Australia urged to have renewable high speed rail line by 2030

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Report finds profitable 100% renewable high speed rail service linking Australia’s east-coast states could be built in under 10 years.

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A renewable energy powered high speed rail service linking the east-coast Australian cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane would cut the nation’s regional transport emissions by almost 30 per cent, while providing a profitable and popular service, a new report has found.

The report – a collaborative effort from climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Uniiversity of Melbourne’s Energy Research Institute – explores the potential for high speed rail in Australia.

Two years in the making – and due for release next week – the report’s recommends the development of a high speed rail network along the lines of the recent government study; connecting 12 major regional towns, and the cities of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

The report finds that such a project could take as little as 10 years, and would drive regional development and economic benefits, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

“High speed rail runs on electricity, which means, unlike air travel, it can run on one hundred percent renewable energy. This is the prime motivation behind BZE’s recommendation of high speed rail”, said the report’s lead author, BZE’s Gerard Drew.

“For too long the discussion has been misled by concerns of low population density in Australia rendering HSR inappropriate for this country. The fact is much of Australia’s population is highly concentrated in the capital cities on the east coast and there is a high degree of travel between them by world standards.

“All this travel is increasingly dependent on imported fossil fuels adding to Australia’s carbon footprint, and unfortunately it is doubtful that emissions free air travel will ever eventuate,” Drew said.

“A high speed rail system on Australia’s east coast will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from regional travel in this busy corridor by almost 30%. On top of this high speed rail will continue to provide affordable, convenient and comfortable travel for Australians into the future without the uncertainty of fuel supply and price.”

The report predicts such a service would be an instant hit with Australians, with 60 per cent of them living within 50km of a proposed HSR station. It also suggests that ticketing revenue from the service could be used to cover the network’s operational costs and to repay construction costs.

The report’s launch follows the introduction of a private member’s bill in Federal Parliament to establish a development authority charged with the reservation of land and further preparations ahead of the detailed design and construction work of the high speed rail system.

It predicts that Australia’s transport emissions would be reduced by 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over 40 years of operation of a High Speed Rail service.

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25 Comments
  1. Pedro 5 years ago

    Also the added benifit of reducing domestic plane flights with potentially no need to build extra airports. Qantas should think about investing, they may have more luck on the ground than in the air.

    • Peter Lyons 5 years ago

      I agree with you Pedro. In the UK, Virgin runs trains. Airlines are not in business to fly planes necessarily; they are in business to make money. Why can’t Qantas and/or Virgin invest in high-speed rail?

      • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

        Because there is not one profitable passenger rail line in this country and Qantas is losing money only on their international business. The domestic business is all that is keeping Qantas from being a basket case. Virgin is in business for the sole purpose of destroying Qantas. It is only profitable because it has plenty of financial help from middle eastern and asian backers.

    • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

      I don’t think Qantas have $110billion dollars to invest in high speed rail. Nobody in Australia has that amount of money to waste. As much I would like to have high speed rail. We don’t have the population for it and it will never be profitable. Name me one rail system in Australia that actually makes money. Badgery’s creek is a much cheaper solution that will expand Sydney’s rail network and better connect the west of Sydney to the rest of the country. There is no point in comparing us to Europe or japan. Both Europe and Japan’s high speed rail systems move more people per annum then Sydney’s train system. Sydney to Melbourne’s flight numbers are only 10 million passenger trips per annum. For high speed rail to be viable to spend $110 billion dollars it would need to be in the 300million passenger trips per annum range like the European and Japanese systems. How many of you who favour the high speed rail, think about the environmental destruction that will come with the construction of the rail line. All those trees which would have to be torn down. The destruction of animal habitats in the creation of cuttings to make way for the high speed train. It is better to have trees offsetting any carbon emissions that planes create which is getting lower as new technology comes along.

      • Pedro 5 years ago

        Not sure on the numbers you are quoting. But I would start with the highest volume route which would probably be Sydney Canberra Melbourne. If the journey between Melbourne and Sydney could be done in 4hrs and be of a similar cost to air travel then I think the idea has merit.

