It’s easy to see why. When it comes to carbon emissions, fast rail is far superior to other modes of transport. A trip from London to Paris on the Eurostar for example produces 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than the equivalent short haul flight.
Building fast rail here will be carbon intensive, but it will reduce our long-term carbon footprint. The transport sector produces a whopping 47 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Fast rail will be an important part of the equation that gets us to net zero emissions by 2050.
The benefits don’t end there. All the evidence suggests that improving transportation between regions with fast rail is a catalyst for economic growth. Providing people with a fast, reliable transportation alternative between towns and cities improves access to housing and job markets and encourages industries to invest in setting up in the regions. It also reduces car dependency.
Fast rail is one of the safest and most comfortable forms of transport. A train journey is over twenty times safer than travelling the same distance by car – not to mention less stressful with no queues, fewer delays, time to unwind and all the leg room you could want.
How we spend our time is how we spend our lives. Traveling by fast rail gives agency back to people – letting them spend their time in freer, more creative and productive ways. It does away with suffering under the time-wasting pressure of bumper-to-bumper traffic and needing to be singularly focussed on driving safely.
Building the iron horse was a tricky task in Julius Vogel’s time. And it will be the same with 21st century fast rail. But luckily, we won’t be starting from scratch and can leverage an array of digital tools, design and construction methodologies.
Thanks to digital tech, we can model what fast rail will look like early in the design process. By using virtual models, we can keep tabs on materials, monitor carbon impact and foresee issues that could cause delays - helping save time and costs.
Aotearoa already has 4,000 kilometres of rail line. Some of this will suit fast rail; some will need to be modernised; some new corridors may need to be developed – another opportunity to spur economic development, build more regional housing and accommodate our growing population.
While we might not be building at the scale of China, where 40,000 kilometres of fast rail connect all major towns and cities, we can look to other countries for inspiration on how best to realise a fast rail custom designed for Aotearoa.
Not before time. Taking a cue from days of old, it’s more important than ever that rail again becomes the country’s transport connector of choice. In our future, we can.