Letters to the editor

January 30, 2018

The National Visitor Survey showed just one per cent of domestic overnight visitors came to the Goulburn River Valley region by train last financial year.

A place for rail and road

- Rodney Champness, Mooroopna

I agree with Robert McLean on his expose of transport systems, particularly with the poor standards of our rail networks as written about in Monday’s Shepparton News.

Despite the claims from various governments they are pouring millions into the railways, they are pouring billions into road transport by comparison.

There is a place for rail and road transport of passengers and freight.

Rail is best at providing high volume, heavy loads usually across longer distances (metropolitan passenger services are better by train), while road transport is better at providing feeder services.

It is better to use road transport from Wodonga to Corryong rather than rail due to the size of the traffic and the high cost of running a rail service, which would be under-used no matter how much it could be used.

By comparison, it would be stupid to even think of not using railways to transport the millions of tonnes of iron ore in the Pilbara.

However, by neglecting to bring our rail system into the 21st century, the use of the railways by passengers or for freight transport is much lower than it should because of the many problems we so often hear about or experience.

Issues such as unscheduled delays, air-conditioning not working, poor timetabling, speed restrictions, low overall scheduled speeds by the trains, different rail gauges and more.

Because we are forced to use road transport more than we should, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy the rail network is unimportant and ‘‘obsolete’’.

However, other countries such as Japan have a very good, fast train system.

We could learn many things about getting a better rail system in Australia if we seriously looked at what other countries do and adapt the methods in Australia.

It could be more important to have better railway systems if, as many suggest, we are into an era of significantly hotter temperatures with global climate change.

Whether this is man-made or not is beside the point.

There is a lot that can be said about railways and why they have problems.

I will give one example of something that went backward in some ways.

Do you remember the ‘clunk-d-clunk-d-clunk’ sound as trains travelled along the tracks many years ago?

The rails in earlier times were in specific lengths and had a small gap between the ends of each rail.

As the trains went along, the characteristic ‘clunk-d-clunk’ was heard as the train wheels went across each of the gaps at the end of the rail.

To overcome the problem of the noise and the extra wear at the end of the rails, it was decided to weld the ends of the rails together.

Much quieter and no excess wear.

A good solution? Well, not quite — you will notice on hot days the speed of trains is reduced because the steel rails expand and cause the line to buckle.

In times gone by when it was hot the gaps in the rails closed but there was no buckling.

Even looking at just this one thing could improve trains meeting travel times.

I wonder if anything is being done about this.

Overseas trains do not appear to have this problem and they have quite high temperature changes just as we do.

Public transport of any type needs to be made more accessible and suitable.

It is not all that easy to take your weekly grocery shopping on many forms of public transport.

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