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What The Hills?!

Transcript - What's the plan for Reconnecting Rail?

Jun 25, 2022

Voiceover: Welcome to What the Hills. With a lifetime of living, here we are, Adelaide Hills locals just like you. That's why What the Hills is your program for the Adelaide Hills. We focus on the stories from the place where you live. And now here's your host, Kimberley Franklin.

Kimberley: There's been a lot of talk over the past couple of years about the need for a commuter rail service between the Adelaide Hills and the metropolitan area. On the surface, the idea sounds like a good one. Get cars off the freeway and give people a stress free way to get to work on convenient public transport. But when you start to think about it, all sorts of problems arise, from where to put the track to how we'll get from our homes to the closest railway station. One person who's thought a lot about these problems is Douglas McCarty.

 His career has given him an unique insight into the issues and the solutions, and he thinks he's come up with a plan that could see us all catching trains to town within five years.

Kimberley: On What the Hills This week, I'm talking to Douglas McCarty, who is going to tell us all about some plans that he has for reconnecting rail in the Adelaide Hills, and more particularly, in Mount Barker. Hello, how are you doing?

Douglas: Hello, how are you?

Kimberley: I'm great.  Well, let's find out a little bit about you to start with. You're obviously quite interested in transport and rail in the Adelaide Hills, but you've got a couple of other interests, too.

Douglas: Well, that's true. I've been involved in a few things that are going on with the Mount Barker Council and the development of this area, having been a resident here for 25 plus years now. And most of it stems from my checkered history.   I graduated in civil engineering from Sydney University way back, then I went to London or England a year after that, and I was working with … Partners and mycolleagues in the Research and Development Department had just come back from getting the prizes for the glass walls on the opera house.

Kimberley: Oh, okay.

Douglas: So it was a very august company and far over my head, but they kept me on for some strange reason for another five years. Then I came back to Adelaide.  I actually spent a year in London training as a secondary teacher. Didn't use that to start well, I did a little bit of teaching to start with. Then I went into work for Australian National Railways as a design construction maintenance engineer for a decade. Then Adelaide University in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Then back into high school.

Kimberley: Teaching from university to high school. That's a big change in everything, really, isn't it?

Douglas: I was lucky because my wife was a very experienced and very talented secondary teacher. English and drama. So, apart from fact, I've built an awful lot of play sets.  I sort of absorbed the educational lifestyle in that time we lived together and it wasn't too hard, fortunately, and initially I was working in schools close to where she was working at the time and yeah. So we sort of  knew our way around the traps. I don't know if the students thought so much. I felt that way.

Kimberley: As long as you were comfortable.

Douglas: Yeah, it was lovely. It was Mount Barker High, Oakbank, Birdwood, yeah.

Kimberley: All around the local area. And so it sounds like you've got a pretty good background to be discussing this kind of topic. And it's not just with me. You've been talking to the whole community about this and trying to get some interest and educate people about what our options might be.

Douglas: Well, that's been the intention. It was only a year ago that the state government is saying there's no way we could build a railway to Mount Barker because it would cost us $6 billion. And if you try really hard, you could find an option that would cost $6 billion. And in fact, there were people touting to do it. This didn't seem right for me because I was working in the district engineer's office for this area. So one of my first jobs in the railways was actually to come up here and check out a smelly creek that was being blamed on the railway system without noting that the actual stream flowed from the abattoirs.

Kimberley: A little bit easy to find.

Douglas: It was my first visit to Mount Barker, and then I've  done bridge repairs and housing renovations and all kinds of things as part of the railway infrastructure. Right through the hills and up into the mid north as well as well as working on the standardization project.

Kimberley: Yeah.

Douglas: Okay, so, yes, I know the area, I've worked in it. I've also now lived here for a very long time and, of course, I've also in that life experience, had, various experiences of actually working and living using, rail systems, whether it was going to school in university in Sydney or whether it was catching the Tube to work in London on a holiday using the New York subway. We've been around. And then when we moved to Adelaide, we first lived in Semaphore when the train used to come right down to the jetty. And so I was commuting to work from Semaphore by the old Red Hen back, in the day.

Kimberley: I can imagine that all of those that you listed would be wildly different experiences from the Red Hens to the Tube to New York.

Douglas: Yes, they were totally different experiences. Breadth of experience is a good idea now.

Kimberley: I've got a vague memory from early childhood of catching a train with my grandma and it may have been Mount Barker to town. Is that something that might have happened?

Douglas: absolutely

Kimberley: Okay, so tell me a bit about the history of rail in Mount Barker, because if it was in my lifetime, and now we don't have it, what's happened?

