There is no silver bullet (train)

By Ross Elliott, cross-posted from The Pulse:

A proposed High Speed Rail connecting Melbourne with Sydney and Brisbane is getting favourable press. But what are the hurdles and how would it compare with existing modes of intercity travel?

“We should bite the bullet and go for a high-speed rail connection not just through to Sydney but right through to Melbourne and then north to Brisbane,” Labor’s Infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said earlier this year, adding: “It would be a real game changer – it is expensive, but nation-building requires vision.”

Support, in principle, seems to be impartial with the Liberals’ Cities and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge saying “High-speed rail has to be part of the landscape in the future” – provided the states secured the corridor.

As distinct from regional high speed rail services (eg Geelong to Melbourne or Gold Coast to Brisbane) which are intended to permit long term commutes and regional connectivity, intercity high speed rail envisages an alternative to air travel between major capitals. Its intention is to serve passenger travel and does not include freight.

The arguments in favour of the intercity HSR are typically vague at this stage, until a business case is conducted. Many of the proponents seem to think that Australia needs a HSR rail project mainly because places like China and Japan have one. The proponents will need to do better than that to justify the many tens of billions of dollars the project would involve. The hurdles are many, here are just a few:

Is there intercity road congestion that needs to be solved by high speed rail?

No. There are no signs of commuter traffic congesting the highways between the major capitals to any extent that something like High Speed Rail would be needed. Proponents will need to accurately describe the problem it is trying to solve.

Is there an alternative?

There are two. Some people drive (“it’s the journey not the destination.”) The rest who need to get from one capital to the other, fly. (There is also an existing inter-city passenger rail connection but very few people use it due to cost and time).

Is the alternative faster or slower?

The existing alternative (flying) is quicker. Intercity flights are about one hour and thirty minutes. Services are hourly or better. HSR would take two or three hours and there may only be a few services a day in each direction. Each mode would have its own boarding and alighting procedures which would add equally to the trip time. Advances in air travel may further reduce travel times and emissions long before any HSR is built.

But don’t we need an alternative when weather or other factors close down airports?

It would be nice to have, sure, but keep in mind a fully loaded HSR train could be equivalent to perhaps just 3 fully loaded aircraft. Europe’s Eurostar HSR for example can carry 800 passengers, or the equivalent of two and half typical passenger jets. So given the dozens of flights each day that could be affected by closed airports, you would need a very large number of HSR services at a high frequency of service to provide a viable alternative. That’s a big investment for a small number of days in a year.

How is the alternative funded?

Air travel is run by private companies. The airports are also privately owned and operated. The fares between major capital cities – the same destinations proposed by HSR – are very cost competitive. HSR would require not only the lines and stations and tunnels and bridges and the rolling stock and marshalling yards and signalling technology to be funded by the taxpayer, but the operating costs (ie the annual losses) would have to be massively subsidised for the trip fares to be remotely comparable to air travel.

Will HSR bring regional benefits?

It is hard to see how, unless there are multiple stops in regional centres. In which case it’s not high speed, which defeats the purpose entirely. There are already intercity passenger rail services with multiple stops. They are hugely subsidised but still very few people use them.

But what about China? Haven’t they recently built one?

Yes. It runs between Shanghai (population 26 million) and Beijing (population 22 million). Each city has a population roughly equal to the entire Australian population. Not only that but Chinese methods of funding, constructing and planning infrastructure could not be more different than ours. If some greenie in China miraculously found a rare frog whose only remaining habitat was on the proposed route, the greenie would be in jail. Nuff said.

But what about Japan? Or the UK?

Japan’s Shinkasen first opened in 1964. It connects some of the world’s biggest cities in one of the world’s most densely populated countries and is operated by a notoriously efficient people. Could not be more dissimilar to Australia. The UK’s HS2 project is already in strife, with allegations that MPs were misled about project costs and a budget that started at £34bn but which Treasury now thinks will be closer to £100bn.

But isn’t the USA also building one?

They were but it’s been halted due to massive budget overruns. Announced in 2008 but now dubbed “The Train to Nowhere without a Conductor” California’s high speed rail was to connect LA (population 13 million) with San Francisco (population 4.8 million) over 1200 kilometres at an initial cost of $33 billion that was to be completed by next year (2020). The incomplete project is now estimated to cost $100 billion to complete and it can’t be finished – even if the remaining funds are found – until 2033.

The new California Governor Gavin Newsom had to “bite the bullet” when he announced in February this year: “Let’s be real. The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. (Los Angeles). I wish there were.”

