Future of Australian Cities-Lessons from Overseas

The experience of China’s major cities now is a foretaste of how Australian major cities will be in 3-4 decades time on present planning. It is what the proposed VFT2 concept is designed to avoid today.

China is having a massive internal migration from the country to the cities, which have increased in size and congestion. Australia is facing immigration from overseas and planned population increase that will double the size of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, which are already big in area and congestion. Although not as large in population as Chinese cities, the message and lesson are the same. 

China has relied on people accessing the city CBD to work close together in high rise offices. This was expected to produce growing innovation. It has found that people will not put up with struggling to work through excessive crush, congestion and travel time. Skyscrapers in CBDs are still only 30% occupied. Business executives have moved jobs to where people live, near hubs in outer suburbs that are not well connected. This has isolated people instead of bringing them together to stimulate innovation. The city strategy is not working. Congestion, poor access and separation are enemies of innovation. (See AFR 15.6.17, p37)

The Chinese Government has adopted a new policy. It is capping the population of large cities to restrict their size. It will build a new city outside Beijing. The city will be connected to Beijing CBD by High Speed Rail (HSR). Collecting people together closer to home in smaller cities rapidly connected to major cities will encourage innovation there and in CBDs. It is the model for future Chinese city development.

This is a clear lesson for Australia. The present plans for doubling the populations of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and compacting people in jobs in CBDs to increase innovation will fail. Australia should not have to learn from making its own mistakes by carrying on with its current strategy for the next 30-40 years. It is not necessary to destroy the value of being ranked first in world liveability to become ranked number 53 like London with its 8m population, but without its first-class public transport system.

The UK is building HSR between London and its second largest city, Birmingham. Offices are already moving out of congested London and setting up in Birmingham. There will be a fast link between the two largest, bi-polar, HSR connected UK cities.

Australia needs to retain the peak liveability it has achieved and to prosper, not decline through lack of innovation experienced by many large, 8m+ cities in the world. Australia has developed a world class competitive advantage in attracting many immigrants who add to success by bringing entrepreneurship and innovation that should not be lost. It has two bi-polar city structures between Melbourne/Sydney and Sydney/Brisbane. New regional cities of up to 1m on HSR would be built between major city CBDs and connected rapidly in an hour or less to each other and to the CBDs, instead of up to 2 hours morning and evening. This ‘railroad of innovation’ would enhance prosperity and liveability.

The new cities would have lower cost of housing and commuting, be a shorter travel time than from major city fringes, and be attractive places to live on the coastal HSR route near the sea. Two new cities on HSR to the east and west of Melbourne and two to the north and south of Sydney and Brisbane, plus Canberra and one on the mid-north coast of NSW would accommodate 10m of the 24m population increase over the next 3-4 decades.  Construction of HSR within 10 years and the new regional cities over decades would provide private investment and jobs now and for the long-term as the population doubles. It would assure continued future innovation, liveability and prosperity.

Australia should learn and benefit from China’s example now, rather than continue to make the same mistakes and suffer destruction of its liveability and prosperity long term.

Please visit www.veryfasttrain.com.au for more information.

PJK ©19.6.17

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