Resource Availability for High Speed Rail Construction

The 2013 HSR Study Report recommended construction of HSR between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in stages over 35 years. Government accepts this long construction time.

The problem is that in 35 years the population of Australia is projected to almost double and these cities’ populations to grow to almost 8m. The 35 years reflects the primary aim for HSR, that it is an interstate service. That is no longer correct. Today, the primary aim is to distribute population increase into the regions away from the major cities. To construct HSR in 35 years would be too late, even if construction started today. Most people would have settled in the cities before then.

Planned high densification of the cities growing to 8m would cut liveability dramatically. Introducing smart digital technology will not substitute for loss of spatial liveability. A short period of construction would allow population distribution to begin in new cities of 1m on the HSR line in the regions around the major cities in under an hour commuter time to CBDs before too many people increase the population of the capital cities. This is the aim of HSR today.

A construction period of 10 years is practical. The long original VFT feasibility study found that HSR could be built between Sydney and Melbourne in 5 years. A new feasibility study of up to 2 years and construction time of 8 years between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane would take 10 years.

The rational mooted for the 35-year period, at the height of the mining investment boom in 2012, was that there were not enough resources to build it more quickly. This suited the airlines and interstate trucking firms: HSR has been deferred indefinitely. It suited the unions: jobs for life.

Some years later, the situation has changed. The mining investment boom is over, releasing workers. Private investment has declined and is only keeping pace with minimal plant replacement that cannot be differed any longer. The automobile industry is closing manufacture here releasing workers. Hazelwood power station is being decommissioned. Unfortunately, unemployment is higher and underemployment has grown substantially. Building government infrastructure is subdued. There are many people available now.

Immigration is continuing at a rapid rate. Migration is one of Australia’s competitive advantages that must be continued. It is the source of highly skilled workers, technical experts and entrepreneurs as population is projected to double in 4-5 decades. During the 10-year HSR construction time population will increase some 5m and 60-70% will be migrants. Many would work on constructing HSR, adding to domestic resources. More engineers could be included in migrant numbers, if not enough are available here. Australia’s jobs, high pay and world leading liveability attracts migrants.

During the 10 years, many more engineers would graduate from universities and obtain jobs on HSR. More students would enrol at universities from the start of the iconic HSR project. TAFEs would increase the number of skilled/trained workers who would find jobs on HSR.

International engineering and architecture firms work on the same project from many parts of the world at the same time using common IT programs to communicate their contributions. They add to the resources available. Members of the HSR consortium that builds the project will have their own resources seconded to it. Governments take up many available resources. They reduce unemployment, but sometimes tend to crowd-out major projects. They would release people for projects like HSR.

The HSR project would create many jobs, especially in the regions. It would stimulate growth and private investment, improve productivity and wages growth. It would assist budget repair and modest inflation. It would end housing unaffordability. The HSR project would transform where and how Australians live. It should have priority over projects of secondary importance.

For information on HSR and government infrastructure costs please see PJK©16.10.17

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