More blunt were comments by a director of the University of Southern California’s Transportation Engineering program, James Moore who warned: “I can’t see any particular scenario in which we should continue to pour money down this rathole.”

He went on to say: “Like most people with a technical background, I was susceptible to a gee-whiz factor. I would love it if bullet trains and maglev trains were a good idea because I love technology and want it to be useful. But this is not. Modes of transportation that are more expensive than aircraft and slower than aircraft do not compete very well with aircraft.”

California’s high speed rail had all the trappings and promises associated with the Australian proposal. The fanfare, “the vision” thing, the dedicated HSR authority – all it needed was practicality, buildability and viability. And keep in mind their distances are a fraction of what Australia’s proposal would be and our city populations are smaller.

The ambition to create better connections between our capitals deserve support. But so does financial responsibility with taxpayer dollars. The business case for a HSR providing passenger services designed to provide an alternative for air travel ought also to question how much more connectivity could be achieved with autobahn style intercity motorways engineered for high speed autonomous vehicles. When it comes to rail, its ability to cost effectively move freight (as opposed to passengers) is hard to beat, and so the opportunity to remove inter-city vehicular freight from our highways by getting on with the inland rail freight line should also come into the picture.

For me, by the time any proposed intercity HSR passenger service is ready to board, I will hopefully have clocked up many hours flying in my personal passenger drone, like George Jetson.


  1. kannigetMEMBER

    HSR between the capitals is a wast of money, You would only reduce it to about 5 hours if you dont have any stops along the way. Basically 800k at 200klmh with slow time at each end due to metropolitan buildup….. Admittedly the 1.5 hours flight time takes about 4 hours if you want to go CBD to CBD. but the HSR wont eliminate that problem.

    If it serviced Newcastle to Sydney in 45mins you may see a value proposition but it would have to service many trips each way each day. Not all commuters work a strict 9 to 5. If you drive down from the central coast to Sydney each day the reason you dont use public transport is the car gives you more flexibility, its not quicker.

    • “Basically 800k at 200kph”

      But the cruising speed will more likely be in the 300-350kph range. So your 5hrs goes to about 4 (at 300kph) – on par with plane travel, but train will be faster at 350kph.

      The big driver for fast trains will be a carbon price. Plane travel does not pay for the effects it has on the environment. Factor those in and fast trains make sense.

      • Then you also need to factor in electric planes which will be here before any HSR gets built

      • > ut the cruising speed will more likely be in the 300-350kph range. So your 5hrs goes to about 4 (at 300kph) – on par with plane travel, but train will be faster at 350kph.

        Good luck with that. By the time the pork barrelling is over, there’ll be stations every 2km.

      • With HSR, the Badgeries Creek airport would not be needed, so there’s an extra $6 billion that could be used for the HSR.

  2. Given the state of our economy, in particular in relation to our CAD, the resultant foreign debt and the necessity to sell our country off, the first question would be ‘What is the net result in teerms of export earnings or import replacement? ‘ The answer, of course, in this country at this time, is waaaaay negative. So, in this economy in this time, the building of HSR is a waste of extremely scarce capital and a highly negative impact on the economy. (aside from all the other very good reasons already proffered.

    • It would open up the entire eastern seaboard to the single biggest economic growth period since colonisation – absurd comment is absurd.

      The arguments being pushed here that trains can not service regional towns completely ignores the fact that trains pull off, and re-enter the main tracks and only need to service a single town along a route with a delay of 5 minutes from full speed to full speed. A train every six minutes could service ten towns with 5 minutes delay per train.

      So yeah – you are being flat out lied to.

      • kannigetMEMBER

        Would it? How? the HSR would travel from Melbourne via Albury, would have to loop back south to get around the brindabellas into Canberra and then wind north again over some of the most rugged parts of the southern highlands into Sydney. If it goes to Central CBD it would it either need another bunch of tunnels or would then need to travel back south out and around the harbour up through the Hornsby area to maitland, from there to get to Brisbane it would travel inland again to avoid the numerous rivers, mountain ranges, and overly crowded areas of the mid north coast of NSW.

        So based on this I think the round trip times are optimistic, the level of corridor growth is overly estimated and as other HSR examples aroud the world have shown HSR does not promote growth like normal rail does.

        Dont get me wrong, I would love it to be built, the idea of being able to go to Sydney or Melbourne in a few hours is awesome but I just cant see the economic model for it.

