Welcome to Future Transport Tasmania

We are here to lobby for better public transport and rail infrastructure in Tasmania. We aim to find solutions to allow all Tasmanians to have environmentally responsible and affordable commuting options to get around our state and towns. A more detailed mission statement can be found in the left column or <here>.

Find our articles below, starting with the most recent ones first:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Upgrading TasRail -why not standard gauge?

Many people often ask why not re-gauge TasRail’s network to standard gauge if you are upgrading the tracks anyway?

Whilst it is true that most of the Australian interstate railway network is indeed standard gauge (1435mm, or 4’8.5”), as is all of NSW’s country network, many lines in Victoria are still broad gauge (1600mm), almost all of Queensland is the same as Tasmania (1067mm), and so is much of Western Australia’s (WA) railways. There are lines of all three gauges (standard, broad and narrow) in South Australia.

But this is really nothing to do with Tasmania. There are no roll-on roll-off freighters that carry trains, therefore there is no need to have a common gauge with the mainland. Containers are offloaded onto the docks where they are loaded onto trains or trucks. Some urgent freight is driven off the Spirit of Tasmania by truck where it continues to its destination. Very little of this freight would have started on a train, therefore the cost of purchasing such a ship and building the required connection would not match the current demand for it (which is nil).

Other Advantages

Standard gauge trains are larger and heavier.

Yes this is true, but many are not. In fact in Queensland there are 10,000 tonne coal trains operating daily on the same gauge as Tasmania. South African Railways broke the world record for the longest and heaviest ever freight train on 1067mm gauge. Even though the record has since been broken by a standard gauge train (in WA), the point is that there are few trains that are as big, even on standard gauge. Clearly ‘narrow’ gauge has plenty of unrealised capacity here in Tasmania.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy standard gauge rolling-stock as that is more common?

Not compared to the cost of changing the gauge. The existing formation would have to be widened, every sleeper changed and new rail purchased for the entire line. Every culvert and bridge would have to be replaced. It would be a new railway virtually from scratch, as the line would have to bypass the worst parts of the old formation. The cost saving in rolling-stock would be very small. You could even purchase standard gauge bogies for many of the wagons and even locomotives to save money, but TasRails fleet is so old that this is really not worth doing. There are so many narrow gauge lines worldwide, that there is still a very large market for 1067mm gauge locomotives and wagons. New 1067mm gauge locomotives are still being built in Australia today for QR National and Pacific National.

TasRail is in fact about to place an order for new locomotives (finally!).

Could you add a third rail and thus ensure heritage trains can keep running?

Yes you could –but TasRail would have no interest in maintaining two gauges solely for tourist trains that provided them with little revenue. Converting to standard gauge would remove the possibility of heritage trains using the mainline. On a cost basis alone this would not happen.

Can’t you go faster on standard gauge?

Yes you can –the world record is 574km/h on standard gauge (the French Alsthom TGV). However the fastest train in Australia runs on narrow gauge, not standard gauge. The Queensland electric tilt train has the Australian rail speed record at 210km/h.

There is no technical reason why you could not have a faster train on narrow gauge.

However given that it is only 200km between Hobart and Launceston, there is no argument for even a 300km/h train for Tasmania, as the additional cost would not be justified by the potential patronage. The faster you want a train to be able to go, the greater the costs become.

Couldn’t you carry more freight?

The cost of upgrading TasRail’s tracks is far cheaper than changing the gauge. The freight demand does not warrant the cost. Even if TasRail carried 90% of the overall freight task in Tasmania (it currently carries less than 25%), it would have no problems catering for that demand on the current gauge, even though this is physically impossible due to the fact the lines do not cover all of the state. The only difference would be that TasRail would require more trains.

TasRail’s axleload is currently relatively low –however as the track is upgraded heavier trains will be possible, without needing to change to standard gauge.

Finally and crucially, no one in the rail industry is arguing for a change in gauge.

Once TasRail completes the upgrade of the tracks, the biggest issue is the tight corners and steep grades in certain sections. The cost of the deviations for these sections will be significant –but the time saved and efficiencies gained will also be significant. Once that happens, it will be possible for a fast passenger train service to compete successfully with road.

Why don’t they carry logs from forestry?

Unfortunately for TasRail they no longer have the capacity to carry logs. Most of the log wagons have already been scrapped as they were too old. Many of the forestry areas are nowhere near a railway line. Two of the lines are no longer in use (Derwent Valley and North-east – Scottsdale). Finally, the uncertainty surrounding the forestry industry means that at the moment, at least, TasRail must wait before it considers investing in new rollingstock that could cater for log traffic.

Why don’t they have more trains instead of heavy trucks?

