This is a follow up to the “Critical Influences” notes written six months ago. Several developments have occurred since which you may find others wish to influence you about or you may wish to influence others. It is prudent to be aware of out-of-date conventional wisdom. The issues should not be dismissed lightly.
The two main issues previously identified were the large population increase in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the great freight distortion along the east coast. To these should be added the urgent budget repair issue that seems to be in abeyance.
The population of Melbourne has been projected to double, and similar increases are projected for Sydney and Brisbane. Plans are being made to accommodate these population increases in the cities. They run the risk of loss of liveability and prosperity. Population is a long-term issue that should start to be managed soon to head off its worst effects and to enhance its beneficial opportunities. The full impact of the freight distortion issue appears to be treated with complacency. Freight costs are high enough to depress industrial competition between States. It bears action along with population increase.
Budget repair is the issue that is currently looming larger, despite the apparently sanguine attitude of the authorities. Repair is becoming more pressing to forestall the danger of the worst effects of recession when it comes. The innovative High Speed Rail (HSR) and Fast Freight Rail (FFR) Project would play a serious role in remedying these three issues and creating great benefits for Australia.
Lack of repair threatens to put Australia in an exposed position when the next economic down-turn comes or other shocks are experienced. There is no buffer of budget surplus and low government debt position to soak up the extra government spending needed to ameliorate the high unemployment that will occur. “Oh well, we can always increase government debt”. That is not correct. Debt may be doubled or more again. The AAA credit rating would be lost and higher interest rates and interest payments would exacerbate the budget situation. It could become so bad that it is virtually a permanent problem, as elsewhere. It would be an enormous present pain for people, not just for their children and grandchildren later.
It is demonstrable that Australia cannot politically rein-in budget expenditure, particularly on welfare. Taxes must increase. These are a warning sign of the sharpness of the cusp between ongoing prosperity and long-term decline in Australia. The headlights cannot be dodged on a dark, stormy night, if Australia continues to be dazzled and not move urgently to safety.
There is an outstanding opportunity that would be large and significant enough to be the base for solution to these three issues together. Its adoption would be a turning point from decline to reestablishing progress towards on-going prosperity. It would give work to the regional population that is suffering now. This opportunity is the large private investment in the HSR/FFR Project.
Besides the switch from cutting expenditure decisively to increasing taxes in the recent budget, the Government has committed to some relatively small Government investments in the Inland Rail and the Badgerys Creek Airport projects. These will create jobs and positively affect the election next year. It will not be enough, however, though it may reflect political reality.
The Victorian Government announced recently that it projected the Melbourne population to grow from 4.480m in 2015 to 7.9m in the 35 years to 2051. Similar population increases may be projected for Sydney and proportionally for Brisbane.
Australian major cities are different to those overseas. They are special and distinctive. They have a large area and a small population and much space. They are all located on the sea around ports. Australian cities are ranked very highly in world liveability, Melbourne the most liveable. Australia has the largest average house size in the world, more than twice that of the UK.
Space is the ultimate luxury, whether applied to CBD high-rise units, inner-city apartments, suburban houses, suburbs, and cities. Space is special, part of the great liveability achieved.
Space is what will be lost if Melbourne grows to 8m people. Its population growth will not stop suddenly at 7.9m in 2051. It will continue to grow. It may still double or even more in 4-5 decades. Melbourne will no longer be the most liveable city in the world. It will be more like London today with 8m squashed into a smaller area than Melbourne. London has an excellent public transport system that Melbourne will find hard to replicate.
Government population policy
The Plan Melbourne document released by the Government recently proposes building 1.550m new dwellings for an extra 3.438m people over 35 years. Seventy percent will be built in established areas and thirty percent on greenfield sites. This means close to doubling the leafy middle suburbs’ housing and population. It envisages 2-4 buildings instead of one on many, if not most, quarter acre blocks in Melbourne. They would probably be smaller, less spacious dwellings than the established average. New schools would have to be high-rise. Students would have to be bused to playing fields in outer suburbs.
This is planned densification. Research into flocks of geese, herds of deer and groups of people has shown that compressing them together into smaller areas than they are used to living leads to distress and violence. Recent growth in one punch deaths may be a small early warning sign in Australia.