  3. Quote ………..”The UK’s HS2 project is already in strife, with allegations that MPs were misled about project costs and a budget that started at £34bn but which Treasury now thinks will be closer to £100bn.”

    the same culture of people infects the transport bureaucracy in NSW and in Canberra. The EPC’s and engineering consultants seem to be awash with “experts” from Old Blighty.

    Not a Japanese, Chinese, Hong Kong mass transport rail expert to be seen!!!

    Just as long as they continue getting that high six figure salary. Then bugger off home when it goes pear shaped.

    • My partner was a senior exec at Network Rail and British Rail – the system is entirely corrupt and broken beyond repair and will be re-nationalised. Not even worth commenting on.

      • Corrupt due to privatisation, dividing everything up into little fiefdoms whereby the costs of management went through the roof and any senior managers that had come up through the engineering side of things was tossed out because accountants and MBA’s knew better. Same with the water companies, check what Mac Bank did with Thames water.

  4. It is literally more expensive to catch a bullet train in Japan the same distance as a flight from Sydney Melbourne.

    It is also a 5 hour journey. Even if you’re somehow counting every step of the process from the Blue Mountains to Portsea, AND you’re caught up by security/baggage, it’s still faster to fly.

    Cheaper, faster.

    Train has no chance.

    • I’ve caught high speed rail and bullet trains all over the world – and this is a steaming load of horse fecal matter of the highest order – pure unadulterated makey-uppey.

      EDit :
      Except UK – that is a disaster.

    • Air ticket from Newcastle to Sydney = $133 one way and there are 3 flights per day.

      HSR would end those flights because the train ticket would be no more than $50. Should be $16 to take cars off the motorway. Apparently it is ok to spend $100 billion on road tunnels instead.

      There are 29 flights per day from Canberra to Sydney. And the ticket is $125 or more. HSR would end most of those flights and take many cars off the road.

      4 flights per day from Canberra to Newcastle. Tickets are $208 one way. HSR might end those flights – depending on the train ticket price. HSR will probably cut the price of those air tickets to $150 or $100 (resulting in an indirect benefit).

      Some people are afraid of flying and would travel by HSR instead – even if the total journey time increases by 30 minutes.

  5. Whats the point in posting your opinions – not facts – when you consistently refuse to engage in any debate or discussion which might show any benefit what so ever.

    Honestly I just do not understand what your problem is – how about an actual discussion of the facts.

    Lets start with the travel time.
    Flying Melbourne to Sydney –

    40 minutes commute from closest suburbs of Brunswick – average 1.5 hours – City average 1 hour (GENEROUS with traffic)
    1.30 hours in air
    30 minutes departure time (checking, bagging, loading, taxi, take off)
    30 minutes arrival time (checking, bagging, loading, taxi, take off)
    30 minutes commute back into city

    Total travel time 4 hours. This is the general experience for most people door to door.

    Bullet train Shanghai Maglev – 430 kph – Melbourne Sydney 870 km – 2 hours.
    Commute – zero – city center.
    Checking – 1 minute.

    Your arguments against this have been that bullet trains do not travel at high speed in city centers – this is just a flat out lie – they all do. Or that there will be delays in regional towns – ten trains per hour allows for a 5 minute stop in ten separate towns along the route with a delay of 5 minutes per train with acceleration deceleration adding 5 minutes.

    So that is 2 hours and 10 minutes servicing TEN regional towns door to door in CBD between Melbourne and Sydney.

    All your entire argument are now finished thus far.

    Remaining arguments

    But what about China? Haven’t they recently built one?

    Yes. It runs between Shanghai (population 26 million) and Beijing (population 22 million).

    The commute between Melbourne and Sydney is one of – if not the busiest on earth. There ends your argument. Who cares if there are 20 Million people who have never been on a bullet train in Shanghai ? Its the 2 million who commute that matter. And Australia has that as proven by the congestion in air travel.

    Oh – and how utterly, completely disingenuous – there is ONE high speed rail in China – really ?

    Here is the map

    Just wow.

    And the main argument – air travel is the number one cause of global warming – number one. Above shipping, cows, cars, everything – its absolutely insane how bad it is – rail fixes this. And please for the love of humanity don’t go all Andrew Bolt and ask where the electricity comes from – its just embarrassing at this stage.

    • All good points, well made. The argument that servicing more intermediate cities slows every train is laughably false.
      I’d also argue for decent railfreight and regional commuter networks, which are entirely separate business propositions.

    • Well, since this is Straya, what is more likely to happen is that we will build a single track first, then after realizing the massive cost blowout, we will scaled down the project – just like we did to the NBN.

