It was encouraging to see that the Federal Ministers for Transport and Major Projects were in discussion directly with the Victorian Government on a rail connection between Southern Cross Station and Tullamarine Airport recently. It was encouraging it was agreed, according to the media reports, that it would be completed in 10 years.
What is discouraging and of great concern is that, presumably, it will be a broad gauge Victorian track, not a standard gauge High Speed Rail track. This would block access for future construction of HSR in Australia with one end in Melbourne and Geelong.
A VFT 2 concept for HSR for Tullamarine rail was sent to the Victorian Government on 2.8.17 (see related concepts for Sydney and Brisbane).
The underlying assumption of the inter-government discussions is that HSR will never go ahead. The implication of this is that the population of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are planned to double in the next 3-4 decades. This would be a disaster for the people, unconsulted and unnecessarily subjected to an appalling loss of their spatial liveability or quality of life.
The VFT2 concept is commended because doubling the population and gross loss of liveability can be avoided. It would provide for building 2 or more +1m cities in the regions to the east and west of Melbourne (and north and south of Sydney and Brisbane), instead of superimposing an extra +4m on the existing +4m populations of Sydney and Melbourne. The government cost of infrastructure for this would be substantially more in the major cities than in new regional cities connected by HSR and a commuting time by HSR to the CBDs of less than an hour.
The HSR concept would connect airports at Avalon, Tullamarine and Sale (converted to a military and commercial airport like Canberra and Williamtown Airports) to the CBD. The regional population of 2-4m in a new city in Gippsland and one beyond Geelong would connect to Melbourne and all three airports without necessarily changing trains.
The 2013 Government HSR Report envisaged HSR through Albury/Wodonga from the north to Melbourne. It did not plan for large populations in the regions on the HSR line to relieve Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane of growth. Settlement of +1m 300km inland straddling the northern border is unlikely compared to 2-4m near the sea on the regional Victorian coast, instead of in Melbourne.
The HSR concept would build HSR tracks in trenches in inner-city Melbourne. Dwellings would be built above the trenches before tracks become operational (similarly in Sydney and Brisbane). HSR trains would not exceed 100km/h in trenches. All the dwellings would be for sale, the proceeds of which would pay for the whole HSR project within the 10-year construction period. There would be no need to recover the capital cost from higher fares over 40 years of HSR operation.
The HSR would serve the new cities, the 3 airports and Melbourne, a distributed population of 8-9m in time with liveability in the top 10 in the world, rather than +8m in a double-densified Melbourne with a liveability, hopefully, as high as London today with its 8m and world liveability ranking of 53. This is evidence of what to expect today before committing to future very high densification here.
Some foresight is needed, not like the Nunawading level crossing removal, where only two tracks were built under the road. There should have been provision for a third as an express track later.
Another option for Tullamarine would be to build broad gauge and HSR standard gauge tracks (in a loop from western HSR express tracks to Geelong and beyond) to the airport side-by side in a larger trench at extra cost and recover the cost through sale of more dwellings built above.
This would serve the new cities, Melbourne and all 3 airports by HSR. Ballarat and Bendigo would be served by broad gauge fast trains, both towns growing by 100,000 to 200,000, limited by water supply. Population distribution connected by these fast trains would be 400,000 in the regions compared to total 8-9m connected by HSR.
If HSR cannot get to Southern Cross Station and Tullamarine Airport from east and west to stabilise the population, HSR will not be extended to Sydney and Brisbane to do the same for these cities.
This is a small, practical, unavoidable present-day issue that has enormous ramifications for where and how Australians, their children and grandchildren, will live in the next few decades. Undoubtedly, this issue is politically charged. It is strongly commended that the responsible leaders built HSR now, self-funded, before it is too late, and the city populations have grown over large, densified and unliveable by Australian standards.
HSR for Australia is no longer an interstate transport project. It is a population distribution into the regions project to save and extend to new cities on the HSR line the Australian peoples’ world leading liveability.