Douglas: Well, it came into existence, really as one of those federation projects where, the mainland state capitals were being connected by rail. And so the line, I think, went as far as the wealthy residences at Mount Lofty to start with. It was continued further east, and on through Balhannah  to Nairne, to Murray Bridge, and then down to the border to Serviceton. And at Serviceton, if anyone is going that way, just pull off the road and go to the old Serviceton railway station. It's an absolute gem of a station. I think it's got the second longest platform in Australia after one of the Spencer Street ones.

Kimberley: Wow.

Douglas: And it was built for transshipping of freight and passengers from the South Australian railways onto the Victorian railways to continue that journey through to Melbourne. And that was in about 1890s. And during that time, someone came up with the bright idea, let's connect Mount Barker, this little village of Mount Barker, to the main line, and we'll continue it down the hill to Strathalbyn and on to Goolwa and Victor Harbor.

Kimberley: That’s a lovely idea.

Douglas: Yes. The first railways, of course, in South Australia were from Goolwa to Victor Harbor to transship freight from the barges to the port. So, that connection in about mid 90s began the passenger service from Mount Barker into the city. It continued merrily along on its way until, the wave of, well, let's say, neoliberalism in the 1990s, at an earlier stage, when Gough Whitlam came to power, he put out a call to say, it's silly to have all these different gauges in Australia. Let's have one rail system.

Kimberley: They should have done that at the start.

Douglas: So would anyone like to contribute their rail systems to the Commonwealth? And at the time, even now, that's a pretty terrific initiative. And it was Don Dunstan who took up the offer and said, South Australia is in. It was very helpful for the South Australian budget as well, of course, because it was an expensive system to keep. But it went all over the state and it shifted the grain harvest, and also country passengers all around the state, as well as lots of other things, like, the Penrice service to Outer Harbor, bringing, down the lead and zinc from Broken Hill and so on and so forth, as well as all those small lines over on the Eyre Peninsula, which I remember a three foot six gauge, but different again from the broad gauge.

Kimberley: Different again. Crazy that they let that happen. But I guess when different railways are built at different times by different interests.

Douglas: And by different engineers, too. And so, dare we bring this up? But the standard gauge, that four foot eight and a half, was a British gauge, but was adopted in a lot of places, usually where the British colonies went. But in Australia, we had some railway engineers who were of an Irish background and the Irish age was five foot three. Okay, so now we have our various gauges 1614, 35, I think it is, the number escapes me. I haven't used it too often, but standard gauge and broad gauge are the two. So, that's the history of it all. But, as I say, the railways shifted into ownership in south to the Convolution and I was working with it just around about that time. And then they began the dramatic work of extending the standard gauge so there was less interchange. And that proceeded at various times.  One of the inconveniences, of course, was this passenger service that ran through to Mount Barker and beyond because that was narrow gauge and the rest of the suburban system was broad gauge. But what they wanted was, of course, standard gauge track. By various devices, they were able to reduce the patronage. And eventually in about 1994 thereabouts, I think the last passenger service left Mount Barker. And it was shortly after that the last passenger service left Bridgewater and the broad gauge suburban service was converted to a single line just as far as Belair. And so, yes, you were cut off. One of my early memories was actually catching the train from Adelaide to Victor Harbor.

Kimberley: Yes.  and a lovely day out.

Douglas: And a lovely day out. Yes. What an easy way to get to the seaside. So, yes that  was one of the delights of the time.

Kimberley: Well, I'm glad my memory is correct. But, of course, we don't have a passenger train service now and Mount Barker - not just the town, but the entire district is growing so rapidly at the moment and there's a lot of growth yet to come that's caused a few issues with transport, especially passenger transport with so many people who live here in this wonderful place to live. But they've still got their jobs in town. So we're traveling down to town for work, for entertainment, for shopping and to visit family, all sorts of other things. So it seems to me that the freeway just isn't quite cut out to do everything that we want it to do anymore.

Douglas: Well, I certainly don't think it was designed for the level of population that's become a feature since 2010 when the rezoning took place. And as you say, that's continuing our pace right through the district, whether it's Mount Barker or Meadows or Nairne or Littlehampton or whatever. So all those places now have a lot of people commuting not necessarily all commuting to the centre of the city. So there's still going to be a need for complementary transport options. Some people will have to drive their cars because it would take them an enormous amount of time if they were having to travel by public transport and having to go into the middle of the city and then back out again because of the particular configuration of our public transport system, some would have that alleviated because busses can take devious routes around the town and that would be convenient for them. And it's really building on that complementary nature that public transport should have. That's where the rail fits in because it provides another service which connects up to, well, not only the city, but also other areas around the city on the way through. And that would become clear when we explain where those railway stations might be and the connections that should be available. And that's one of the reasons where some of the stations are. So that there is that interconnectivity throughout. Okay, so with an expanding population, a restriction on the freeway at the tunnels because you can't get much bigger.

