Stuart Saunders, Thailand
Australia should be investing its windfall mining profits in sustainable long-term transportation solutions, to reduce CO2 emissions, and improve quality of life.
Public transport is one of the few aspects of society that might help ensure civilisation has a future on the planet; rail is by far the safest and least energy-consuming form of public transport.
The solution to the NSW north coast rail problem is to extend the Queensland Rail (QR) Brisbane to Robina line on to Coolangatta, as currently proposed, then to Murwillumbah, then from Murwillumbah to Casino on the existing north coast rail alignment.
At Casino it would terminate, connecting with the main Sydney–Brisbane line.
The advantages of this solution are manifold:
1. A single system from Brisbane/Gold Coast/Tweed/Byron Bay/Lismore/Casino.
2. One train, one operator, ideally Queensland Rail yes, all the way to Casino.
3. Electric system, clean and regenerative, possibly renewable.
4. No changes of trains or to bus etc, required, except at Casino to join Sydney trains, and at Brisbane Airport to connect to flights.
This simplicity will be very attractive to potential users. (Coolangatta Airport would also be connected.) The greatest barrier to public transport ridership is complication of travel plans, eg having to change trains and the possibility of missed connections, or connections cancelled. The threshold to ‘might as well just take the car’ is quite low, especially until we become aware of, let alone begin paying, ‘true cost’ for fossil fuels. The more stations on a network, the greater utility of all of them; that, eg, Burringbar would be (ultimately) connected to Port Augusta, increases the chances that both will be used.
5. The conversion of the NSW section could be done at the same time as the Robina to Coolangatta section is being built; the full line could be running in 10 years, especially with some persuasion from Canberra, verbal, legislative, and folding.
6. Direct connection to the northern rivers line would enhance the profitability of the Gold Coast section.
7. Direct connection to the Gold Coast line may be the only viable northern rivers solution.
The NSW lines would need to be reset to Queensland gauge; this would mostly only require re-sleepering. Freight would not be a significant requirement, apart from, say, bicycles and surfboards, so it would be passenger trains only.
It has just been announced that reopening the north coast line at standard gauge is not possible; however, that is only considering two separate systems, changing at the border.
Or perhaps no connection at all. Anyone with ‘religious’ objections to non-standard-gauge trains running in NSW can be put out to pasture; the Queensland lines are running very well.
Also, the border is only an imaginary line; many NSWelshies have had Qld numbers (07) for years, and most of Gold Coast Airport is where? – in NSW.
This solution only requires extra rolling stock, the same as the existing QR stock. No ‘two systems’. QR’s existing yards and workshops should be adequate for the extra rolling stock.
The Queensland train is capable of 140km/h, fine for this route.
‘Pink Mist’-type speeds, aka ‘High Speed Rail’, are not necessary, providing that WiFi is available on board for the work- and playaholics. Utility/attractiveness of the system will be enhanced by interconnection with local bus systems (as on the Robina line now) and also availability of ‘green’ car rental and taxis at the larger stations.
Once again, NSW northern rivers and Gold Coast residents would be able to ‘Relax by Rail’. It would also provide a ‘destination’ different from ‘origin’ for both NR and Gold Coast residents, the urban attractions of the Gold Coast and Brisbane and the exceptionally beautiful countryside of the northern rivers.
A single line Brisbane–Gold Coast–Casino would greatly enhance the overall ‘value’ of the region, much more than the cost to build it. It could be financed partially by carbon taxes, and by diversion of some road funds. The line will reduce a lot of congestion on the Pacific Highway.