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Very Fast Trains’ possible green solution to Australian mass transport challenges

11/09/2008

The latest generation Very Fast Trains (VFT) are the long-term solution to mass passenger transport issues such as carbon emissions, capacity problems and rocketing fuel prices, according to leading Australian rail expert Mr Francis Dwornik.

Mr Dwornik, Rail Engineering Director for O’Donnell Griffin, said the latest Australian Greenhouse Office carbon emissions figures for transport showed that mass transit in Australia is facing the prospect of deciding between more air travel and building new rail infrastructure in the face of global warming issues that will be exacerbated by further reliance on cars and aeroplanes.

Mr Dwornik, Rail Engineering Director for O’Donnell Griffin, said the latest Australian Greenhouse Office carbon emissions figures for transport showed that mass transit in Australia is facing the prospect of deciding between more air travel and building new rail infrastructure in the face of global warming issues that will be exacerbated by further reliance on cars and aeroplanes.

He said intra-city rail transport is the first to be addressed, in particular to combat issues related to overburdened rail systems in capital cities, as passenger numbers reach unprecedented levels.

“The next area that will need careful examination is inter-city travel: an area that is currently reliant on aircraft which are creating long-term environmental damage and are inefficient in terms of energy consumption,” Mr Dwornik said.

He said the current Australian figures show that road transport (passenger and freight) contributed 89.6 per cent in total estimated gas emissions from transport, as compared with just 2.2 per cent for Rail.. Aviation contributed only 6.7 per cent but carried only 39.5 million passengers nationally compared to rail’s 616.27 million passengers for the same period (2004).

Mr Dwornik, a long-term advocate for VFT in Australia, said one of the main objections to VFT in Australia had been that population levels could not justify the huge initial capital investment of establishing new VFT infrastructure.

“However, with 6.99 million domestic air passengers travelling between June 2007 and June 2008 between Melbourne and Sydney, as Australia’s most frequented short-haul route, the option is not only now viable but could even be considered environmentally essential,” he said.

For the month of June 2008, according to the latest passenger figures from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Melbourne-Sydney remained Australia’s busiest air route with 543,600 passengers, an increase of 2.7 per cent on June 2007.

“Given that Australia has the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world (based on the recent figures) and is the third highest polluter per capital emissions from transport, the national approach to transport must radically alter,” Mr Dwornik said.

“For two decades now, very fast rail has been safe, commercially successful and extremely popular in Europe, with even companies such as Air France under pressure to cut down short-haul and domestic flights as rail is favoured by travellers.

“A very fast rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, would rate very well in terms of travel times, passenger comfort and flexibility, increased baggage capacity and with the bonus of super low emissions.”

A very fast train running at 360 km/h on dedicated infrastructure would complete the journey between Melbourne CBD and Sydney CBD in 4-5 hours, about the same time as a door-to-door flight from the Melbourne CBD to the Sydney CBD.

Mr Dwornik estimated that to develop the rail corridors and build the infrastructure for a VFT could take up to 15-20 years before the first train left Central Station for Southern Cross Station.

By then, Australia’s population (now approaching 21.5 million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics), is projected to reach 27.2 million and Sydney and Melbourne will be megacities with populations of around 5.3-5.5 million each and nobody knows what the state of the environment will be. (Source: ABS)

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