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Having encouraged the Commonwealth to focus attention on improving rail links to regional cities around our state capitals rather than on inter-capital links, as has been the focus to date, I can only applaud the allocation of funding for business case development for Sydney – Newcastle (not Canberra as you state), Melbourne to Greater Shepparton and Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast.
Unfortunately, that is where it ends as each of the proponents, it seems, is proposing a different technological solution. To Shepparton, a proposed 32 minute travel time implies an average speed of 350km/hr which needs a maximum speed of about 500 km/h – so probably maglev; cutting an hour off to Newcastle means straightening out the existing standard gauge track to enable NSW's new intercity stock to operate – but still only averaging about 84 km/h; and to the Sunshine Coast, chopping 2 hours down to 45 minutes at an average speed of 145km/h probably means infrastructure improvements on a narrow gauge track to enable the 160 km/h QR tilt train to run on its merits.
These range from the improbable to the unimpressive but, worst of all, they perpetuate the problem of different rail systems in different parts of the country, and while the regional focus is right for now, this will not support the ultimate creation of a continuous, technically compatible, east coast high speed system. Not even the impressively adaptable Talgo train can cope with such a range of requirements.
So it seems I am back to lobbying the Commonwealth take far stronger overall strategic and technical leadership of this matter and to adopt a unified "National Standards" approach which, albeit over quite some time, has led to a nearly completed dual carriageway road from Melbourne to Brisbane. That approach, at least, seems to be being achieved by ARTC in regard to Inland Rail.
This article first appeared on www.afr.com
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