It is not a matter of comparing Australian cities of 8m, when they develop later, with other similar cities. It is the behaviour changes from 4m to 8m that are of concern. Liveability will decline. How will people react?
People are expected to live in many ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’ where they can walk or ride to local facilities and be connected by public transport to jobs elsewhere. Melbourne will not have the public transport system of London which already has many 20-minute neighbourhoods. London is not a very liveable city, however, as it ranks 53 in the world. The 20-minute neighbourhood is a consequence of densification and loss of liveability, not a benefit.
Liveability, or lifestyle, is dependent on space. Australian cities that double their populations would suffer housing congestion and house shrinkage by following Plan Melbourne, a destruction of liveability. The authorities are sanguine that substituting digital advances of the ‘smart city’ for spatial liveability will maintain liveability overall. This is highly unlikely as densification will mimic that of London and Asian cities in the move to smaller dwellings closer together. ‘Smart city’ applies best to green-field cities. Large brown-field cities have few alternatives to introducing smart city concepts. Australia does have alternatives before its cities increase in size.
New “public transport”
The Australian authorities appear to rely on cheap driverless vehicles to transport people to work and locally. Four seater electric autonomous buses are envisaged for ride-sharing to and from work eventually. They are expected to cut road congestion as the population doubles. There are legal, insurance, technical and regulatory issues to be solved first.
There are customer behavioural issues. People would be reluctant to share with three strangers. Mothers would not send their children to school with strangers. People would be anxious about sharing with drunks, gang members and paedophiles. They would not want a vehicle to turn up with vomit, mess or graffiti.
There are limits to the time people will wait for pick-up. Some Melbourne taxi companies today do not operate over Saturday lunch time because congestion now is so great that they cannot pick-up in an acceptable time from when called. Passengers may not be willing to wait for 3 other separate people to be picked-up or set-down at each end by a bus. They may retain their cars for convenience.
Highly trained and experienced district nurses who are constantly driving and know the city road conditions are ‘canaries in the mine’. They complain about present road congestion and the long time it takes them between patients. Many are stressed by driving in congestion and time spent in cars. They leave for other jobs. The situation is likely to worsen as the population ages and congestion increases.
Bus owners’ interests
Electric autonomous vehicles will be owned by large companies, much larger and owning many more vehicles than the total of taxi companies and Uber. They will be very powerful. They probably will press hard for or demand that State Governments build new freeways: an inner circle around the CBD, a middle city circle and an outer circle with special lanes for more than expected of their empty vehicles to circulate around the city slowly near their customers’ main locations in morning and evening peak-hours waiting to pick-up quickly. They will also cycle while idle into and out of the city on all existing freeways. They will want frequent battery charging centres all along the freeways for lengthy recharging while providing no customers for convenience stores. They will not garage their empty vehicles, but keep them circulating all the time, slowly to conserve batteries and speed up when called. They will park off-peak in neighbourhood streets near freeway on-ramps, depressing local property values and upsetting property owners.
The average number of passengers carried per bus, including those idle, may be nearer 2 than 4. They need to be in the right place at the right time for quick pick-up. Experience and big data will tell where the main right places are, but they will become congested by extra waiting buses for double the population This many buses are likely to cause large indirect costs of freeways and not reduce congestion as hoped.
The authorities seem to rely on more innovation from people packed closer together in 8m cities. The very much larger cities around the world do not show evidence of this. Many of the American small innovative cities are smaller than the 1m new cities envisaged to grow rapidly along the HSR route around Australia major cities. Regional Australian innovative cities would be connected to major CBDs in under an hour by HSR thus bringing together creative thinkers from diverse areas.
These new regional cities would be a magnet for new settlers many of whom would work in the CBDs or congregate in the new cities to create innovation. Each new city would be encouraged to focus on innovation in its own speciality. Experts from elsewhere would have ready connections.
Densification does not necessarily promote innovation, as many cities around the world have regretfully found. It takes entrepreneurs and people with the courage to question conventional wisdom to innovate. Australia has many. It is also a magnet for wealthy migrants, entrepreneurs and technical experts. Australia’s world class liveability and prosperity are an international competitive advantage in attracting migrants who can add more to Australia’s growing success. Loss of liveability endangers this advantageous attraction. Densification and congestion of access are the enemy of innovation.
