Thanks Nightfire. I think with this project it's not about gold plating or going over the top. At the end of the day with both Inland Rail and the existing Sydney-Melbourne Corridor, we talking about linking the largest areas of population, industry, production ports etc in the entire country.
We keep being told the country's freight task is going to triple and even if it were only to double that still represents a sizeable task and there's a chunk of that that is contestable by rail.
I try to make a strong distinction between future proofing versus "gold plating". Rail assets as we all know are in the main very long life assets and some in the industry have debated that because they have such a long life this can be part of the problem, but I digress.
For my perspective its ensuring the alignment, structures etc have been planned and designed so that they can be upgraded for the future as and when the demand requires it.
Having said that there is enough evidence around the place already that the current 25 tonne axleload capability on the Eastern Corridor between Sydney to Melbourne is barely holding up and only in this past week a trip report about how the ride quality is again deteriorating certainly in Victoria. We know why that is. Not enough funds to the job right barely 7 years ago. Funds diverted from orther projects to do ballast remediation work not deep formation and sub grade work and that is being done on a spot by spot basis. At Gisborne as just 1 tiny example the mudholes there after I think their 4th remediation in 7 years have re-appeared worse than ever.
So moving to the future, is this something we want to replicate by saying we can't afford to ensure from the outset that works like formation, sub grade, drainage, structures, clearances etc are not future proffed to ensure we can move to the higher standards.
Look as I've already quated at Australian National when they concrete sleepered the Trans Line, the Broken Hill route and then the new line to Alice Springs. Those sleepers now coming up to 40 years old are now being relaid or have been relaid in 60kg/m rail from the existing 47kg/m rail because someone had the future in mind.
From what I read here railpagers would have called that goild plating, I call it future proofing. ARTC did at least when it "upgraded the north east in Victoria ensure bridge decks in being renewed were also future proofed for 30 tonne axleload. Is that gold plating or prudent, sensible asset planning.
So going back to the Murray River Bridge it's obvious why it should be built to be a double track track, double stack, 30TAL capable bridge - no brainer and I think everyone has got that.
Now the second point, developing programs that leverage off the benefits of earlier investment.
This is where myself, BDA and others have commented about a host of relatively small investments like a second track through to Table Top, reconfiguring a part of Junee and also Cootamundra to leverage off the track upgrade and remove an impediment that results in an improvement in train operating performance and journey time. Is that gold plating or working smart to maximize the potential of what you have.
That's the issue. (Putting aside the funding side which is of course the big issue)