Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Questions for the NBN cheer-squad

Today's SMH:

"A high-speed rail line linking Sydney and Melbourne is not viable, the federal Department of Transport has told the government, claiming it is too expensive and will not attract enough passengers...

The department's brief says viable high-speed rail lines need about 6 million passengers a year to be viable when construction costs are low. More typically, they need about 12 to 20 million passengers to be able to recover their costs.

And while Sydney and Melbourne have large populations, an average speed of 250 km/h still demands a journey of three hours or more - which ''is the upper limit for the train to be competitive with airlines.''

''Other cities are more competitively distanced from each other but do not have the passenger and population base to warrant a new line,'' the brief says. For instance, fast trains linking Sydney with Newcastle and Canberra would have trip times well under two hours, but would be ''highly unviable'' due to their construction costs.

The briefing cites international construction costs for very fast trains rising from $16 million per kilometre on a rail link in Spain to $110 million per kilometre for the Channel Tunnel rail link into London. More densely populated areas produce higher costs, due to the price of buying land.

Some questions:

. This is only a departmental opinion about the high-speed rail proposal. It will be followed by a full cost-benefit analysis. Do they think it is worth bothering with one? (Given that they don't think it is worth bothering with one for the NBN)

. Should the high-speed rail go ahead regardless? (Perhaps because all analysis is crap, and the project will be nation-building)

. Should the project be abandoned? (Because it will use up resources and money that will be needed to build the NBN)

Just asking.

Oh and here's Conroy, it's his "response" to critics who have called for a cost-benefit analysis. But it fails to address the question. Perhaps it slipped his mind.

Related Posts

. The NBN is a slowly unfolding disaster

. What passes as cost-benefit analysis of the NBN

. We're spending a fortune on new wires. In case you don't want them, we'll disconnect the ones you have