Analysis and Commentary

We need fast freight rail, fast

Analysis and Commentary

By Michael Sharpe

High Speed Freight Rail (HSFR) can help to transform Australia and to build our strengths and resilience. We need a strategy.

Very Fast Trains have been under investigation since at least the 1980s. We have seen investigations into corridors for future use, we have seen proposals for tilt trains and mag-lev trains, and proposals from groups including Speed Rail and Transrapid. 

I can find no proposals that include freight. The usual response regarding high-speed rail is that it does not stack up in Australia due to our small population. Moving freight by high-speed rail would change all the working models. 

HSFR, yes, high-speed rail to move freight — not only people — would build the economic case for new rail infrastructure. It would be a key component in Australia becoming the Food Bowl of Asia.

It is already difficult for companies in regional Australia to grow due to the lack of skilled workers in our regions. The companies simply cannot get staff. An issue I often hear is that there are not even enough houses for people to rent in our regions and there are not enough tradies to build new homes. 

HSFR can allow people to reduce travel times between regional centres and allow people to benefit from real estate prices in our regional towns. If people are given the chance to have a quality job and the ability to own a block of land and build a home, this would create all kinds of new opportunities.

HSFR means that regional communities are connected faster to our capital cities. It means that our freight can get to the ports and be exported more efficiently.

Innovation can play a part. For example, PT Blink is a technology company building Australian supply chains for prefabricated buildings. Manufacturers across Australia can make housing components that arrive on site and are put together, a bit like Lego. Manufacturers are eager to grow in our regions. 

Regional Australia can benefit from the jobs bonanza that new energy production will bring. The NSW Hydrogen Strategy will establish the state as an energy and economic superpower.

With a NSW plan to halve emissions by 2030, the strategy will offer an unprecedented $3 billion in incentives and attract more than $80 billion in investment, the vast majority of which will be in regional NSW.

The part I really like about supporting our regions is the opportunity for the generations to come to be able to afford the Australian dream of owning a home. There is a history of regional communities providing free blocks of land to attract people to their towns. Perhaps we can build on this – pun intended.

Collaboration is a key driver in any worthwhile endeavour. We can achieve more together than apart. 

Building on our strengths and becoming more resilient as a nation is important for jobs and growth. Infrastructure construction provides the jobs for today and the long-term economic results for years to come. 

Infrastructure is good for the defence of Australia. Former Major General and now Senator, Jim Molan recently talked about “the beating drums of war.” In a recent podcast interview with former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, Senator Molan said: 

“We don’t have an overarching strategy.

“Our overall strategy has got to be to deter war, how do you deter… war?

“Not by having a tiny little defence force. You deter war by being a fabulously strong economy, by having your financials all in line, by being able to grow your own food, to innovate, to have sufficient industry in an emergency… and a strong defence force.”

Senator Molan has previously talked about Australia needing to be self-reliant and to be able to produce a basic National Security Strategy addressing the security obligations of defence, cyber, manufacturing, diplomacy, energy and fuels, society, finances, education, borders, intelligence, food, and infrastructure.

We need to include water infrastructure, actually we must include water

Dorothea Mackellar was inspired by her experience on her brothers’ farms out on the Blue Vale Road near Gunnedah, in the north-west of New South Wales, to write her most recognised poem “My Country.” The second stanza is the best known:

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

My own family lived nearby in the town of Boggabri. The land here is far and wide up to the ragged mountain ranges. I can see why Dorothea was inspired to write. The North West of New South Wales has some of the most fertile land on the planet. However, the droughts are devastating. The poem was first published in 1908. 

By 1938, Dr John Bradfield published his research on the so-called Bradfield Scheme. It has been talked about ever since. My point is that if we are to build the Food Bowl of Asia, we need to look at all options for improved water supply. We cannot build resilience on droughts and flooding rains.

The water from the Bradfield Scheme was expected to provide irrigation for approximately 8,000 square kilometres of agricultural land in Queensland and the added ability to generate hydro-electricity.

To build the Food Bowl of Asia would take a whole-of-nation effort. Infrastructure for better roads and high speed rail, new building and housing for regional communities, energy and resources to power manufacturing and water, too. Our farmers have generations of experience to grow and with the right strategy, crafted together, we can drive Australia forward.

Picture: NGT Car­go train concept from Germany (Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Michael Sharpe is National Director Industry at the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre and Founder, Nuclear Skills Forum. You can connect with him on Twitter and Linkedin.

Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here.




Share this Story
Analysis and Commentary

Stay Informed

Go to Top