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Fast train’s Canberra snub a win for Yass, Goulburn

By Charlotte Harper - 18 July 2016 22

A still from CLARA's promotional video for their proposed high-speed rail network.

I reckon ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is just as disappointed as I am in the latest proposal for a very fast train between Sydney and Melbourne, and for the same two reasons: because it bypasses – nay, snubs – the national capital; and because even if it does defy the odds and go ahead, it won’t be completed till we’re octogenarians.

The $200 billion train line announced by a Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) last week would be 917km long, connecting Melbourne with Sydney via Shepparton, Albury, Gundagai, Yass and Goulburn, bypassing Canberra altogether, with travellers to access Canberra Airport via a separate high-speed spur line from Yass.

Route map CLARA

The project’s advisory board consists of a ex-Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb, former NSW premier (Barry O’Farrell) and ex-Victorian premier (Steve Bracks) as well as several people with political and business connections in the US.

I contacted Mr Barr’s office three days ago to ask some questions about all of this, and have yet to hear back [UPDATE: They responded this afternoon, please see comments below]. Here are the questions I’ve asked:

What does the Chief Minister think about the fact that the proposed line doesn’t service Canberra directly? Would it be his preference that it did, and if so, why would that be better for Canberrans?

Steve Byron has said the ACT Government endorses the airport hosting the station for the high-speed spur line from Yass. Is that right, and what are the benefits of the station being at the airport rather than in the CBD?

Has CLARA been in touch with the ACT Government about any of this?

My guesses at his answers are that he doesn’t like the fact that it skips Canberra; that he would prefer to see Canberra on the route itself rather than tacked on because the economic and social benefits would be enormous for the capital; that his government does endorse the airport hosting the station for the feed-in train because building such a station in Canberra’s CBD would cause a major headaches; and no, CLARA haven’t been in touch with the ACT Government about any of it.

But those are just my guesses. I’ll update this article if Mr Barr gets back to me with his thoughts on the matter.

I’m particularly frustrated about all of this because it is so hard to catch a train from Canberra to Melbourne now, and surely this is something developers should try to fix if they’re going to build a new fast rail network between Sydney and Melbourne.

As it stands, there is no direct train between Melbourne and Canberra. Passengers are required to take a bus to a regional centre such as Yass or Goulburn to join the Sydney to Melbourne train. If you want to join the overnight train from Sydney to Melbourne at Goulburn, you need to drive there and leave your car parked at the station, or catch a bus earlier in the day and find a way to entertain yourself for the few hours till the train arrives at midnight. Cafe hopping, perhaps? Dinner and a movie? It might work for some, but not with small kids in tow, which is why on a recent trip we elected to take the day train and found a bus that connected with it in a timely manner (after three hours on the road, mind you) … at that hub of inter-city transportation, Cootamundra.

While Canberra would miss out on many of the benefits a fast rail network could provide to the capital, if the CLARA proposal went ahead, Yass and Goulburn would score big time, with Sydney suddenly just half an hour away via a direct fast train.The chairman and co-founder of CLARA, Nick Cleary, told the Australian Financial Review last week that the company planned to build eight new “smart cities” along the fast train route, and to fund the rail line entirely through proceeds from land deals rather than public funding.

My hair is turning grey just thinking about how long it will take to build the planned network: 40 years all up, with the first stage being between Melbourne and Shepparton. I might be able to take the spur line to Yass then change for the fast train to Sydney in time to celebrate my 85th birthday.

I’m making light of this, but it’s actually incredibly disappointing. Politicians have been talking about a fast train between Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne since I was a little girl. I have long believed one of them would find a way to make it happen while I was still mobile enough to make use of it. Now I wonder whether I’ll live long enough to see it at all.

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Fast train’s Canberra snub a win for Yass, Goulburn
MERC600 2:17 pm 19 Jul 16

I seem to remember a few years back there was a proposal the V F train would steam along through Gippsland, throw a lefty up to Delegate, then onto Canberra and parts beyond. I remember a Delegate real estate ad spruiking ‘buy now as the train is a comin”.

I think this latest proposal could be called another pie in the sky.

Out of interest I looked up ‘pie in the sky’ just to see where it came from. and found this one interesting
answer;

Pie In The Sky

Meaning
“A promise of heaven, while continuing to suffer in this life.”

Sort of sums up a lot about this place I’d be thinkin.

JC 3:50 am 19 Jul 16

OP ever looked at the geography to Canberra’s south and west? Those hills don’t make for a good (cost effective) railway alignment. The alternative is to come in from Sydney then back out to Melbourne, a bit like driving to Melbourne from Sydney via the federal and Barton highways. Again not sensible as a through route.

From what I recall all proposals thus far for a Sydney to Melbourne line have had Canberra as a spur rather than being on the through line for these very practical reasons.

gooterz 7:45 pm 18 Jul 16

madelini said :

Garfield said :

You would think that one of the main reasons they aren’t coming direct to Canberra is that there is no land for them to ‘capture’ as all Territory land is leasehold.

Good point – that, plus the fact that land here is already very expensive, so there’s more prospect of profits in less desirable and/or yet to be developed locations. Anyway, decentralisation does not have a happy history in Australia, and this plan is highly unlikely to change that.

Little to do with it. It would cost more and you’d have to go though state forests to get past Canberra.
if a train stops in Canberra then where does it leave?

If it were possible why would anyone pay for it? ACT would have to pony up the cost and convince everyone in NSW to trek though their forests. With a green running the show it isn’t going to happen.

