by Peter Kain
This research report from the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Economics looks at the 'opportunities, challenges and impediments' to improving rail patronage by upgrading existing routes rather than constructing dedicated high speed lines.
The report considers the various reasons for improving services, including the encouragement of regional development, modal shift to relieve congestion and complementing aviation policy. A broad selection of local and international case studies is used to illustrate the range of options and their effectiveness in meeting objectives.
Upgrading options are considered in terms of infrastructure, rolling stock and service quality, allied to effective marketing strategies. The author argues that travellers are looking for 'a comfortable, accessible and dependable service', and the perceived quality of service is related less to the maximum speed than to the overall journey time and convenience of use.
He notes that 'upgrading is not necessarily a panacea for severe train service competitiveness', as competing modes may also improve their offer. Enhanced services may also bring higher life-cycle costs for maintaining the upgraded infrastructure in good condition. Thus 'there is no rule-of-thumb "best" upgrade option', as the effectiveness, scope and cost varies between projects, locations and travel markets.
Department of Infrastructure & Regional Development, GPO Box 501, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
Also available as a PDF download from www.bitre.gov.au