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Helen Coonan’s kiss of death to high speed rail

November 2, 2010

Scepticism about high speed rail links along Australia’s east coast must be climbing dramatically given Senator Helen Coonan’s endorsement.

Any study of high speed rail between Australian population centres has to answer the following:

  • How do you make such a massive investment work given the relatively low population of even the biggest two capitals?
  • How do you make it work given the relatively low population densities along the routes?
  • How do you persuade commuters to forgo a one hour plane journey to Sydney-Melbourne for a five hour rail journey?
  • What would be the public subsidy required per passenger?
  • What other environmental good could be achieved with such a sum?
  • Would there be any saving in greenhouse gas emission to justify the investment? As Robert Samuelson pointed out in his column (Financial Review November 2) if all of the commuters who fly Los Angeles to San Francisco switch to trains, the total number of daily airline passengers would drop only 2.5 per cent. He added: “any fuel savings would be less than that – even trains need energy.”

Coonan’s case wobbled badly as she spoke about a train travelling at 300 kilometres an hour taking “just under six hours” to cover the 900 kilometres to Melbourne.

One Comment
  1. Brendan permalink
    November 4, 2010 4:21 pm

    Yeah, but what about a slightly faster train service linking Sydney and Newcastle?

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