Kimberley: No, we can't expand the tunnels. They are still fresh and new.

Douglas: A certain frequency of traffic accidents on the road.

Kimberley: And we all know what happens when there's just one crash at Bridgewater. Everyone's late for work.

Douglas: That's right. And it's also not a stress free trip. I mean I'm as good as anyone of wanting to go 110 wherever I can. But that means I've got to keep a very alert look out for the red lights ahead or the breaking ahead or the people putting their indicators on at short notice or whatever.

Kimberley: Or not putting them on.

Douglas: Or not putting them on. That's true. So all that requires a level, of concentration that you don't get when you're traveling on public transport and the drivers doing all that work.

Kimberley: That's right. You just sit back and read your book.

Douglas: Now, I added a further dimension to that. Having taken the bus to town on a couple of occasions recently. It's not a particularly relaxing environment. Still not a particularly comfortable environment.

Kimberley: It's not nice.

Douglas: And it's a very stop, start environment. So there is also a whole level of quality that is available on rail transport that you don't simply don't get on a bus. And I think that's an important factor, especially, after hard day’s work because it's quite nice to just relax.

Kimberley: on the train, get yourself home. And by the time you arrive at home, you've done all of that relaxing you're out of the office so you can get into your family time.

Douglas: That's right.

Kimberley: So, with this plan that you have for passenger rail to take us to and from the city, the suburbs, tell us what that looks like.

Douglas: Okay? Now, the first thing is we have to think of it as more multifaceted than the UBut. Let's be super quick. Let's hop in on Adelaide Station and hop out at Mount Barker Station. That was the 6 billion, dollar plan.

Kimberley: Okay.

Douglas: But it wasn't, actually, I don't think, a plan that was very useful for people other than a very small minority. What I think we have to think of is in terms of how do we service the Mount Barker community, growing Mount Barker and also Hills communities with a service, that you can walk to.

Kimberley: That'd be nice.

Douglas: Yes. Or you can cycle to if you're a bit more athletic and you've got the Lycra, or even without the Lycra.

Kimberley: Yes.

Douglas: If you can comfortably, in ten or 15 minutes, cycle to a railway station, put your bike in a locker, or take it on the train. That's one of the other advantages of trains. Then, that can be  a more convenient situation than having to drive and park and then get on at a centralized railway station. So that colored my thinking to say what we need is a combination. We need a suburban rail system through Mount Barker, where there's a number of stops and people can walk to them because they're close to home.

Kimberley: That makes sense.

Douglas: Our cycle or what have you.

Kimberley: Yeah.

Douglas: Then once you leave, Mount Barker, or Littlehampton even, there are a number of stations on the way that are fairly spaced out. And these are, if you like, country rail. So if we stopped at Balhannah and Bridgewater and Aldgate and possibly even Mount Lofty, then what we're doing is we're picking up on those communities semi rural communities along the line. And places like Balhannah are important because that could be a focus for everyone along the Onkaparinga Valley, even as far as Birdwood you could commute to Balhannah and hop on the train. So those options, I think, should be more a part of the rail system than with one stop Mount Barker. Done. Yes. Okay. Of course, the thing that links all these is the existing rail system, and most importantly, the existing rail corridor.

Kimberley: Yes, we have one.

Douglas: We have one. We don't have to go and buy land everywhere. And it's even got enough room on it to actually put up some nice parking stations for park and ride. So people can actually do a five minute car trip or a ten minute, 15-20 minutes car trip, and then get on the train in relative comfort, and similarly on the, return home. So we can do all that. And the plan that I've outlined had virtually no additional, land required. Yeah, there was one place in Heysen Boulevard I would have liked to have seen as a large park and ride facility. But we missed the boat. And the developers there have subdivided the land and, sold it off, as I understand. Which means we could still have a station, but we can't have the car facilities, the park and ride facilities that would have been quite useful.

Kimberley: There's a lot of houses packed into a reasonably small area there. So you’d hope that a lot of people would be able to walk.

Douglas: Oh, absolutely. That's right, yes.

Kimberley: Or take up that bike riding option.

Douglas: Or take up the bike riding. Or e-scooters.

Kimberley: We could see them all over town.

Douglas: Yes, that's right. So what we have after we leave Mount Lofty is then virtually the intercity service that goes from the hills to the city with a couple of stops on the way, which we need for passing trains on a single line track. And it's a single line track. because what I've envisaged doing is using the standard gauge line that exists.

Kimberley: That would be my next question. Would it be new line or existing line? So this is using the standard gauge.