Effects of railways on property values
Railway tracks at ground level in towns and cities destroy the value of adjacent property because of the sight, sound and smell (diesel fumes) of trains. (In the country, they may destroy property value by cutting across rural properties. Value is recovered by sale of amalgamated surplus property.) In cities, property values are reduced for up to half a kilometre on both sides of the track compared to property farther away. Higher values around stations are created by their additional convenience and access to jobs. There is a transition in the value effect from tracks to stations in the approach to stations.
Railway tracks on embankments and viaducts destroy more property value as the effects are amplified and can extend for up to a kilometre on both sides. Tracks in cuttings or open trenches may have less effect on adjacent property values as their deleterious impact is moderated.
Tracks built in closed trenches (“underground”) and in tunnels have no value effect, except near stations where they create value. Closed trenches are usually built on the “cut and cover” principle.
Property built over tracks in closed trenches creates value compared to other forms of track where there is no property built above them. The value created depends on the building height permitted by neighbouring property and building regulations. This form does not destroy adjacent property values. It recreates value previously lost, if the trenches and buildings above replace ground level tracks that earlier destroyed value. Value created when buildings above closed trenches are sold pays for the railway construction that is regarded as the building foundations.
Owners of property in cities near old ground level (‘at grade’) tracks may have purchased at lower prices reflecting previous value destruction. The many owners of property near new tracks experience significant loss in value, especially loss from new viaducts for even more owners. Usually there is no compensation as the total loss is vast and the longer a viaduct, the greater the total loss.
Tracks at ground level through towns and cities cut them in half, destroy value and cause more inconvenience, including at level crossings. They result in the added expense of railway and road bridges. Tracks in closed trenches with buildings above and road crossings built in do not cause these negative effects. They create value before new towns and cities are built around new regional stations.
Tracks in closed trenches may cost more to build, but they create more value from buildings above railway foundations that, when captured through sale, the buildings pay for the whole construction.
The railway effect on property value begins with the presence or absence of a railway. The effect of presence depends on railway construction. When on or above ground, lost value increases according to frequency of trains, by their length and speed, and whether they are electric or diesel. The overall effect on property depends on the length of track through built-up areas.
When existing ground level tracks in old towns and cities are replaced by tracks in closed trenches with buildings above, they create direct value of the buildings and vast indirect value for adjacent property. Part of indirect value may be captured through land tax and returned to the value creator.
Replacement of ground level tracks by tracks in closed trenches in major cities and creation of new regional cities on HSR to distribute large population growth creates the value of restraining congestion increase and sustaining precious liveability in the major cities. A small increase in land tax of the many properties that benefit would contribute to the cost of creating this value. The tax revenue should be paid to the value creator to reduce the net cost of construction and as an incentive to railway innovation and development, which is usually an unattractive investment.
It is possible to sink almost all suburban tracks and trains into covered trenches next to existing tracks in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The cost would be high, but paid for by building over the trenches and selling the buildings. It would raise the value of adjacent property which could be captured by land tax. It would increase the number of city dwellings with close public transport access to jobs, at no cost to government. It would increase population and liveability without necessarily raising overall densification and the concomitant loss of liveability that high densification entails. It would raise the value of property adjacent to many tracks and also increase total land tax in established areas that all benefit.
Retain city liveability
It is better to retain Australia’s and its cities’ special, world leading liveability now rather than to destroy it and try to recreate it later. Cities elsewhere have been unable to demonstrate recreating their lost liveability. They have shown that once gone, it is gone forever.
There is no need to lose Australia’s remarkable liveability. It is a political decision. It takes leadership to retain liveability while doubling the population. Australian politicians should emulate their ancestors. One hundred and forty years or so ago the ancestors laid the structure and framework of Australia’s railways and its liveability with a population of perhaps 2m that lasted for a population that grew to 20m many years later. Surely, politicians have the courage and foresight of their ancestors to manage doubling the population and protecting the great liveability already achieved. It would create a historic reputation for leaders who do.
