By Jon Fairall. The Saturday Paper, Jun 7, 2014.
The case for fast trains has never been stronger, and inaction just drives the cost higher.
The engineering think tank Beyond Zero Emissions recently released a report on the construction of a high-speed railway. The project’s leader, Gerard Drew, told a meeting in Sydney that on his scheme the Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne corridor would be linked by 2030 with trains running at 350km/h and possibly faster.
The study proved such a project could be justified. More importantly, perhaps, it demonstrated it could be financially viable. “High speed rail would halve air travel,” says the group’s chief executive officer, Stephen Bygrave. “It’s faster, more convenient and it will make a profit.”
On the basis of overseas experience, the study team estimated that, if the line was built by 2030, 65 per cent of people travelling Brisbane–Sydney or Sydney–Melbourne would use the train. Given current projections of the growth of traffic along the corridor, that implies about 68 million passengers a year.