Noises are being made about high speed rail links in Australia again, and once again focus has begun on the Newcastle-Sydney leg of any such system. I assume this is both because of the density of the population, but also because the endless dormitory suburbs and above ground cemeteries of the Central Coast lend themselves to being marginal electorates.
I’m a veteran of countless trips on the existing Cityrail service, so I had plenty of time to consider the topic. Economic/financial feasibility yes, all good and dandy, but then onto a more exciting physical issue.
Where do you put the damn thing?
The Hawkesbury sandstone country that divides the Central Coast and Sydney is pretty rugged. Essentially everything is either a steep slope or water. The result is that the existing railway line and the old Pacific Highway are extremely circuitous (albeit picturesque) – not great for a high speed train. The alternative is to blast your way through the sandstone like they did with the F3. This isn’t too appealing to many advocates of rail, since they overlap so greatly with conservationists. Additionally, it just feels crude, and inelegant. Why have rail when it acts so gauche? Tunneling under the entire thing or skipping around it would probably rob the project of feasibility.
My solution – put it on top of the F3, an elevated track standing on the median strip. It takes a straightish route without having to gouge more out of the landscape, and it also has the benefit of providing its own advertising as the trains race past commuters who have chosen to drive. On the other hand, it will still be prone to the bushfires that periodically close the three existing routes and isolate Sydney, and temporarily closing a lane on the F3 will provide months of whinging vox pops for lazy media.
But it sounds nifty.