Loss of liveability is not necessary. City liveability can be protected now, not later. It would be at no cost to government.
Protecting liveability and creating, not destroying value
The way to protect liveability of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane from doubling their populations and losing their liveability is for private enterprise to build HSR/FFR connecting them and new cities along the HSR route. It would also connect a new city beyond Geelong (and to Adelaide later) and one in Gippsland, and one to the north of Brisbane, soon. It would take 10 years, not 35 years to complete as the 2013 HSR Report suggested. The population of the three cities will have nearly doubled by then.
The main purpose of HSR is not interstate travel. It is to distribute population increase from the major cities and settle people in new cities growing to 1m in the regions on HSR to protect liveability and increase value. The aim is to settle at least 10m of the 24m increase in the regions, saving the existing major cities from this increase of densification and protecting their liveability. Otherwise, the combined increase of the major cities would be 10m (+4m+4m+2m=10m). Five million new dwellings will be needed, whether in the regions near the coast or in the cities, to house the extra 10m people. The private consortium would build many of these dwellings in the regions around HSR stations. In addition, it would build 400,000 dwellings over trenches for people in the three cities to be close to jobs or with access by rail to jobs. HSR would give access to CBDs for commuters from regional cities in less than an hour travel time.
China is following the policy proposed here for the same reasons. It will build a new city outside Beijing on HSR connected to the CBD. (AFR 15.6.17, p37)
Settlers would be attracted to new cities because the same CBD jobs would be available to people choosing to live on major city fringes or in new regional cities; the cost of housing would be less in new regional cities on the HSR route than in city fringes; the commute to CBDs would be in less time from new cities by HSR than from fringes; the commuting costs by HSR from new cities to CBD would be less than from fringes; new, smart, compact, sustainable cities on HSR with good schools would be a magnet for settlers; and the new cities would become self-sustaining providers of jobs as they grow more rapidly on HSR than the total population grows rapidly. Settlers would flee densification and fringes.
The advantage of HSR is not just the extra convenience for a larger population and saving liveability. It also pays for itself within the construction time by selling 400,000 inner-city dwellings inside 10 years. It is not like other railway projects that must pay for construction out of fares over 40 years. HSR/FFR would be a ‘bridge’ in Warren Buffet’s terms: it would be a strong price maker, not a price taker. It would be highly profitable with an excellent ROI.
Sale of the 400,000 dwellings above the tracks would pay for the new higher capacity suburban tracks and stations in trenches; cost of the housing; regional stations; interstate HSR tracks; and FFR. This would be a profitable, remarkably robust, private project. It would cost government nothing.
HSR and suburban rail in adjacent closed trenches would create massive value for nearby property that had vast value destroyed by previous suburban tracks that were built at ground level and have remained at lower value than property further from the tracks. Some of this value creation would be captured through land tax and returned to the creators. A small increase in city land tax would subsidise commuter fares to encourage distribution of population to regions and protect liveability.
HSR would save liveability all over Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane by containing population increase. The value created would be immeasurable compared to the huge destruction by densification involved in doubling their populations. Digital means could not conceivably replace the combined loss of increased congestion and of reduced world class spacial liveability.
The disruption that will be caused by densification of the leafy middle suburbs will be enormous. Many single houses on quarter acres will be demolished to make way for densification. More houses will be demolished to build the extra shops, super-markets, schools and public facilities for the many new 20 minute neighbourhoods planned for the compacted population increase.
The long term, ongoing disruption of densification over the next 2-3 decades will be far worse than the short term, one-off disruption of building HSR and suburban rail in covered trenches. Google Earth indicates plentiful land along the railway from Melbourne to Dandenong for HSR. The Queensland rail authorities assured the original private VFT Consortium that there was a way into Brisbane from the south for HSR. It may not be hard now. Sydney may be more difficult. Some property adjacent to tracks would need to be acquired for trenches. Surplus parts of properties acquired would be sold during construction after higher value has been created. Property nearby would increase in value. It would be a small, temporary cost compared to the large, permanent disruption of city population doubling.
