On the Greens Fast Track: All Roads Lead to Rail
A high speed rail ink for Australia’s East Coast cities would reduce greenhouse emissions from transport and congestion. Rail is the best form of land transport for the environment with rail freight transport around four times more energy efficient than road transport. But Railway watcher Robin Bromby thinks we don’t have critical mass to go on the fast track.
AAP Report (23 Apr 2010):
Greens call for east coast rail link
Cities on Australia’s east coast would be linked by a high-speed railway line under a Greens plan.
Greens senator Bob Brown on Friday said the Melbourne to Sydney flight route was the fourth busiest in the world, so it made sense to establish a high-speed rail link between the two capitals, Brisbane and even Canberra and Newcastle.
Launching his proposal for a concept study into the idea, he said the network could shuttle travellers between hubs in about four hours.
High-speed rail links are common in Europe and Asia.
Senator Brown said the infrastructure would benefit three-quarters of Australians.
“The (link) would reduce greenhouse emissions from transport and congestion on the high-demand Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane flight routes and accident-prone Pacific, Hume and Princes highways,” he said.
“Construction of a high-speed rail link would also generate thousands of jobs and promote regional development.”
Senator Brown wants $10 million to be earmarked for a one-year feasibility study into the link.
A rail union is also keen on the idea.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) says the recent airline chaos in Europe, caused by a volcanic eruption, highlights the need for fast trains as an alternative.
“The events of the past week have shown what a devastating impact over-reliance on air travel can have on ordinary families and to the economy,” RTBU national organiser Bob Nanva said.
“It just doesn’t make sense putting all of our transport eggs into one basket if extreme weather or natural events can bring air travel to a sudden halt and leave thousands of families and businesses in disarray.”
The NSW Greens called on the state government to back Senator Brown’s proposal, saying it will drag NSW out of the “transport dark ages”.
“Australia lags behind Japan, Europe and the UK, China, South Korea and Taiwan which have embraced high speed rail networks over a 35-year period,” NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon says.
“High speed rail would not only save time but protect travellers from a predicted rise in oil costs.”
But Transport Minister David Campbell says NSW doesn’t have the population to justify a fast rail link.
“Fast rail hasn’t stacked up in the past,” he said.
“We simply haven’t had the population to support this kind of infrastructure spend.
“But the value of a project like this is really a matter for the commonwealth.”
This comment from Robin Bromby, who writes for the Australia and is also the author of several railway books, including The Railway Age in Australia and Ghost Railways of Australia:
“While high speed trains are something which Australia should investigate fully, the issue with the case put by the Greens is that of critical mass. You can have fast trains running between Rome and Milan on the hour when you can fill a train every hour with enough people to pay $A200 a throw for the ride. That’s a three hour trip (with stops at Florence and Bologna, both with large populations to provide additional traffic); I suspect a Sydney-Melbourne HST would have to charge a great deal more.
“Also, there is a critical difference between us and Europe: that is, our railways are used mainly for freight, not people. The Europeans, Japanese and Chinese use the HST trains for passenger traffic, but I doubt whether you could undo years of cheap air travel here, not to mention the ownership level of cars. I would love to see high speed rail here but Australians don’t see trains as part of their lives.”
From the report Climate Change and the Environment from the CRC for Rail Innovation:
Reducing Emissions and Improving Environmental
Rail is the best form of land transport for the environment with rail freight transport around four times more energy efficient than road transport and two times more efficient for moving people.
The rail industry in Australia is committed to positively respond to climate change issues and further improving its environmental performance by: