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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-?

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32 Responses to
Why we’re not going to see a Very Fast Train any time soon
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Captain RAAF 2:43 pm 26 May 11

I think the $$$$ would be better spent opening up a southern route to Melbourne and shaving more than an hour off the trip for almost half of Canberra’s population and 100% of Melbourne’s! Not to mention making Canberra a much more accessable location for tourists from a fair chunk of the rest of Victoria.
Heres a picture I just whacked together, sure it carves it’s way through National Parks etc but it wouldn’t be the first time, plus it’s a highway, nobody stops unless they need a piss, so no danger to wildlife, assuming of course that every effort is made to create nature corridors etc.

A few tunnels, combined with the fantastic views, could make it one of the best drives in the world…..if only this country had the balls to think big and not rely on 70 year old Opera houses to drag in the tourists.

By [URL=]aussiecoronet[/URL] at 2011-05-25

p1 2:38 pm 26 May 11

ForReal said :

And 90 years ago (this year) to Bombala!

My father in law was the Station Master at Bombala.

ForReal 1:41 pm 26 May 11

johnboy said :

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

And 90 years ago (this year) to Bombala!

Sgt.Bungers 1:14 pm 26 May 11

Shame that no significant investment has been made in rail in Australia for… well ever.

Many tracks haven’t been realigned since the steam train era.

How attractive would air travel be today if no investment had been made in aeroplanes since the Wright brothers design?

No we don’t need a national VFT system with our low density population. A RFT (reasonably fast train) system would be a start though!. Something between Sydney, Canberra/Ski Fields, Melbourne that’s ~50% faster than driving, 50% cheaper than flying, and runs more often than twice a day.

Thoroughly Smashed 9:16 am 26 May 11

johnboy said :

Someone needs to listen to more oasis

Remember kids, when someone offers you oasis, just say no.

Holierthanthou 9:13 am 26 May 11

Only indirect subsidies, creative accounting, political patronage and national chest-thumping keep them rolling.

that and the citizenry patronage and tourist patronage and that it gets you from major city to city with no fuss and if at Kyoto station you can pick up up fantasic food at very reasonable prices to eat on the train and generally get off right in the centre of the city or right on connections with a major transit system and everything else. And who would take a plane from Tokyo to Osaka… that would be just silly… check out the and try to make taking a plane any sense at all.

The Canberra train station location is not very convinient at all, this needs to fixed if punters are going to get weened off planes. Surely a train has to more ecnomically viable than planes? Or am I missing something.

We don’t neccessarily need a very fast train to Sydney, even a reasonably fast train would be faster than a plane when you take into account getting to the airport, checking in, security, negotiating the terminal and gates (trains platforms are a lot closer together than airport gates)….. and then reversed at the other end. Sydney now has a reasonable rail link to city, but at Canberra the airport doesn’t even have enough taxis to cope. Someone should run shuttle bus from the airport to the city centre, but I imagine the airport would want to extort a ridiculous fee per passenger.

WonderfulWorld 11:39 pm 25 May 11

8 years too late, not due to the ACT and decision but Commonwealth Decisions which have not prioritised this initiative. May I add this is also not the fault nor should any blame be placed on the “high speed rail” project. Their hearts and visions (not mushroom ones) have been in the right place to support but difficult when up against so many other states, territories and pollies.

Hats off the the HSP team and hope.

arescarti42 8:19 pm 25 May 11

johnboy said :

Someone needs to listen to more oasis

Ah, I get it now.

allyroger 7:01 pm 25 May 11

if there was a fast rail link built between brisbane and melbourne, i would move to a country NSW town and put money in the country economy whilst still commuting to Canberra or Sydney on a daily basis. Infrastructure investment is what’s needed in Australia more than anything.

johnboy 6:38 pm 25 May 11

Someone needs to listen to more oasis

arescarti42 6:00 pm 25 May 11

It is a pretty poorly written article.

Saying that high speed trains are no good because they require subsidies, and then comparing them negatively to the airline industry is an absolute joke. You think airlines would run if there weren’t massive government subsidies involved? In almost a century of operation the airline industry has made a cumulative LOSS when you take into account all the government help it gets.

And whilst population density is a legitimate factor when you are talking about transport solutions within a city, it has nothing to do with anything when you’re talking about intercity transport. All that matters is the demand for transport along the route, for comparison, the Sydney to Melbourne air route is the fourth busiest in the world. A Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney high speed rail link would serve over 9.2 million people, about 42% of the population of Australia.

And JB i think you’ll find the only commercial passenger anything that has ever traveled at supersonic speeds was Concorde.

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