Speed is of the essence 

GEN Okajima would have loved to have caught the train to Goulburn’s transport forum last Thursday.

But the general manager of Japan’s Central Railway Company said it would have taken “twice as long as driving” from his Sydney office.

Mr Okajima, whose company runs the 515km long Tokaido Shinkansen rail line in Japan, said the day would have been very different had he jumped on a fast train for a 40-minute trip to Goulburn.

That may be some time off but for now, Mr Okajima, like others, is rattling the cage.

“I’m very excited to see high speed rail back on the government agenda and I hope it doesn’t derail again,” he told the Goulburn Soldiers Club gathering.

“My favourite saying is third time lucky.”

Mr Okajima was one of six speakers at the High Speed Rail and Freight Forum organised by Council and hosted by Mayor Geoff Kettle.

Some 100 people from the transport industry, local government, business and interested members of the community attended.

They were keen to hear about the Japanese experience and the Tokaido Shinkansen train, the world’s first high speed type which has operated since 1964.

Travelling at 330km/h the fastest train takes less than two and half hours to travel between termini at Tokyo and Shin-Osaka.

Today, operators run 323 services daily carrying 386,000 passengers, with an average delay of just 0.6 minutes, even during natural disasters, “It was said this would be a waste of money when the idea first came up,” Mr Okajima said.

“They had to borrow money and construction started in 1959…It has continued to grow to a point where it is a vital part of the international airport.”

The railway generated $3.2 billion in income before tax in the year to March 31, 2012. It does not rely on government subsidies for capital or operating costs.

Mr Okajima took the audience on imaginary journeys – a three-hour trip from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane and a 40 minute ride from Goulburn to Sydney, arriving for morning meetings, enjoying lunch and home by 1pm.

Along the way people could use WiFi, talk on mobiles, listen to music or simply sit back and enjoy the trip.

With Australia’s capital cities becoming more congested, improving the way people moved was essential for economic growth, he said.

He cited substantial boosts in tourism, business and infrastructure as a result of greater connectivity between communities in Japan.

Construction had boomed around key stations, creating “mini cities.”

Mr Okajima anticipated more medical specialists would visit Goulburn and enhanced educational opportunities.

On the environmental front, the fast train consumed one eighth of the energy eaten up by aircraft, thereby emitting fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

But Mr Okajima said the technology also faced challenges. It required on time running, moderate and stable ticket prices, dedicated tracks, a properly trained workforce of more than 10,000, comfort, low noise and cost effective construction.

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