      The end result will be an 900 km single track HSR, a monumental white elephant the rest of the world will be talking about for years to come.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      LOL @ using maximum rather than average speed and calling other people “disingenuous”.

    • JojoyubbyMEMBER

      Have you work anywhere near urban planning and redevelopment in OZ? How are you propose to locate the CBD HSR station? Where are you going to get the land from? The only possible option isunderground metro tunnel style station, how much does the HSR need to slow down to go through the last leg of the trip?

      • You can run at at least 160kph in a tunnel see Eurotunnel, or GBT which runs at up to 250kph (200kph operational), but into the city the train would be slowing anyway so you only need to get near enough, and potentially run them into the regular Central terminal. Given that it would remove some of the existing regional slow trains.

        It’s true the wally politicians have talked about HSR for 50 years, but hocked off alot of potential corridor to developers (and therefore increase the cost), however there must be room to tunnel under existing rail corridors (surely?).

        China has delivered HSR @ ~USD18-22m per km, with Europe being in the ~USD$30m/km range. The problem will be Aussie construction ‘experts’ (read:wallys) have been talking $100m+/km

  6. Will just add that America’s inability to build infrastructure in California is not any indication of the ability to build infrastructure – it is being built all over the world no problem – nothing at all is being built in America – because – well – lets not go there, you might get all touchy feely.

    China has put in more than the entire worlds fast train rail networks combined since California announced their rail project – so whatever. They have also laid more track than existed globally outside their own country in infrastructure export projects including One Belt One Road.

    But we don’t like to talk about that either – because only real estate can determine the Iron Ore price.


  7. Great stuff Ross. The “regional benefits” argument is rubbish. The French experience shows that HSR doesn’t “activate” regional centres – ie. bring jobs and industry – it simply turns the regions into dormitories for the metro cities

    • False. This is abundantly false. Rail is one of the single biggest determinants of regional success – blind freddy can see the impact of rail even in Victoria where towns with rail thrive.

      Its not even up for debate – the research is voluminous and claiming otherwise is honestly utterly absurd – it really is trite.

      • kannigetMEMBER

        Yeah, Rail activates a community but HSR does not.

        if activating a community is the real reason for wanting it then HSR is not the solution, we should be improving existing rail services instead of closing them down which has been the mantra for decades.

  8. Many of us in Melbourne have long commutes due to the daily signal or points faults that plague the network. If these politicians can learn anything about the Japanese rail network, there are lots of things that can be applied here before we start spending on bullet trains.
    1. Culture – the Japanese are very proud of their trains. Even the pink ladies are proud of how fast they clean the Shinkansen. Punctuality is a big thing and they are very proud of this. We need to shake up our culture to ensure we have work class rather than she’ll be right metro systems
    2. Punctuality – late trains are highlighted in red on board even if they are a couple of minutes late. Here, 5 minutes and 59 seconds late is considered on time. Need to change that culture
    3. Well-maintained – other than the Shinkansen tracks, all tracks are narrow guage and all trains run well on their networks as it is maintained to a sufficiently good standard. Melbourne has mud coming through the ballast, decaying wooden and concrete sleepers and all sorts of signal problems
    4. Frequency – major lines have frequent services and less patronised routes have less, but are punctual enough to rely on

    Suburban rail is one that needs the billions in investment and this is just a distraction until we can move around efficiently in our cities.

    • Right on.

      And a marginally efficient regional system with decent signalling would be higher priority than grand schemes.

    • LOL. You know Australian rail system has problems when you see trains having to negotiate poorly place/designed turnouts (and making a shit-load of noise doing it) at 15kph. In Europe HSR trains will happily (smoothly) negotiate turnouts at 220kph.

  9. Two things that suck about this site, the obsession with dropping interest rates and the hatred of HSR !

    HSR is a proven technology all over Europe / Asia, it needs to be done and done ASAP if we are to support the millions of immigrants that are pouring into this country (and don’t start on the delusion that immigration is going to slow), it is the only way that we can decentralise somewhat.

    • If any of you folks had actually caught a train in Europe – you would see that the fast trains are just d*ck-waving exercises – most travel is on standard speed trains, since the ticket prices are much lower. And along the way, you have all kinds of stops at various cities. Those cities don’t exist in Australia – just megacities.

      Better to upgrade the rail infrastructure to handle massive amounts of freight, like in America. Get more trucks off the road.

