23.5.17

BUILD IT BY INCREMENTS.

Cold Spring Shops friendly connection David Levinson contemplates Australia's envy of the fast trains of Germany or China.
The most recent proposals of CLARA [a private initiative to develop railroads and land] use a form of land value capture to help fund the system, by developing stations along the route, and developing suburbs/towns/cities around those intermediate stations.  I love new planned communities, and this is an exciting idea. I also love value capture. So this is a promising endeavour. But land development on greenfields often takes longer than anticipated, and thus may take a long time to justify the investment, and thus leave investors hanging if projections are not realised, or like so many infrastructure projects before, result in a government bailout. Nevertheless, if the tracks are on the ground, and the first (or second) round of investors are wiped out, the people of Australia will have gotten capital investment in infrastructure at a huge discount, though still be on the hook for operations and maintenance.
That's a throwback to the railway mania, or perhaps to the dot.com mania earlier in the century.  But playing SimTrump doesn't always work out well, on a computer simulation, or for railroad promoters, such as the interurbans of the early twentieth century.

In Australia, though, the venture capital might come from the government.
Peter Thornton has a fact-filled slide deck: Let’s get real about high speed rail in Australia, which comes down against building a full system at first, instead recommends the government, not a private entity, assume the risk and reward and improve shorter distance routes (namely Newcastle to Sydney), and expanding the system over time, rather than conceiving it as one giant project. The government could then sell the operating business and use the revenue to fund the next big thing.
The Australians are already operating a variant of Britain's 125 mph diesel trains. Maybe, as the slideshow illustrates (oh, and check out the antipodean high speed train engaging in street running while you're there) it's not worth spending tens of millions of dollars to shave a few minutes off the running time.

I suppose we could convert the "Free Rein to 110" campaign to "Free Rein to 190" for Australia's metric speed limits.  But getting to 200 or to 240 is feasible with existing diesel trains.

No comments: