High Speed and Faster Rail Frauds

Labor resuscitated the traditional form of High Speed Train in 2019 after a period of revisionist thinking by Malcolm Turnbull, who was excited by the CLARA model of self-financing massive infrastructure through even more massive residential development.  Labor’s Anthony Albanese started the latest study of conventional Fast Rail about 10 years ago and sees CLARA and the Federal 5 and NSW 5 different Fast Trains as indecisive.

Of course they are, CLARA was always a con, and the Business Chamber’s use of the Harbour Bridge and Centurion’s mixed fast and freight trains, the Chaser’s general diatribe, and the 10 with uncritical media acceptance, are (in Turnbull terminology)  muddle-headed, ideological and stupid. 

As someone who has been a THINKER for many decades, a different model was proposed in February 2018 and onwards:

Albanese said in 2022 that he would look at doing it differently which went straight onto my plagiarism list as I am the only person in Australia to do that thinking and had it endorsed by Tim Fischer before his death in October 2019 – in fact his last op-ed in the Border Mail mentioned neither CLARA nor HST as he told me he had been persuaded.  This is another case where I have worked hard to achieve Australia’s best interests and been suppressed by Labor and the Coalition.

It is worth asking the question:

Do we have to assume that a concept that was started by a scientist drawing a line on a map and projecting very shiny toys, that went through so many painful failed iterations, that seemed to die a natural death in a country that needs faster delivery of more cost effective infrastructure rather than 10 years of investigation and 30 years of construction, is still an acceptable option let along one worth now spending $1 billion on land acquisition AS A START?

The terms of reference given to Albo’s Feasibility team stated the expectations for routes and locations, type of service (over 300 km/hour) and term (to 2085). 

They conducted a professional study along economic and financial lines, with some environmental, taxation and customer factors too. 

They did not define peak and off-peak which makes some calculations difficult to check.

No route and service options were considered and time has moved on from 2014.  The format seems to make consolidated cost and patronage analyses as hard as possible.  The main conclusions which affect the socio-economic decisions are:

  1. Operating costs total $189 billion (discounted to $2025) against a total capital cost of $114 billion, with a gap of $86.6 billion even with a 30% higher-than-normal fare level
  2. Planning, appraisals and approvals would take a decade, land acquisition is a massive task, the investigations phases will cost some $10,400,000,000
  3. Leisure fares are about half of business but how will the system know who-is-whom!  Avoiding Parramatta is said to eliminate a loss of $45 billion in user benefits!  That might fail the pub test Sydney Terminal patronage is 29 per cent of the total
  4. Sydney to Canberra will be the first stage, followed hard by the Melbourne link, together accounting for 44 per cent of construction costs and 59 per cent of patronage.  It is inconceivable that an HST would avoid this corridor and Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton.  However, Wollongong and many North Coast towns are excluded, necessarily under the model, and the Southern Highlands’ towns will be remote from the line
  5. Sydney to Newcastle – 17 per cent of construction costs and 4% of patronage
  6. Newcastle to Gold Coast – 30 per cent of costs and 6% of passengers
  7. Brisbane – 10 per cent of costs and 3% of patronage.

North of Sydney therefore accounts for 57 per cent of costs and 13% of patronage.  It has to be said, this is a no-brainer:  it will not proceed.

The Feasibility contains much detail on the types and numbers of vehicles and services.  There will be a fairly even split of 200 metre and 300 metre vehicles, respectively with 520 and 780 seats, with an overall loading of 90 per cent.  It was found on checking that the fleet total was calculated incorrectly and is out by 50 trains.

The truth about Fast Rail – February 2018

Background:  Developers around Wilton had Canberra support for Centurion’s preposterous hybrid fast rail model

South-eastern Australia is experiencing another epidemic of fast-rail fever.  Here are two conflicting objectives, to move some 80% of air travellers onto a fast, CBD-to-CBD 500+km/h train using the farebox and terminal rights;  and a land profit model using levies and prices, without/with government subsidies.  Both have new alignments through the bush.

As is usual in NSW, there is an option that it, the ACT Government and iA won’t look at, namely Perth’s Mandurah line©  which runs down the freeway.