The only way a Canberra leg would work is if the route went closer to the coast, which changes things dramatically. Even then it’ll likely end up connecting past Queanbeyan and station in Tuggeranong or there abouts.

HiddenDragon 6:27 pm 18 Jul 16

Garfield said :

You would think that one of the main reasons they aren’t coming direct to Canberra is that there is no land for them to ‘capture’ as all Territory land is leasehold.

Good point – that, plus the fact that land here is already very expensive, so there’s more prospect of profits in less desirable and/or yet to be developed locations. Anyway, decentralisation does not have a happy history in Australia, and this plan is highly unlikely to change that.

wildturkeycanoe 5:20 pm 18 Jul 16

According to the online encyclopaedia, the Sydney Melbourne train will make the trip in 1 hour 50 minutes. A 917 km journey gives us an average speed of 500km/h. That is without stopping or slowing down at each of the 8 mini cities that it will service. Just imagine a kangaroo jumping in front of this thing doing over 500 clicks! They will need to put up some pretty tall fences along the way to prevent a disaster. How will that impact migration patterns of native species? I’d say the whole thing will have to be built well and truly above ground to avoid all the obstacles such as roads, fire trails and stock routes.

Another big problem with the concept is these mini metropolis’ popping up all over the countryside. The present populations along the route are already struggling through summers with water restrictions, due to drought and other reasons. How are they going to support massive population increases? Also, you have to invest in infrastructure upgrades to power, communications and waste removal. Who is going to be paying for all this? Has it been included in the $200 billion or will tax payers be slugged with more rates increases?
It won’t happen in my lifetime anyway, so I won’t hold my breath waiting for all the answers. Good luck to ’em, bringing life into the dry arid outback.

gooterz 4:15 pm 18 Jul 16

The spur line to Canberra has been put there for several reasons:

As a spur line it can be cancelled easily as a “budget saving” while being able to say, “well we really wanted to build it” but not now.

The builders can say “well it really only serves Canberra, so if you want it you can pay for it out of the ACT budget”. This does not of course apply to Yass, Goulburn and all the other towns served directly.

According to a recent interview on ABC radio, most of the trains between Melbourne and Sydney will not serve Canberra at all. A (very?) small proportion of the trains will be diverted at Goulburn and travel on to Canberra. There will not be a high-speed shuttle train waiting at Goulburn for each service. The intention is to have a very infrequent service to the national capital, unlike all those other important people living everywhere else. Do I smell Canberra bashing yet again?

Even if they are Canberra bashing who is going to stand up for us?

Arthur Davies 3:57 pm 18 Jul 16

The spur line to Canberra has been put there for several reasons:

As a spur line it can be cancelled easily as a “budget saving” while being able to say, “well we really wanted to build it” but not now.

The builders can say “well it really only serves Canberra, so if you want it you can pay for it out of the ACT budget”. This does not of course apply to Yass, Goulburn and all the other towns served directly.

According to a recent interview on ABC radio, most of the trains between Melbourne and Sydney will not serve Canberra at all. A (very?) small proportion of the trains will be diverted at Goulburn and travel on to Canberra. There will not be a high-speed shuttle train waiting at Goulburn for each service. The intention is to have a very infrequent service to the national capital, unlike all those other important people living everywhere else. Do I smell Canberra bashing yet again?

Charlotte Harper 3:11 pm 18 Jul 16

Heard back from Chief Minister’s office just now – here is the response to the questions from Friday:

In relation to the Consolidated Land and Rail Australia announcement, there have been no discussions with the ACT Government. Also it is unclear, at this stage, what support this proposal has from the Federal Government.

The ACT looks forward to continuing to working with the Federal Government on High Speed Rail.

A HSR station at Canberra Airport has significant merit and, as such, will be included in the options analysis. It may be more cost-effective to connect to light rail at the airport rather than travelling under Mount Ainslie. Further, Canberra Airport’s 2014 Master Plan, approved by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport and Regional Development on 16 January 2015, proposes an alternative HSR station at the airport.

Mordd 2:54 pm 18 Jul 16

I expect to have my funeral service aboard the inaugural journey on the fast train. Only way i will get to enjoy it.

rosscoact 2:33 pm 18 Jul 16

Garfield said :

You would think that one of the main reasons they aren’t coming direct to Canberra is that there is no land for them to ‘capture’ as all Territory land is leasehold.

Exactly. Build a satellite city next to Yass and if the ACT government chips in they could take it to the ACT. But most likely not.

rosscoact 2:31 pm 18 Jul 16

Blen_Carmichael said :

They may as well say the VFT from MEL–SYD will stop at the moon. That has just as much chance of actually happening.

You are probably right, although if the NSW, Victorian and Federal government gave them say $600B in rezoned land and infrastructure to support that land then they would do it because it would make sense to do so.

The 40 years is not to build the VFT, it’s to sell the land in the cities it builds along the route. The selling of the land would come before the building of the line.

gooterz 1:03 pm 18 Jul 16

This would actually boost the ACT economy, however no one seems focused on that. Maybe you might have to sell it as cars off the roads or green instead?

If your really keen you could trumpet it as another way to increase rates?

gazket 12:54 pm 18 Jul 16

Who catches the 5 hor train to Sydney ? You can be sure if there is a high speed rail spur line to ACT we will pay a premium ticket price for it just like petrol.

Holden Caulfield 11:49 am 18 Jul 16

They may as well say the VFT from MEL–SYD will stop at the moon. That has just as much chance of actually happening.

Heavs 11:40 am 18 Jul 16

You would think that one of the main reasons they aren’t coming direct to Canberra is that there is no land for them to ‘capture’ as all Territory land is leasehold.

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