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Angus Grigg's article on High speed Rail ("Chinese high speed rail should confine the XPT to history", AFR, June 31) highlights the achievement of China in rolling out the world's largest HSR network. It's worth understanding those national objectives set by the government of China in embarking on this task. These included: to increase the rail capacity by separating passenger and freight lines; to promote regional development; to raise current technology standards, catalyse innovation in China's industry and export these technologies; and to tie the country together with efficient transport.
In fact, all countries that have rolled out significant HSR systems have had clear national goals. It was a key conclusion of the 2001 East Coast Very High Speed Study that I led that until such national goals for Australia could be articulated and supported at all levels of government then HSR (or just higher-speed rail than we have now) would not find a place in our transport systems. And we still need to figure out whether we really want to have economically viable regional cities with traditional Australia styles of lower-density living with contemporary forms of land transport linking them, or allow the unfettered growth of our state capitals with more and more of their hinterland going under bricks and mortar and more and more apartments densifying the inner urban areas. The urban development industry, though, is not waiting for an answer on this, however.
For a while, it looked like Victoria would achieve this with its Regional Fast Rail Project to link four of its major regional cities to Melbourne, but in the end I think they didn't quite get the travel times low enough.
This article first appeared on www.afr.com
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