The railways are stuck competing with a 20th century highway whilst using a 19th century railway that was built on the cheap. Because of this, truck companies can get freight around the state much faster than the railways. Unfortunately governments have favoured road transport for several decades, resulting in significant spending on roads and very little by comparison for railways, especially in Tasmania.

Rail also has to pay its way, whereas trucks to not have to pay anywhere near as much to use the roads. Despite this the trucking industry still struggles to make its services recover their costs, with owner-operator truck drivers in particular, frequently struggling despite working unbelievably long and dangerous hours to make ends meet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Media Release

Railway NOT busway

Railway line into Hobart must remain a railway line

Community-based public transport advocacy group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today called on the State Government to commit to retaining the Hobart to Bridgewater railway line. FTT is concerned that government and transport planning often refer to the railway ‘corridor’, implying that the railway line is a temporary fixture and in future could be removed. Following the Community Advisory Panel discussions around the Light Rail Business Case (LRBC) it was clear that Metro Tasmania and certain other parties believe that the railway line should be pulled up and replaced with a tidal busway. FTT wants to make it clear that based on the LBRC there is no financial case for a busway, and removing the railway line carries a great risk.

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: “We know from the Light Rail Business Case that pulling up the tracks and putting down a concrete busway would cost more than upgrading the line and buying some trains. Therefore we can say with confidence that a busway would be an even greater risk. We know also that passenger rail has a much greater chance of attracting new public transport users than bus services, so we believe that a busway would be a very retrograde step. If the busway proponents were pleased to see the Light Rail case fail to come up with sufficient patronage, it is very clear that a busway will have even less. Given the higher cost of building the busway, it is a no-brainer that a busway will be an expensive white-elephant. The railway is the only option for ensuring the possibility of future transport demand growth. FTT believes there is also a possibility of a future Hobart to Launceston fast train, which would obviously use the Bridgewater to Hobart line.“

Mr Rowallan added; “There is also the issue of heavy trucks using the Brooker Highway once the new Brighton Freight Hub is opened. We are not convinced that all freight operators who currently use the Hobart Railway yards actually want to shift operations to Brighton. FTT believes that the railway yards should be retained at Hobart, even if reduced in size, to enable a freight shuttle service to operate from Brighton to Hobart, thus negating the potential increase in heavy vehicles on the Brooker Highway. Maintaining the freight line will also help lower overall costs for keeping the railway open for the Northern Suburbs Commuter rail service.”

“Finally, if the railway line is removed, then there will be no chance for heritage rail operators such as the Tasmanian Transport Museum or the Derwent Valley Railway to operate their restored trains into Hobart. Potential tourism operations would be impossible.”

“As an example, few people would know that there was once a railway line from Bellerive to Sorell. No one would seriously consider building such a line now, despite the population being more than ten times greater than existed when the line was originally built. It shows us that once gone, it is gone forever. We cannot afford to lose our railway into Hobart.” finished Mr Rowallan.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Media Release


Light rail business case fails to show rail is cheapest option

Community-based public transport advocacy group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today criticized the final report of the Light Rail Business case as it does not demonstrate the cost effectiveness of rail versus other transport options in Hobart. Key elements of comparison with the cost of other transport options have been missed, thus failing to illustrate the full benefits of the proposal. FTT supports the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group’s assertions that many of the benefits of the railway are not quantified in the report and therefore do not count in the benefit cost ratio, thus decreasing the report’s validity.

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: “The railway proposal is about improving our transport options here in Hobart. At the moment people can only drive their car or catch a bus which can just as easily get caught up in any congestion along with the cars. What we now know is that the cost of a commuter rail service is far cheaper than any other option. We know that a busway will cost at least $120 million simply to pull up the railway track and put concrete down. To retain the railway along with a busway would cost even more. Alternatively, putting an extra two lanes on the Brooker Highway will also carry an astronomically higher cost.”

“The Light Rail has to have a business case to justify its potential existence and yet there have not been any economic studies into the net cost versus benefit ratios of any of the recent major highway projects, the total cost of which is already over $300 million. We can be confident that putting an extra two lanes on the Brooker Highway would not only fail to significantly ease congestion but would certainly fail to get any return. It is extraordinary that the Department of Infrastructure can justify nearly $200 million for the Brighton Bypass, which does not have people paying a fare every time they use it, and does not provide a return on investment. Yet a commuter railway with paying passengers is somehow less acceptable and must justify itself, even though it will provide a much more tangible set of returns and will cost far less to construct.

