The railways as it is known today actually originated in England, in the early 19th century, and were specifically designed for mines both in England and on the European continent.
Most countries that went about developing a railway system was essentially carried out by private enterprise who received a substantial amount of monetary assistance from the government.
Railway development in Australia was hampered because each state decided to lay track that was considered best for the state and each state went about laying track that was of different gauges, which resulted in freight and passengers having to be transshipped from one line to another, which then hindered the railway development in Australia.
By the mid-20th century the railway lines in countries such as England and the USA together with other western European nations began to ditch branch lines that were considered unviable.
Western Australia began to ditch their unviable branch lines that were unviable in 1984 after cyclone Alby
In contrast to the English and USA, Russia, China, Japan, Canada and Australia were building new lines, where they were double, dual or electrified.
At the same time Australia began rectifying the problem that had been cause by each state having different rail gauges, and the Commonwealth Railways built several standard gauge lines, and the most important line that was built was between Port Pirie in south Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia crossing the Nullabor plains, and at that time was the longest straight stretch of rail track in the world without any curves, and still is the longest straight stretch of rail track in the world today.
Diesel locomotives were later developed and replaced the steam engine, and improved safe working system being the Centralised Traffic Control system abbreviated to CTC in railway parlance. The CTC system is an extremely efficient way of controlling train operations, and another development was the advent and use of continuous welded rail, which improved the track so as there, is a much smoother ride and costs less to maintain.
In most countries like the USA and England the steam locomotive was being replaced by the Diesel-electric locomotive or diesel at it is commonly referred to.
Pressure from other modes of transport in particular the road motor vehicle being trucks and cars along with the high rise in wages, railway operators had to find a way to compete and improve their services, and the diesel locomotive offered more advantages in efficiency than the steam locomotive.
It was capable of traveling long distances before any maintenance was required, and return to its base depot, whereas the steam locomotive need constant maintenance at short intervals. The diesel locomotive is also able to haul a much larger payload than the steam locomotive and reach much higher speeds than the steam locomotive with less stress being placed on the railway line. The other advantage is that the diesel can also be used as what is known as a Multi-coupled, whereby two or more diesels can be used to haul a train of various lengths eliminating the need for bank engines to assist in climbing a steep gradient.
Throughout the 19th century other railway developments that began to develop within Australia and around the world were the electrification of major branch lines, especially in the United States.
Electric traction is considered the best viable and economical and efficient means of operating a railway on the proviso that there is enough cheap electricity available, and of course the traffic density whether that be freight or passengers that would justify the expense.
Electric trains have the distinct advantage of being capable of drawing their power to start a heavy laden train or climb a steep incline at a very high speed.
The other distinct advantages of electric trains are that they are quite in comparison to the diesel locomotive and their maintenance costs are low and they have a longer life than the diesel locomotive.
The distinct disadvantage of Electric trains is that the initial capital costs are very high and the maintenance costs of fixed infrastructure is an ongoing phenomenal ongoing process, and the other minor disadvantage is that electric trains cannot go beyond their trolley wires.
The other major disadvantage of electric motor power is that expensive substations are needed at several locations and the overhead wires have to be quite large and heavy.
One of the most famous and renowned diesel railcars in Western Australia is the Australind which was introduced in 1987 and replaced the diesel hauled Australind carriages that had been in service since 1947.
Since 2000 and beyond there has been several community outcries for the Australind to be upgraded or replaced with a VFT (Very Fast Train) routed along the Perth to Mandurah suburban electrified services and then follow the Forrest Highway terminating at the satellite town of Eaton near Bunbury.
However, apart from passenger traffic boarding a VFT at Eaton near Bunbury, the passenger traffic volume would be minimal and annual maintenance cost of a VFT and the cost of constructing an electrified per way and the huge investment needed to maintain such a service of this standard and the actual low traffic volume and profit would be insufficient for any private operator to even entertain such a fanciful idea.
To enable such a train to operate there would need to be a myriad of population densities along the Forrest Highway corridor, and in today’s day and age that is not going to happen along the proposed route.
Of course the route would have to be surveyed and a lot of heavy earth moving equipment would be needed to construct such a line, but it is just not economically viable to build a VFT train line between Mandurah and Bunbury routed along the Forrest Highway.
However, the Perth suburban electrification system should be extended to Mundijong and the line from Mundijong to Wellard which is currently used for freight services should have a sweeping curve connecting to the Mandurah Perth line, whereby the current Australind service could then be rerouted to Perth and sent back to Bunbury for maintenance purposed as required.
In the meantime a better rail car set could be built to replace the ageing Australind railcar set, and passengers who wanted to travel from Mundijong to Perth via Armadale would alight from the Australind at Mundijong and catch the suburban services.
So when we look at the overall effectiveness of the railway systems that have generated over many years the cost of building a VFT train line or per way whether it be electrified or diesel operated rail cars there would be some form of environment damage and this would also be case of making a connecting curve line to Perth via Mundijing and Wellard line. It also means that we as community minded members of society need to keep the environmental landscape benefits we leave for our children and grandchildren in our minds as we contemplate what services that we need and don’t need. Therefore we should not entertain any idea or proposal that would be environmentally destructive and we should use the infrastructure foundations that have already been laid down as opposed to building new railway corridors.
Any electrification can be added to the South West rail corridor at a later date between Mundijong and Bunbury as the inland towns such as Brunswick Junction, Harvey, Yarloop, Waroona and Pinjarra will eventually have the population density to engage a VFT between Bunbury and Perth per se.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 1982 15th Edition.
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Western_Australian_locomotive_classses accessed on Monday 19th May 2014 at 1400 WST