London has just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first underground railway in the world. It was built to connect the out of CBD main railway terminuses to the CBD. It was aimed at reducing the horse-drawn vehicle congestion combined with the mass of pedestrian commuters from the terminuses. It was built by ‘cut and cover’ down a main street of London. It caused great disruption that was soon forgotten and unknown years later. The same would apply to HSR construction.
There is already as much disruption in Sydney and Melbourne as the London underground. Melbourne is building “Skyrail” on viaducts over 15km to Dandenong for $2.6b to remove the level crossings at great disruption and property value loss that would be removed by HSR at no cost to the Government. HSR would increase value. Worse, Skyrail is intended to give access for some 2-300,000 people expected to live in outer fringes of Melbourne, when HSR would build a new city in Gippsland for 1m people to relieve Melbourne of their long-term burden of congestion, densification and Skyrail value destruction.
Melbourne will also experience great disruption with the Metro rail project cut and cover trench down the middle of Swanson St and St. Kilda Rd, major Melbourne thoroughfares. It will not increase value with no buildings above. However, it demonstrates that disruption can be acceptable.
In Sydney, WestConnex is being built by cut and cover that will cause substantial temporary disruption. It will acquire some property to make way. Sydney is also building a second airport at Badgerys Creek which will cause temporary disruption and lost property value, particularly when the railway is built.
None of these projects will create as many jobs as HSR would for as long, especially in the regions where they are needed, though all cause temporary disruption.
None will be as large an infrastructure investment as HSR/FFR or stimulate growth as much. None will pay for themselves during their construction period like HSR/FFR. None would benefit Australia as much as HSR/FFR.
HSR creates property value above trenches, adjacent to trenches and in new cities. Skyrail destroys enormous value on both sides of viaducts for 15km to Dandenong. Owners will not be compensated. Skyrail should be stopped as it blocks access to Melbourne from the east, the most valuable point of entry to pay for HSR construction. Disruption by HSR would be short and property value increased.
“Disruption” of the Australia’s gross freight distortion, which has gone long without real recognition, would be a good thing. Competition would increase, innovation and productivity improve and international competitiveness increase. Cost of living would be reduced as halved freight costs are passed on to consumers. It would add to and underwrite Australia’s on-going prosperity.
Electric FFR trains would not go through the Melbourne CBD at Southern Cross Station as diesel VicRail freight trains do. There is an alternative route around an outer circle from the east that the HSR/FFR project would build to join the intermodal terminal at Tottenham in the west near the Port of Melbourne with a new one at Hallam in the east with new tracks to the nearby Port of Hastings.
FFR would connect with Moorebank intermodal terminal in Sydney and Acacia Ridge terminal in Brisbane. It would also build high capacity freight tracks in trenches from Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane with dwellings above for sale to pay for the new railway.
FFR would connect the major cities and the new 1m cities on HSR in the regions near the coast and airports and ports. Its construction cost would be less when built along-side HSR at the same time.
Connections to airlines and airports
HSR would connect to all major airports on the east coast to facilitate 10m people living in the regions and the cities to fly interstate and overseas, unlike the 2013 Report which explicitly avoided them. HSR would connect Melbourne CBD to Tullamarine Airport by a loop from the express line to Geelong and a new city to the west. It would similarly connect with Avalon Airport. It would connect to Sale Airport when converted to commercial and military use.
HSR would connect to Kingsford Smith Airport by the existing loop to the south of a new express line to Central Station. It would also connect to Badgerys Creek Airport through another loop to the north from the HSR express line. They would serve regional and city travellers.
The loops and express tracks would be in closed trenches with buildings above in the cities to pay for the railway at no cost to government.
Interstate HSR express trains would by-pass airports and regional towns on the shortest route to keep travel time into CBDs between Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane to 3 hours or less. Loops from express lines for HSR stopping trains would connect with stations at airports and in new cities near existing regional towns.
Interstate HSR services would compete with airlines and gain a large share of the market of the fifth busiest air route in the world between Sydney and Melbourne and the busy Sydney to Brisbane route. The market would continue to grow faster than the population, provided on-going prosperity continued to fire-up the high propensity of Australians to travel.
Interstate passengers through KSA would decline for a time and those through BCA would be deferred somewhat. However, daily commuters from new cities to CBDs would increase rapidly and exceed interstate passengers in time. Regional passengers would have direct access to the airports.