      • Yes I used to live in Europe and caught trains all the time there, it is by far the most efficient way of getting intercity. look at the TGV ‘s or the EuroStar, the ICE trains, all of them work extremely well.

    • Migrants don’t come to Australia to live in the bush. They come to live in urban centres that are rapidly deteriorating into the urban centres they fled. A very low proportion of migrants live in rural / regional Australia.

      Can HSR really rejuvenate rural Australia? The experience of freeways bypassing small towns is that the small towns initially welcome the reduced traffic, and then rue the lost business. At least those living in small towns benefit from nearby freeways with reduced travel times to major cities. However a HSR whistling 10km away will be just as inaccessible as a jet whistling 10km overhead to the residents of a small town. Although theoretically possible to construct sidetracks as suggested by vox, I don’t see it happening. Lots of theoretically possible things are simply not practical / affordable.

      • But electric cars need to stop in villages or towns to recharge. Basically no EV can do 850 km on a single charge.

        And some villages are simply going to have to die – the population of Tokyo is increasing even as the population of Japan as a whole is shrinking.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Asia and Europe have dozens to hundreds of medium to large cities spread throughout their respective regions.

      Australia has a handful of large cities and maybe two more handfuls of major population centres.

      Disclosure: have spent collectively many months travelling throughout Europe by train.

  10. We need HSI not HSR. Fair priced high speed internet enabling HD conferencing and real- time collaboration is the way to go. What we need is some sort of national broadband network that connects…..oh wait. Sigh

  11. kannigetMEMBER

    Your absolutely correct, HSR can travel at those speed in japan and china. But to claim they will is blatantly ignoring the realities of the Australian NIMBY population.

    We had an airport, people built under it, a new parallel runway was built and then those who moved in wanted compensation for living under a flight path….. event though 90% of flights go out to sea not over those houses….

    We built an air force base in country QLD, people moved close to help service the base, the area grew and then started complaining about the noise pollution so we had to relocate the noisier plans elsewhere.

    The feasibility of the whole idea is predicated on being able to buy the corridor in each city at affordable prices, not have to compensate people for the inconvenience and then getting the numbers.

    We have a history of complaining about impacts, expecting excessive compensation, having to buy land back at inflated prices and politicians to scared to tell people to STFU so they pander to the whingers. All these problems occur before you even look at having to pay someone to build it….

  12. John Howards Bowling Coach

    The arguments about population are garbage. The Melbourne / Sydney Air route is in the top 3 busiest in the world, not just Australia but globally. It is not about how large the population is, the question is what is the volume of travellers and for that we are already almost the busiest on the planet, case closed, build it. BUT it needs to be part of a revolution in Australia to put infrastructure in place built and managed by the government and not public private partnerships and not privatised because our history of delivering value for the citizen from those 2 models is a massive failure. The government need to grow a massive team of project managers and workers who are not working for incentive payments and get paid for projects delivered, not for dragging them out forever to bleed the nation dry. What is happening in housing construction is loading up a huge number of experienced (albeit lazy and greedy) workers who will need a job. They can work for the nation now instead of trying to fulfil their desire for a Benz ute (which is just a rebadge Nissan anyway bahahaha).

  13. It is very difficult for a system which requires massive infrastructure (high speed rail corridor) to compete with a system which requires minimal infrastructure other than the airport at each end.

    • And the second airport in Sydney isn’t costing anything? I’d rather that money be spent on HSR but it’s a bit late now.

      • Given this airport is going to serve 24 hour international cargo operations as well as 24 hour low cost airlines (all over Australia plus international), it is hard to see how HSR between Mel/Syd/Bris is a viable alternative.

        I would love HSR. I really would. But it is too expensive and will only serve a small niche market.

      • Don’t forget the option to run HSR to Canberra, and use Canberra airport as the alternate airport. Saving you the cost of building a new airport in Sydney. High speed freight (160kph) could run Syd-Canberra at night for the high value air shipments that need to be moved.

  14. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    I caught the Eurostar from London to Paris. It was compelling versus air for several reasons:
    (1) Time – the journey was less than 2.5 hours.
    (2) Distance to CBD – it left from London near CBD to Paris CBD. Charles de Gaulle airport is a long way from Paris.
    (3) Avoided the security and queueing associated with airports
    (4) Avoided the chance of bad weather or airport delays (my experience is that roughly 50% of flights are delayed)
    (5) Work – was a very pleasant/stable journey, I could actually work on the train for most of that time
    (6) I cannot remember the costs versus aeroplane tickets. But you could add in the hefty taxi fare from CDG to Paris for the aeroplane option.