The NSW Business Chamber proposed to run HST from Newcastle on existing track including the Harbour Bridge which Minister Berejiklian shot down, rightly.

The Consolidated Land and Rail Australia’ $200 billion system will have five, now eight, “new cities” of about 400,000 each, operational from 2026 or 2050 or whenever, with every $1,000 invested in land growing by 150 times.  Six will be in NSW, two in Victoria.  1.6 million new dwellings is a challenging environmental and engineering prospect, worthy of Hercules.

They say they own about half of the Melbourne-Sydney corridor already which needs to be tested;  while access to CBDs and metropolitan corridors will be a different matter altogether. 

Commuters will be locked out and CLARA acknowledges they will disadvantage existing cities.  Professor Paul Newman said that is enough to politically kill the concept.

There has been no real discussion about how people will live and work and how much they will pay the company upfront and ongoing.  John Alexander MP was reported as saying “You will push up prices enormously around Goulburn;  people will be delighted”.  “Value capture” has every potential to make landowners and buyers very angry. 

However reports are that PM Turnbull is keen on CLARA but his Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher is highly sceptical.

iA is following a Government-funded model of 4 capitals, 4 fringe cities and 11 regionals by 2065.  Is that the best governments can do?

Centurion plans a “heavy metro” service between Campbelltown and Wollongong as stage 1 of an HST between Canberra and Newcastle.  They include freight operations to/from Port Kembla.  The NSW Government says it will “unlock” Wilton to the tune of 350,000 people (the Council is planning 11,000). 

To make a big project feasible on the basis of betterment – and the reality would be a mix – 100,000 lots would have to pay some $2.4 billion a year over 30 years or $25,000 p.a. per lot.  Clearly that would be absurd.  Maldon-Dombarton will be carrying 110 container trains a day plus car-carriers so Centurion are wrong.

Locking high speed rail into a value capture contract killed every previous attempt and will do the same now.  Running a trainline largely down the freeway medians as in Mandurah in WA will better serve existing towns.  Bending at Goulburn and other towns and allowing some capture from new towns say at Marulan, would be cleaner, faster and more effective.

Mr Albanese started Infrastructure Australia and would be well aware that option-testing is an essential first stage, with needs assessment, of all due diligence protocols.  Sir Rod Eddington, in London especially, and Nick Greiner in iNSW, gave many examples of why this is vital to cost effectiveness.  The logic applies to HST and the West and St Marys Metros, the 3-Port strategy and supporting infrastructure, and innerwest congestion etcetera. 

As a reminder, the Australian Infrastructure Plan is clear:

Proponents of new infrastructure which do not undertake the prerequisite project development work risk poor outcomes, preventing the community from accessing the infrastructure they require, and restricting  economic opportunities.

Prior to investment decisions, governments should define the problem that needs to be addressed. Problems are identified through long-term integrated infrastructure planning and the analysis of strategic data sources such  as Infrastructure Australia’s Audit. Once the problem has been defined, early project development studies should then proceed. These include:

  • Strategic options assessments: demonstrate the nature and  scale of the problem(s) and identify solutions which may or may not involve the delivery of new infrastructure;
  • Feasibility studies: undertake engineering, environmental and economic assessments to develop  solutions into fully-scoped projects; and
  • Project business cases: provide more detailed  economic assessments, including cost-benefit analysis.

These studies help ensure the right infrastructure solution is selected and that benefits to the community are maximised.

In Sir Rod’s words in London,

There are good returns across the priority areas, but smaller projects which unblock pinch-points, variable infrastructure schemes to support public transport in urban areas and international gateway surface access projects are likely to offer the very highest returns, sometimes higher than £10 for every pound spent. However, large projects with speculative benefits and relying on untested technology, are unlikely to generate attractive returns.

4. The policy process needs to be rigorous and systematic: start with the three strategic economic priorities, define the problems, consider the full range of modal options using appraisal techniques that include full environmental and social costs and benefits, and ensure that spending is focused on the best policies…

For these and other reasons, it is concluded that Labor should withdraw its(2019)  promise to start land acquisition at an initial cost of $1 billion, and adopt an iA-compliant protocol.

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