“We acknowledge and thank Minister McKim for inviting us on to the Community Advisory Panel and we hope that he not only continues to support this proposal but sees it through to construction. If he wants to ensure that Hobart has a sustainable transport future, there is no doubt that this proposal is the most cost effective of all of the options. It is greatly disappointing to us that the report does not reflect this and that people are focussing on the capital cost. But by comparison with other light rail projects in Australia it is cheap, and even in the context of the Tasmanian State budget it is not unaffordable. The State Government may not want to go into debt but in terms of a positive capital investment we believe this is a justifiable case to do so.”

“If we had to choose which option should we pursue for transport in the Northern Suburbs we have the choice of more highway, a busway or a railway. The railway is already there and is the cheapest and most cost effective, efficient and safe option. It is not nearly so high risk as the other options. Whatever Mr McKim decides, FTT believes it should be in terms of how to secure funding, not whether or not the project should proceed,” finished Mr Rowallan.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Car vs Bus

A great letter from Metro Tasmania CEO Heather Haselgrove in today's Mercury.

She writes in response to a letter by a member of the public claiming it is cheaper to travel by car from Kingston to Hobart.

(letter abridged)

"As the writer says, comparisons need to count all the costs as accurately as possible. When you use a Greencard, the cost of a Metro full adult fare for the weekly return trip from Kingston reduces to $36.80, due to the 25 percent bonus credit you receive. Independent information available from the RACT shows that the weekly cost of driving a car from Kingston to Hobart and return is significantly higher. Based on the RACT information, to the (MOP's) estimated average of $21 a week for fuel, you must add $2 per week for tyres, $6 per week for annual service and $39 per week for registration, insurance and stamp duty. That comes to a total of $68 per week. On top of that, many would need to add about $40 per week for parking.

Presently services from Kingston during the peak commuting times of 7.10am until 8.30am run about every seven or eight minutes. In the evenings, services from Hobart to Kingston run about every 15 minutes. I think this clearly demonstrates that, both in terms of cost and convenience, the Metro service is miles ahead.

Of course we always strive to do things better and Metro will soon take posession of four new buses which will help improve the quality of services and address any overcrowding."

Heather Haselgrove

CEO, Metro Tasmania

So as the lady says, catching the bus could save you plenty of dollars!

Check out http://www.metrotas.com.au/ for more information on Metro bus services.

After all, the first thing any of us who want more and better public transport can do is - CATCH THE BUS!

MEDIA RELEASE from last month

Saturday 5th March 2011


Four-lane Midland Highway will not solve Tasmania’s infrastructure problems

Community-based public and transport advocacy group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today acknowledged the new chair of the Tasmanian Infrastructure Advisory Council (TIAC), Philip Clark AM has a big job ahead him, and criticised governments for ignoring rail funding over politically weighted road projects. FTT believes that it is time for the massive imbalance of road funding versus rail to end, and for rail to be given priority.

FTT acknowledged that the TIAC will be looking at a number of options but does not believe that rail is a single project, but should become the priority area, as it is so deficient compared to the state’s roads.

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: “A four lane Midland Highway will not cost two billion dollars, not four billion but eight billion dollars by the time it is finished. The Brighton Bypass alone is going to cost over $300 million and it is only a comparatively small section, so it is easy to see the potential costs blow out. Further massive road infrastructure spending is good money virtually thrown away. For two billion dollars we could have the best railway network in the country if not comparable to the world’s best, with fast passenger trains from Hobart to Launceston, several times per day, that would take perhaps an hour.”

“At the moment some people are saying they want a four-lane highway because of safety, because of potholes, because of heavy trucks and other slow traffic. What we read into that is that people want to be able to drive fast or at least get to their destination fast. What we are saying is that for far less than the cost of a four-lane highway we could have a rail service that is far faster than the road, so that all of the slow traffic and all of the heavy freight would be on the rail. The added benefit would be that it is far safer if you are fatigued, you would be on the train and you would get there faster. On the train it would be much safer, more comfortable and relaxed. Freight trains would be much faster and would be much more competitive with the trucks. So there would be less heavy trucks pounding the highway into a crumble and so the government would save on highway maintenance, currently almost $60 million per year.”

“The only clear benefit from a four lane highway would be the highway maintenance department and those who like to drive their cars very fast. With the reality of peak oil looming large on the near horizon, with the extremely high fuel prices that will come, building more highways is nothing short of insanity. Many may say that the car manufacturers will rise to the occasion and build hydrogen cars and electric cars. This may well be true, but there has been no work done on a potential change-over of millions of cars around the world suddenly becoming obsolete and needing to be replaced. Tasmania could be prepared for this but it is not. It is time for that to change,” finished Mr Rowallan.

Contacting Future Transport Tasmania

For further information:
Toby Rowallan (secretary) 0418 997 069

Mailing address:
Future Transport Tasmania
Bathurst St. Post Office
PO Box 4515
Hobart 7000