The airlines are promoting disruption and new technology for land vehicles to use electricity and cut co2. They could become members of the private HSR/FFR consortium to bring their passenger management skills to more passengers than if there is no HSR. Similarly, KSA could become a member and bring its airport design skills to HSR terminuses, regional stations and parking stations. They would profit from their loss.
The electric HSR/FFR would be a highly efficient user of energy per passenger and per tonne, much more so than other forms of transport, particularly air. Its increase in demand for electricity would be a small increment, much less than the incremental increase in renewable energy. It would be regarded as a green project. It would significantly reduce overall greenhouse gas production by gaining market share from road and air. This the airlines accept, as they have difficulty reducing their own co2 production.
The two main drivers of the housing price boom in Sydney and Melbourne are lack of supply and low interest rates. There are underlying reasons for these, such as constraints on land availability, poor public transport to CBDs; and the international capital flows seeking relatively higher interest rates here that tend to force up exchange rates which slows economic growth, while the RBA keeps interest low.
The HSR/FFR project would create inner-city ‘new land’ and increase housing supply built on it by 400,000 units within 5-6 years which would rein-in price increases and capital gains that are exciting buyers to invest more in housing. In addition, these dwellings would be over HSR and suburban railway tracks in trenches within 1km or 20-minute walk of inner-city stations. The stations are often already the centre of 20 minute neighbourhoods with shops and other facilities. The dwellings would be connected to stations by rooftop walkways and bicycle tracks, and to CBDs by public transport for jobs.
Investment by the HSR/FFR project would not only increase housing supply. It would stimulate greater growth, increase international competition and lift exports, which would support the RBA gradually raising interest rates that would calm the housing price boom for the long term.
Economic and lifestyle decline
The forces pushing Australia to the cusp of prosperity or decline are favouring decline at present, unless leaders have the courage to push the country back towards prosperity and liveability.
The continuation of below average, low economic growth since the GFC is beginning to be regarded as the permanent future. Monetary and fiscal policy have been ineffective in this situation. Long term budget deficits and historically low interest rates have not stimulated growth as they usually do. Growth has struggled to meet the average. Under-employment has expanded. The economy is vulnerable.
The reforms of previous decades were introduced during an era of more rapid growth. New reforms will have to operate in a period of lower growth and will be more difficult to introduce. They may have a bigger chance of amplifying the business cycle around the lower growth trend.
Long term rapid population increase in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane may depress recovery more than stimulate it. Loss of usual prosperity already and the loss of liveability from densification causing car and house congestion and downsizing are further debilitating. Immigration of wealth-creators drying up and their emigration increasing as prosperity and liveability decline would accelerate the trend. Australia’s competitive advantage in migration may disappear and innovation suffer. Substitution of digital for spatial liveability may fail to sustain overall liveability. These factors may become a vicious circle unless counteracted.
The present economic situation is in stale-mate. Historically low interest rates have not had the usual stimulatory effect. They substantially reduce return on investment and retirees’ incomes.
Investors press companies for higher dividends and capital repayments to compensate for lower returns and incomes passed on to retirees. Companies curtail investment for growth and cut costs to pay what shareholders want. They cut labour and resist wage increases to keep costs down while growing less.
Low private investment and low wage increase are restraining higher economic growth overall. The RBA and Federal Reserve in America cannot raise interest rates rapidly to more normal levels because they may put downward pressure on growth. They would distress many people who are over-extended on their house mortgage at these historically low interest rates.
Large-scale, non-government investment in infrastructure that does not worsen government deficits or government debts is the way out of this stale-mate and long term concern for prosperity and liveability. Greater growth would allow higher interest rates and wages. It would help to repair the budget.
A very large, private investment in HSR/FFR infrastructure, at no cost to government or government debt, would kick-start above average growth for some years and, crucially, help to repair the budget. Distribution of population increase into the country would increase rural jobs and reduce pressure on city congestion and liveability. The distortion of freight would be transformed and competition would be heightened. With innovative engineering and business concepts, HSR/FFR would be a foundation for ongoing prosperity. It would forestall permanent decline.