        The issue of habitat destruction is a valid point, however similar destruction happens when ever a road is built or widened. I imagine that much of the high speed rail line would pass though relatively flat agricultural land perhaps even adjacent to existing rail lines.

        • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

          You obviously haven’t see the deep gorges that need to be crossed and the fact that due to our mountains not being tall enough. We can’t tunnel through them and hence have to dig into the ground and destroying the environment more then a tunnel that you would build in europe. The hume highway to the south of sydney has had 4-5 high bridges built (2 with 70 plus metre decks to overcome these. The farm land that you talk about doesn’t really happen till west of yass. Even then there are some rocky out crops till wagga wagga. Take a look on google earth to see what I mean by loop de loop.

      • JamesWimberley 5 years ago

        Rail lines are much narrower than even two-lane roads, let alone motorways. You can build bridges and tunnels for wildlife, as was done for the UK Channel tunnel link. All the alternatives are much more destructive to the environment.

        Morocco, with a similar population pattern to Australia. is building a high-speed line from Tangier to Casablanca. There’s an element of prestige-building, and I wouldn’t defend it as a social priority, but Australia could profitably study the project’s economics.

        • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

          The morocco hsr is only 350km in length and not 2000km’s as proposed for the east coast hsr in Australia. Go and redo your math. Has anywhere else in the world built a high speed rail over such a long distance? Tunnels are not really viable in Australia. So it will be bridges or cuttings.

          • Bob_Wallace 5 years ago

            “China has the world’s longest HSR network with over 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of routes in service as of December 2012,[1] including the world’s longest line, the 2,298 km (1,428 mi) Beijing–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway.[2]”
            ​Wiki –

          • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

            Thank you Bob. Maybe you might have the answer to the longest lines in Europe. Australia is significantly different from elsewhere in the world in that we haven’t invested in rail in nearly a century on the east coast. Most of the train lines on the east coast are of Victorian era design. They loop around in tight circles that were perfect for steam trains but useless for modern diesel locos. If the east coast of Australia has to invest in rail it won’t be in a single purpose rail solution. We need new rail to move coal, livestock, grains and general freight. These areas are of more importance then a $110 billion dollar train line to replace something that is already providing a service and not costing the tax payer money. Fixing these alignments for all rail traffic will benefit the existing passenger services as well that take forever to get between the major eastern capital cities. Just fixing these alignments will take about 6 hours off the existing travel time on the XPT by allowing it to atleast travel at 160km/h instead of the average of about 75km/h it currently gets. Freight trains would get a similar bump.

          • Bob_Wallace 5 years ago

            Europe is crisscrossed with HSR. Of different speeds.

            Looking at the longest run regardless of speed it looks like London to Rostov-na-Donu which would be a 2887 km/ 1794 mile direct line flight.

            Highest speed London to Marseilles, straight line 1,002 km/623 miles.

            If we get serious about cutting petroleum use putting moderate distance travel on HSR makes sense. Some significant up front cost but the annual savings in fuel cost should be substantial.

            Sydney to Melborn, for comparison is 443 km/713 miles straight line.

          • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

            I asked what was the longest dedicated high speed line. Not the longest route that a high speed train can use. Europe doesn’t even have an equivalent to what we are proposing in building a vhst (300km/h or higher) all the way from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra. Let alone over 100km’s of high speed tunnels under 3 of our major cities. Automotive manufacturers are already getting serious in reducing fuel consumption and usage in vehicles. Many manufacturers and even sports car manufactures are starting to use electricity to power vehicles so in the future they will be more environmentally friendly then trains.

          • Bob_Wallace 5 years ago

            And I gave you the approximate length of the longest fastest speed European HSR.

            “Highest speed London to Marseilles, straight line 1,002 km/623 miles.”

            And your actual question was –

            ” Maybe you might have the answer to the longest lines in Europe”.

            The question is not whether HSR would be more environmentally friendly than EVs. It’s whether HSR would be more environmentally friendly than air travel.

          • Craig Simpson 4 years ago

            Doesn’t London to Marseilles have a break in the middle of Paris?

