ’tilt’ function for a small fraction of the journey though so as not to collide with poles, walls and other structures that were too close to the track for a leaning train.

10
Queanbeyanite 1:08 pm
22 Apr 17
#

Video conferencing will kill the expense and inconvenience of travelling to meetings pretty soon.

11
dungfungus 10:02 pm
22 Apr 17
#

tim_c said :

Mark_Dando said :

As a regular traveller between Canberra and Sydney I’d love this to happen but am sceptical about the claim that this train could do the trip within 2.5 hours without any significant upgrading of the track.

The train would need to maintain an average speed of around 130 kph assuming just two or three stops. Has the Talgo company really investigated the feasibility of this over, for example, the track between Bungendore and Queanbeyan? In the current train, this section feels like riding on a badly maintained attraction at a decrepit theme park.

I suspect a more feasible solution would be for the various governments involved to commit up to $1 billion (the cost of the light rail stage 1) to build a new high speed line between say Canberra airport and main Sydney-Melbourne line, a distance of only about 80 km, and upgrade the main line to Sydney as necessary. The latter component would also have a pay off in delivering better Syd-Mel freight services.

A tilt-train was trialled between Canberra and Sydney a few years ago. It could only use its ’tilt’ function for a small fraction of the journey though so as not to collide with poles, walls and other structures that were too close to the track for a leaning train.

Some photos and comments here: http://www.trainman.id.au/photos/nsw/tilt/

The main problem it had was the curves on the Canberra Bungendore section of the line were too “tight” for the technology. Apparently this caused the front section of the train to tilt one way and the rear section the other way while in the curve which was very disconcerting for passengers and mobile crew.

It is reported that it took out a few bricks at one end of the Queanbeyan platform.

There is a tilt train service in Queensland (The Sunlander). It rarely reaches it’s top speed capability.

12
dungfungus 10:49 am
23 Apr 17
#

In reference to your title to this thread “Canberra’s had enough of the slow train to Sydney”, the inference is that a lot of Canberran’s use the service and this isn’t really the case.

In fact, the service is patronised mainly by people with limited financial resources and a high number of these people travel on senior/pensioner concessions. Without these concessions this demographic would have difficulty in travelling at all from Canberra, anywhere.

The push for a faster service appears to be coming from a lot of people who don’t even use the service but would like to think a faster train service would be a better way to travel when there are deadlines to meet. It is unlikely this concept will be operated as public transport so if it ever happens I doubt whether any concessions to a substantially higher fare structure will apply. Do the airlines give pensioner concessions? No.

The outcome would be a diminution of the existing taxpayer-subsidised services which I wouldn’t support.

13
JC 12:54 pm
23 Apr 17
#

dungfungus said :

tim_c said :

Mark_Dando said :

As a regular traveller between Canberra and Sydney I’d love this to happen but am sceptical about the claim that this train could do the trip within 2.5 hours without any significant upgrading of the track.

The train would need to maintain an average speed of around 130 kph assuming just two or three stops. Has the Talgo company really investigated the feasibility of this over, for example, the track between Bungendore and Queanbeyan? In the current train, this section feels like riding on a badly maintained attraction at a decrepit theme park.

I suspect a more feasible solution would be for the various governments involved to commit up to $1 billion (the cost of the light rail stage 1) to build a new high speed line between say Canberra airport and main Sydney-Melbourne line, a distance of only about 80 km, and upgrade the main line to Sydney as necessary. The latter component would also have a pay off in delivering better Syd-Mel freight services.

A tilt-train was trialled between Canberra and Sydney a few years ago. It could only use its ’tilt’ function for a small fraction of the journey though so as not to collide with poles, walls and other structures that were too close to the track for a leaning train.

Some photos and comments here: http://www.trainman.id.au/photos/nsw/tilt/

The main problem it had was the curves on the Canberra Bungendore section of the line were too “tight” for the technology. Apparently this caused the front section of the train to tilt one way and the rear section the other way while in the curve which was very disconcerting for passengers and mobile crew.

It is reported that it took out a few bricks at one end of the Queanbeyan platform.

There is a tilt train service in Queensland (The Sunlander). It rarely reaches it’s top speed capability.

The Sunlander was replaced by the tilt train which is named Spirit of Queensland.

But yeah rare to reach top speed but that is not nescisarrily the point anyway. The point is being able to go faster around corners in a way to not upset passengers to hopefully give a higher overall average speed.

14
ChrisinTurner 5:59 pm
23 Apr 17
#

Andrew has people to research thought bubbles and explain to him that it has been tried before. No train can beat the laws of physics. A proper high speed train between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne would obviate the need for Badgerys Creek airport.

15
JC 12:00 am
24 Apr 17
#

ChrisinTurner said :

Andrew has people to research thought bubbles and explain to him that it has been tried before. No train can beat the laws of physics. A proper high speed train between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne would obviate the need for Badgerys Creek airport.

I agree it does need to be a proper high speed train not just a tilt train.

Been tried before? You mean the trial a number of years ago? That was never a serious trail just lip service.

And beating laws of physics sure cannot do that but tilt trains do trick people’s perception of the effects of the laws of physics and a tilt train if the only thing on the line between Canberra and Sydney could get close to 2 hours with some minor track up grades.

In fact traffic on the line is the main killer as you can only go as fast as the path you are given allows. If there is slower traffic in front their schedule needs to be perfectly matched to allow overtaking without too much holding for the slower train. One reason why I believe any high speed train really needs to be dedicated high speed line.

And a good case in point in France the line to Bordeaux was until recently dedicated high speed for about 250km and then classic but still high speed (200km/h) by our standards for another 300km or so. They have just opened or about to open an extension of the dedicated line which will drop 50-60 minutes off the trip to Paris mostly by not having slower trains to contend with.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au

Search across the site