Reservations about the Very Fast Train

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In their proposed amendment to the public transport policy, Jonathan Strauss and Helen Said say that Socialist Alliance will: “Build a Very Fast Train network for the area from Adelaide to Cairns to the level where it will replace most domestic major city air travel, which is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and other air and noise pollution.” I am not convinced that we should support a very fast train (VFT) network for Australia at this time. It would divert resources from other more urgent tasks. (It may become worthwhile at some stage in the future). Priority should be on fixing the suburban public transport network, getting inter-city freight off roads and onto rail, and ensuring adequate maintenance of existing rail lines. (Some of the tracks have been allowed to deteriorate, resulting in speed limitations for trains using these sections of track) A VFT network would be very expensive. One reason is that, unless it is crossing a flat terrain, a lot of tunneling is required. This is because curves in the track must be very gradual, to avoid throwing passengers around when taking a bend at high speed. Hence the trains often have to go through hills rather than around them. To make the huge expense of a VFT network worthwhile, you would need some large population centres along the route. For example, if both Albury and Canberra had populations in the millions, it might become worthwhile to have VFT between Melbourne and Sydney. But this does not appear likely in the near future. Another factor to be considered is the noise of the VFT and the effect on those living near the track. Perhaps those who have lived in places where VFTs are operating could comment on this.