Fast Rail for the Adelaide Hills

May 6, 2018

A recent front page of the Mt Barker Courier (21 Feb 2018) canvased a fast rail service to the Adelaide Hills and Southern Fleurieu from the Adelaide CBD. The headline idea is for a $1B fast rail service that could take passengers from Mt Barker to the city in 20 minutes following a new route through the Brownhill Creek area and down the centre of the Freeway with stops at Stirling and Hahndorf. It could then continue to Strathalbyn and then Victor Harbour and/or Murray Bridge.

While the $1B price tag is fanciful there is a lot of merit in the idea of bringing a passenger train back to the Hills. The article also canvassed slower but cheaper options costing between $50M and $350M and providing incremental benefits.

For those of you not old enough to remember, there used to be a passenger train service along the current freight corridor to Bridgewater. This closed in 1987, mainly due to the length of time that it took to get to the CBD along the meandering track through Belair National Park and the Mitcham Hills area. There is obviously still a freight line through the Hills, but the new government was elected on a promise to develop a rail freight bypass of the Hills, taking freight trains of Hills lines.

This provides an opportunity to bring a passenger train service back into the Hills on or near the existing rail freight corridor using new tilting train technology. This would allow trains to travel much faster and overcome the uncompetitive time taken by the former Bridgewater service.

A new high-speed passenger train service to the Adelaide Hills with stops in Adelaide Hills Council townships such as Stirling and Bridgewater would unambiguously benefit businesses and residents of the Adelaide Hills Council area. As the article states, fast rail would “…deliver a “renaissance in rail” that could drive economic growth, tourism and affordable living across the Hills and beyond.” Along with reducing traffic from the increasingly congested South Eastern Freeway during peak periods, the rail service would boost tourism in the Hills and would link Hill residents with major regional service centres such as Mt Barker and Strathalbyn.

The Adelaide Hills Council must join with other councils (in particular Mt Barker) and the State Government to explore this proposal in detail and develop a full business case for a fast rail in order to receive Federal Government support and funding. The Federal Government already has an interest in this area and it is only through the complacency of governments in our region that there is not a serious proposal on the table.

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Toxic Waste

September 14, 2010

Recently I came across the Hazardous Waste Landfill at Kölliken, Switzerland. This toxic waste dump located in a residential area was operated between 1978 and 1985 and served as the dumping ground for the local chemical industry. It was operated until it was discovered that waste was contaminating the local water supply. Re-mediation efforts began in 1986 and are scheduled to be complete by 2015. Among other technological innovations,  the re-mediation effort has resulted in the construction over the site of the second-largest wide span hall in Europe with a negative internal air pressure to prevent further contamination of surrounding areas. It is interesting to note that the site operated as a dump for just 8 years, yet by the time it will have been re-mediated back to it’s natural state it will have taken almost 30 years.

In Australia this would be seen as a stuff-up of the most extreme kind and a source of shame and anguish – like the Wittenoom Asbestos mine in Western Australia. However in Switzerland there seems to be a form of perverse pleasure and almost a celebration of the technological achievements that have resulted (through necessity) from the re-mediation effort. At a recent open day, visitors even posed for photographs in a dummy chemical protection suite. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself, the photos are posted on the web.

I don’t know how to take this – it is both funny and sad at the same time. There is also a sense of delight that so many technological advances can come from such an environmental disaster. Let’s hope that this sort of stupid disaster and other debacles like Wittenoom and the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, never happen again.