Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Can Australia sustain two parallel competing rail networks? Part One

For the last twenty years the national focus for Australian interstate rail operations has been a single mutli-user network with the choice of just one corridor down the east coast and the choice of two between Sydney and Adelaide. The argument made throughout the implementation of the open access regime and continuing to the present, is that Australia is not large enough to sustain more than one national rail network. This belief is true in respect to the construction of an entirely new network overlaying existing corridors, but it  is a misrepresentation of just what the existing Australian economy could sustain. So the day after Australia welcomed its 23-millionth resident, lets look at the economic demands on the Australian interstate system.

Today it's the big picture - with a GDP of $1.57-trillion Australia is now the 12th largest economy in the world, and it just so happens the 11th is Canada (with a GDP of $1.84-trillion). Now Canada offers an interesting comparison to Australia. Its resource economy is similar to Australia's, as is its periods of settlement and rail construction. Unlike Australia, Canada has essentially been a two network country since the end of World War One when several bankrupt private roads were folded together to become Canadian National to compete on the same corridors as long term private operator Canadian Pacific. In this respect Canada has the advantage of two legacy networks that Australia cannot hope to replicate in the present day, but Canada does prove that at times when its GDP was the same as Australia's, it could sustain two parallel networks.

So what does this mean? It means another post tomorrow.


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