The Write Direction: Training Our Thoughts

THE one outstanding but often promised big idea for our region is surely the high speed rail project.

The thought of joining up the three largest population centres in NSW has become a never ending dream which seems to be promised for each federal election, but so far has not seen the light of day.

Recently we have heard that funding the planning for this inspired project has become a reality, but few people think it will happen in their lifetime.

One of the economic models has suggested that Canberra should be included in the initial assessment and another wants Newcastle Airport to be the starting point, all for good reasons which I hope will be considered.

I admit to being a train buff and fondly remember school holidays in the Blue Mountains where my favourite excursion was a steam train trip from Katoomba to Lithgow and back, travelling through many tunnels whilst having the windows open in the old toast rack carriages, with smoke blowing in.

Whilst the fast train from Newcastle via Sydney to Canberra is still a dream, I just hope it doesn’t become a smoke screen in order to attract votes.

I have been fortunate to visit Japan in the last few years and my number one activity was to have nine trips on their famous Shinkansen bullet train. Not only does it roll along above 300 kilometres per hour, my coffee remains in its cup with barely a ripple to be seen.

Not like when flying long distances and you never knowing when air pockets will upset whatever it is you are drinking.

The Shinkansen can reach 350 kph but we were shown their 26 kilometre test track where the next model is already reaching 500 kph.

No one in Australia expects the efficiency of the Japanese rail system ever to be available here, even if we hope our planners are considering training their thoughts in that direction.

Despite the fact that the Japanese train system is world number one, the Chinese are developing at breakneck speed their version that doesn’t run on wheels with metal rails.

It is in fact tracks on magnets which eliminate the resistance involved for running at even higher speeds.

Its technology is that of magnetic levitation, referred to as ‘maglev’, and has already achieved speeds of 623 kph.

However, it is yet to have been rolled out into service.

We think this is fast, but wait a minute, there is more just around the corner. China’s Aerospace, Science and Industry Corporation is looking at trains to reach, wait for it, 4,000 kph by running it through a two km long low vacuum tube.

They say it has already reached 1000 kph but that is not confirmed.

It does, however, show where train travel is moving to in the future.

Whilst our Sydney and Newcastle light rail trams are already well out of date because they run on rails concreted in the ground, their newer models run on rubber wheels but follow computer chips in the roads.

This means their routes can be changed daily by moving the chips to a new position.

Our new high speed rail planners need to look at these ‘maglev’ trains so that if we in Australia can ever get this project off the computer and into service, we are not driving obsolete technology before we see one running.


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