    For this route I’d definitely take the Eurostar over flights nearly everyday of the week. Having flown the Sydney to Melbourne leg countless times I have to say that the experience is pretty subpar and delays have occurred many, many times. The issue will be the time – if the train is more than 1 hour longer than the CBD-taxi-airport-waiting-flight-airport-taxi-CBD time then it will struggle. But given this is ‘Straya it won’t be built.

    • Agree. I love Eurostar. Have caught several times and will again this year.

      But it is a particular case that is probably not generalisable to Australia.
      1. One party was Frech who already had extensive HSR experience. The UK side lagged for years with slower track and lower speeds.
      2. Distance is short enough that the higher speed of jet is mute.
      3. Major London airports are a long way from CBD, and even CDG is a fair way from Paris CBD. Melbourne and Sydney airports are much closer to their respective CBDs.

  15. And the 12 diesel submarines are a prudent use of money? What about tax cuts for the rich?

    The submarines will last no more than 40 years each. How long does a railway last? We are still using the viaduct between Flinders Street Station and Spencer Street Station today.

    Flying from SYD to MEL took a total of 164 minutes in 2012:

    It probably takes even longer today.

    Japan is building a 500 km/h maglev line – so there is no link between HSR and a growing population. In 2005, Portugal approved high speed rail lines – and Portugal has a shrinking population!

    There is no intercity road congestion? Maybe because billions of dollars are spent on repairing and widening the intercity motorways! How much was spent on road tunnels over the last 20 years?

    Airports are subsidised by everyone living around them. The plebs are forced to tolerate noise pollution and air pollution. Not to mention, several miles of land on both ends of both runways has to be kept empty – that is a hidden or implicit subsidy.

    On 31 May 1987, London got a new airport just 8 miles from the CBD! Do NSW and Vic have the appetite for building a 1500 metre long runway 8 miles from the CBD?

    Why should the train between Canberra and Sydney be pathetically slow?

    How could faster internet and faster trains be good ideas everywhere else but bad ideas here?

    Given that land prices have been falling since Oct 2017, it is the perfect time to buy land for building HSR.

    • “Several miles of land” vs. several thousand miles of expensive land corridor reservation to roll out HSR.

      Surely we can just stop right there?

      However – counterpoint – I do agree with you re the Sydney to Canberra link. Where the corridor exists, as this does, there is no excuse for running 19th century rolling stock. A tilt-train upgrade would probably allow the route to run in under 2.5 hours and would be a welcome improvement.

      HSR not so much.

      • The distance from Sydney to Melbourne is 880 km – not several thousand miles.

        And you can build tall buildings right next to the railway – can you build anything next to a runway? No.

        You can also build houses atop the railway – just look at what is atop the viaduct between Flinders Street Station and Spencer Street Station.

        There is already a 4 lane highway from postcode 2000 to postcode 3000. So it is ok for roads to occupy land but not ok for railways to occupy land? I think a HSR is about 22 metres wide – fence to fence. How wide is the Newcastle to Sydney motorway?

        HSR is not the worst use of money. How about excluding rich couples from private school handouts and negative gearing handouts.

  16. – I was a proponent (past tense) of High Speed Rail (HSR) as well. But as time went by I came across more and more reasons why HSR didn’t make sense at all. And this article mentions a number of these reasons and has more reasons why it doesn’t make sense.

    • Me too (once). But as an engineer looking at the numbers it’s mind-bogglingly difficult to see how a business case requiring thousands of kilometres of expensive land-based infrastructure can ever stack up against air transport which only requires airports and terminal buildings, a few radars and some ground stations for communications etc.

      Australia is a country built for air transport, which has far greater point to point flexibility than fixed rail. If we invested a fraction of the proposed HSR spend into re-purchased, expanded and/or greenfield airport infrastructure (linked to local rail by all means) we would capture a far greater return on taxpayer investment.

      • – Up to a certain distance traveling by train (normal train or HSR) makes more sense than flying.
        – But one also has to take into account the travel time from home to the airport. Getting to the airport in both Sydney and Melbourne has turned more and more into a nightmare.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Me too (once). But as an engineer looking at the numbers it’s mind-bogglingly difficult to see how a business case requiring thousands of kilometres of expensive land-based infrastructure can ever stack up against air transport which only requires airports and terminal buildings, a few radars and some ground stations for communications etc.

        The equation might change if the price of fuel (or carbon taxes) massively inflate airfares.

        There is also a fair point that air travel is a massive greenhouse gas emitter.