TGV in Melbourne?

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Debate is starting to develop over the crumbling transport infrastructure in many so-called developed and First World countries such as England, USA, Canada and Australia.

Successive governments have held back on numerous mass transport proposals and consequently are seeing road and rail networks crumbling as the skies being more and more chock-a-block with planes.

For example. the roads around and in Montreal, Canada would embaress the Mpumalanga government in eastern South Africa (pot holes are often over 30cm deep, there!). The rail networks in Oz and the US are, to be frank, grim.

Refreshingly, there much to be learnt from the French and Spanish. They have been showing the rest of the world how to do it for three decades. Fantasy? Is there anyone who has not noticed? It is no fantasy. The bigger cities such as Lyon and Lisbon have shiny new Metros but one is astounded that even smaller cities such as Bilbao, Toulouse and Lille have proper Metro systems and others such as Bordeaux, Nice and Seville have brand new tramway systems that work.

Yes, even countries such as Spain, considerably less wealthy than Australia. Last year, a TGV linked Madrid and Barcelona, cities comparable to Sydney/Melbourne in size and only about 30% more in distance. Iberia, the national airline, has stopped flying Madrid to Barcelona since the opening of the TGV (in Spanish, Alta Velocidad Espanola, AVE) which does the 630-kilometre journey in two hours 45 minutes.

Due to be finished this year the tunnel under the Pyrenees will ultimately join the Spanish and French TGV networks. Barcelona to Montpellier at about 300 kilometres will take between 80-100 minutes depending on other stops (probably Figueres, Narbonne, Perpignan). This will link the sunbelt smart-growth centres of Barcelona, Montpellier and Toulouse (the latter two not accidentally being the two fastest-growing cities of Europe and centres of high-tech and academia) and the whole region of Catalonia and Languedoc-Roussillon will continue to thrive.

If Australia continues to squander countless billions on roads that just create more congestion (at a cost to the economy of at least $10 billion per annum. not to mention our $26 billion oil import bill), the connectivity of our major centres and the way they serve any international visitors can only get worse. Canberra to Sydney at 280 kilometres is less than half the distance Madrid-Barcelona. Either Canberra airport should be developed into Sydney’s second international airport or a new airport halfway (with 45 minutes TGV to central Sydney, less time than most airport queues) is the perfect large infrastructure project.

One wonders if those supermandarins will look over their lattes and see what the Europeans are doing?

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