The core assumption
The present railway configurations of the major cities are not sacrosanct. They must not be permitted to determine whether the populations will double or not. They can be modified to accommodate HSR and suburban rail capacity increase despite some temporary disruption.
What is this minor disruption compared to the overwhelming permanent disruption and appalling loss of exceptional, hard-won liveability caused by doubling city populations? The assumption of railway sacrosanctity is too high a cost to be allowed to dominate and shape the future without question. Innovative engineering should be employed to release this iron grip. It can be done. The increase in property value created will pay for it. It would be a profitable, beneficial and irresistible project. City populations do not have to double. They can be distributed to the regions and liveability preserved.
Please visit the web site www.veryfasttrain.com.au for more information, including “Critical Influences”.
The greatest concern for the future of Melbourne and its population plan, and probably for Sydney and Brisbane as well, is the implied assumption that the population increase will stop at 7.9m in 2051. It will not stop. There is no room in the plan to provide for another million or more thereafter. It is a closed ended plan with no provision for further inevitable population and congestion increase.
There is another implicit assumption that there will be no push-back from those to be inundated by planned population increase in the leafy middle suburbs, without considering further increases. There is no flexibility to meet objections. This may be unjustified once people realise the implications. There is no evidence that people want their cities converted and lose their special peak world liveability and space through vehicle and house congestion and downsizing to become copies of London. Once lost, they cannot be recovered, as London shows.
The HSR/FFR concept does provide for further population increase, as necessary. The many 1m new regional cities could expand and more new cities could be added to the route. It is open ended and more flexible to accommodate Australian growth, prosperity and ongoing liveability. There is no need to lose the distinctive character of Australian cities and lifestyle.
While HSR would disrupt during construction in the cities and acquire adjacent property, which would be well compensated for, it would create huge permanent value for nearby property owners whose property would increase to the value of those farther away. 0
HSR would preserve the liveability of the cities, an enormous benefit to all residents. Temporary HSR disruption would be short term, unlike the disruption of densification. Population increase would not be beholden to railway configuration.
Certainly, population increase may slow, especially if growth, prosperity and liveability declined. Australia has a history of population increase and migrant attraction. The population tripled in the past 6-7 decades since WW2. It is projected to only double in the next few decades, which is already a slowdown. Population is easier to project more accurately than economic growth. It can be managed.
FFR would provide greater prosperity through releasing constraints on competition, cutting costs and encouraging new business opportunities. It and HSR would connect the old and new cities along the east coast. The Government has committed to building a sub-optimal inland freight railway project for general and heavy freight which will not ease the major cities’ population pressures. It would not break the freight distortion. It may be justified on linking many small, isolated inland communities and connecting agriculture and mining production cross-country to airports and ports for export. It would not compete effectively with more efficient FFR in more densely populated coastal regions.
Well tested HSR wheel-on-rail technology should be used in trenches with dwellings in built-up areas now to capture as much of the population increase as possible to distribute it from cities to the regions. Advanced rail technology should be left until later for consideration when it is fully proven and safe.
Critically, the HSR/FFR project construction soon would stimulate growth to above the long-term average for several years and promote greater private investment to accelerate it. This would contribute significantly to urgent budget repair and guard against economic shocks that would cause great pain to the unemployed and to the young who have not experienced real hardship before. With low growth, recession is closer to occurring.
The project would be highly competitive and profitable. It would generate a high ROI and IRR. It would be an innovative and robust project with low risk of failure and government intervention. It would be commercially and financially viable, subject to the feasibility study.
HSR/FFR has direct and huge indirect benefits in preserving liveability. It should be implemented.
People in authority should not risk making decisions in the short term which may have uncertain, even bad consequences for the community in the long term after they no longer have responsibility. Decisions with certain, good outcomes are available now, without the bad long-term consequences.
HSR/FFR would be highly beneficial for Australians’ continuing lifestyle. It would be good in creating jobs and property value, and in stimulating the economy. It would protect liveability and promote prosperity long term. It behoves leaders to initiate, without delay, the private consortium and the feasibility study, and to assist government to facilitate and fast track approval and construction once seen to be commercially and financially viable.