          • Craig Simpson 4 years ago

            In Australia it is about moving grains, milk and raw materials. Passenger rail is only of interest in the cities. We can’t send huge populations out to these rural areas because they would suffer from a lack of water.

          • Craig Simpson 4 years ago

            Try 960 kilometres between Sydney and Melbourne and a little more to Brisbane for a total of about 2000km’s. A HSR doesn’t help with the huge freight task our country has. Fixing the alignments of the current rail line will do more for the country then building a train line that would only benefit a few towns between the capitals.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            What’s your huge freight task – coal?

            That will be going away as soon as you flush the ‘stuff’ now running the country.

          • Craig Simpson 4 years ago

            wheat, iron ore, cotton, wool, zinc, silver, milk, uranium, beef, sheep, barley, oats, lentils, chick peas to name a few. All heading mostly to Asian regions.

          • Craig Simpson 4 years ago

            You can also add rice to japan and other asian nations. These are huge export markets for us. Much more important then replacing planes with trains at a cost of $100 billion dollars.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            As you drive temperatures higher and produce more droughts and massive floods what’s that going to do to your agriculture industry?

          • Craig Simpson 4 years ago

            Nothing that a bit of technology can’t help. All we have to do is use the desal plants we have correctly and link our dams to move water from the east coast to the inland areas in the centre of the country. China is the big market that needs to move to renewables. This would then force our government into looking into farming and away from mining.

      • Marcus 4 years ago

        Late into this discussion, but the new figure of between $63-84 billion was found to be possible in a 2015 study. And it was possible to deliver a Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane line within 10 years, and not the completely unprofessional and disingenuous estimate of 50 years. The reason politicians won’t commit to such infrastructure is not the cost so much as the politics. Airline lobby groups stand to lose billions if the worlds 5th busiest air route is taken from them (Sydney-Melbourne) They would rather have Sydney invest in a second airport in order to bolster their numbers. Such are the political forces at play here.

        Also you need to understand that if Australia wants to be serious about reducing carbon emissions by 2030, they are talking hot air unless they commit to this scheme that would cut emissions markedly by 30% by some estimates. Airlines would still have business but Sydney to Perth or Melbourne to Perth would become the busiest national air corridor.

        Aside from all this, if we are also wanting to tackle the population issue in our biggest cities, we need to spread out to regional growth corridors. Whitlam tried to decentralize the capital cities with his scheme on relocating big business to Albury-Wodonga, but this failed due to political willpower of the Liberals, but also lack of infrastructure. I find it laughable when PMs like Gillard proposed giving $15 million to each regional center to promoting itself and luring aussies to the country. What a joke! If you want to get serious about such nation building projects, then build the damn HSR already. Its already been studied for the last 30 years, and with improving technology it has been said to potentially produce $2.50 for every $1 invested. And for those saying we lack the population for it. We are talking about the 3 biggest cities in the nation connected by 1700km worth of track, with a collective population served of over 14 million people! And the capacity to solve the housing crisis for generations to come.

  2. John 5 years ago

    I constantly travel between Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra I have been waiting a long time for high speed rail connecting these major cities. 100% renewable powered or not, I will definitely be making the switch. As long as the prices are comparable and they operate from the major central stations of course!

  3. Bob_Wallace 5 years ago

    High speed rail is a joy. So much better than having to show up an hour or two early for security clearance, getting crammed into a little seat, waiting for the runway to clear, ….

    Planes are necessary for crossing oceans, but for moderate length travel HSR is the way to go.

    • Craig Simpson 5 years ago

      I am not doubting the niceness of the VHST. Nobody like myself would say no to a vhst if China or Europe paid for it. We have a problem with $110billion dollars being wasted in Australian Taxpayer money when for less then $10billion in western Sydney we are getting new rail and road links based around a new airport. It is better for freight and our agricultural based rail system to straighten the current rail alignments (which haven’t been upgraded since the steam era) on the main south instead. Straightening the line would also have a benefit for the xpt by dropping the travel time from 12 hours to about 6 hours between Sydney and Melbourne while continuing to link regional areas. This $80 billion reneweble hst option doesn’t build the tunnels in Sydney needed for a vhst network to work either.

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