An initial report on the cost and viability of building tracks for Very Fast Trains in eastern Australia has reached the desk of Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese. It says that the establishment costs will be in excess of 100 billion dollars and that the operation of trains will never make a profit.
Most comments in Parliament and the Media immediately wrote it off as a white elephant that would be supported only by those who are out there with the fairies.
Like many of my readers, I have had to endure the pain of living in a society dominated by too many economic rationalists who will support no venture that does not make a profit from the opening day. But, most of us have come to the correct conclusion that there are many community assets that will never ever make a profit, but are essential to quality of life and will bring many benefits that are difficult to value in purely financial terms. This is one of them.
As Very Fast Trains will be the dominant means of transporting people throughout the world for the next century at least, the cost of the asset has to be written-off over 100 years — ie, at just one billion dollars a year.
In serving the nation, Very Fast Trains will become a highly viable alternative to airlines, as well as cars, and will considerably reduce pollution of the atmosphere as the result. And they can be powered by electricity produced from clean coal, of which this nation will have an abundance.
If I can take a train that gets me from Sydney to Melbourne in three-and-a-half hours, I will take it in preference to an airline flight every time. I will be able to answer my emails and make phone calls, even rent a board room on the train, and not be cramped for leg room. Significantly, the train will take me from downtown to downtown, something an airline will never be able to do. It will also let me have the background of some great bush scenery to look at, rather than clouds.
And I will happily pay more to do so.