Bass Strait Rail Transport Options
Victor P Taffa
Currently the Car Ferry that operates across Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania is full during peak season. A Rail Ferry that also operates across Bass Strait would increase investment in Tasmania and build the economies of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.
When discussing the idea of a Rail Ferry across Bass Strait to people, the comment that people make to me is
“Under the sea”
“No a Rail Ferry across Bass Strait”
In other words people conceive or others have mentioned the idea of a Rail Tunnel under Bass Strait.
My response is that unlike the Rail Tunnel between England and France, it is not economically feasible to build a Rail Tunnel under Bass Strait for a few main reasons:
- Australia: 22.68 Million (Year 2012)
- England: 53.01 Million (Year 2012)
- France: 65.7 Million (Year 2012)
- Average Depth: 180-240 Feet or 50-70 Metres
- Length: 120 Miles or 200 Km
- Maximum Width: 150 Miles or 240 Km
- Average Depth: 207 Feet or 63 Metres
- Length: 350 Miles or 560 Km
- Maximum Width: 150 Miles or 240 Km
The main argument against a Rail Tunnel is the difference in size of Australia’s population against that of England and France.
Both England and France are connected to countries with large population bases whereas Australia is not connected to countries with large population bases.
Bass Strait has rougher seas than The English Channel which can impact on the type of construction of a Rail Tunnel.
The cost to build a Rail Tunnel can be justified and recovered by England and France whereas a Rail Tunnel does not stack up in Australia’s case.
However a Rail Ferry can be justified and recovered by Australia against that of the cost of building a new Car Ferry.
Without access to actual figures a Rail Ferry could cost $500 Million to build.
Given the time that the Car Ferry takes to cross Bass Strait a Rail Tunnel may be more effective for Melbourne-Hobart High Speed Rail Services (HSR).
Melbourne-Hobart and Adelaide-Hobart HSR Services will be highly patronised based on current Air Travel figures that are available.
This does not take into account the cost of:
- Stabling Facilities at Williamstown and Devonport for Roll On-Roll Off operations.
- Building twin dual Broad/Narrow Electrified Railway Tracks for HSR on Concrete Sleepers for Devonport-Hobart.
- Upgrading Railway Stations for Devonport, Launceston or Hobart.
- Installing Signalling and Overhead Wiring for High Speed Rail Trains.
- Suburban and Freight Trains can use the High Speed Rail Tracks.
Editor Victor P Taffa’s preference is for a Rail Ferry across Bass Strait.
As Tram Cars can be conveyed on the Rail Ferry between South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania costs of reintroducing Trams to Tasmania would be reduced.
Trams last operated in Hobart on 24 October, 1960.
The idea of reintroducing Trams/Light Rail to Tasmania is a matter that many people support.
While a Rail Ferry across Bass Strait may not be Government Policy at present as so often is the case in politics new ideas takes time to take root.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge opened on 19 March 1932 however noted Architect Francis Greenway first raised the idea of a Bridge from the North to the South as early as 1815.
It is to be hoped that a Rail Ferry across Bass Strait does not take 117 years to be realised.
Similarly the Alice Springs-Darwin (Palmerston only) Railway took 120 years to be built.
Similarly the Eastern Suburbs (Truncated) Railway in Sydney took 100 years to be built.
People would support the idea of a Rail Ferry across Bass Strait and the economic benefits to South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania will more than justify the cost of construction.
When Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in 2000 a lot of facilities and infrastructure were constructed and the benefits that Sydney experienced continued long after the Games concluded.
A thorough investigation of a Rail Ferry service across Bass Strait should be looked at by Government in the first instance.