Douglas: This is going on the standard gauge line, which is actually probably as good a rail track as you would find anywhere in Australia outside the Pilbara. Heavy duty rail, 60 kilogram rail for those who are in the know, concrete sleepers. Well,ballasted recently done up and able to take long and heavy freight trains but also short light rail cars, where you don't have to have 2 passing loops for one train to get past another. But you actually only need about 200 meters, because even on a six car configuration, they're only about 150 meters long. So that's the environment. And then when you look at the scheduled use of that line by the various contractors using it with the ARTC the Australian Rail Track Corporation, on average, about eight trains a day. That's counting both ways in 24 hours, and quite a number of those are at night. I know that doesn't delight the people around Blackwood particularly, but that's the way the freight services work. Very few in actual peak hour. So a little bit of shuffling. It's quite possible to integrate our passenger service into that freight service without significant delays to either.

Kimberley: So we can just fit our passenger trains into the little gaps, put them onto the side while the big freight train goes past, and then continue on merrily into town.

Douglas: Well, I think it seems remarkably logical, actually, to use an existing asset. And of course, what that means is it doesn't cost very much.

Kimberley: You keep anticipating my questions, because my next question was, what is all this going to cost? Clearly not the $6 billion.

Douglas: No. When you use the existing rail transport, there will be some extra track work required, but there will also be a lot of work required to repair the railway stations that have either been destroyed or fallen into disrepair.

Kimberley: They've just been neglected over decades.

Douglas: Absolutely. And maybe extended. I think I need to put another 25 metres onto the northern end of the Mount Barker platform to make it metro acceptable.  but we could do that quite comfortably.

Kimberley: There's space there for that.

Douglas: There's space there for that. We will need new railway stations at various places and some of those will have to connect into the metro stations, particularly Blackwood and Goodwood is my other preferred station. And then there's some track work required to get a standard gauge line into Adelaide Railway Station.

Kimberley: because the suburban trains don't use standard gauge.

Douglas: They don't.

Kimberley: Okay.

Douglas: But if we were to take a standard track right through to the jail, what they call the triangle, the jail, the, Adelaide. Why, in other pilots, we could take, one standard gauge line over onto some of the broad gauge lines that take the Belair line, which become double track into the railway station and make those dual gauge. In other words, add an extra rail and you can have both broad gauge and standard gauge using the same track, same track alignment, and take that into, say, about three platforms at Adelaide railway station. And we have access and we're in. That's all very doable. That's the track work side, the infrastructure side, if you like, the stations and so forth. There's also some signaling and bits and pieces like that to look after. But all those come up to a very tasty little number, which is around about $162,000,000.

Kimberley: Now, that seems like a lot of money in my bank account. But how does it compare with other big transport projects that have gone on around Adelaide over the last few years?

Douglas: Okay, I'm not saying we shouldn't do this, but if we looked at the freeway access into Hahndorf.

Kimberley: Yes.

Douglas: The budget for that is $250,000,000.

Kimberley: Okay. And your number was?

Douglas: $162,000,000.

Kimberley: That's not as much.

Douglas: That's not as much. And even if you add on some money for the rail cars, this is the cheap version, converting the 3000 class rail cars to standard age, we're looking at another $45 million for that. About a million dollars each car to refurbish.

Kimberley: Still, in my calculations, not as much as the Hahndorf interchange.

Douglas: No, it's not. Okay, we might like to compare that with the electrification of the Gawler line.

Kimberley: Let's do that.

Douglas: Okay, that cost $842,000,000.

Kimberley: That's even more.

Douglas: That's even more. Now, $70 million of that was for new rolling stock, new electric cars. And that would make the 3000 class available. But we might be interested in doing the same sort of thing for the Mount Barker line, some new carriages on the Mount Barker line. And I'm suggesting that instead of diesel, we go to hydrogen fuel cell battery, electric.

Kimberley: Very modern.

Douglas: Very modern. In fact, they're being introduced in Europe. They have no pollution output except a bit of water. We can use the hydrogen that's going to come out of the Whyalla Hydrogen plant.

Kimberley: There we go.

Douglas: Keeping it all in South Australia. It's a new technology in Australia that would put us, and certainly industry in South Australia at the forefront. These cars could be built in Australia because the companies that build them in Europe and around the world actually have production facilities in Australia.  Dandenong, and what have, you Ballarat, I think, as well. So that would add to our price. It might bring it up to $317, $320,000,000. But you can see it's still. This is actually restoring a whole service. This isn't just converting one over. This is restoring a whole service that currently doesn't exist.

Kimberley: Restoring and really modernized and very much modernizing it.

Douglas: Because with these new rail cars being electric very little noise.

Kimberley: Yeah, well, that's what I was about to ask. So you're doing it again, anticipating all my questions. For those of us who live near the interstate rail line, and there's passenger and freight trains, they are loud. They clickety clack loudly. They toot loudly. You hear the engine running, you hear the brakes and whatever other noises they're making. And of course, they do come through at all hours. For those people who will be living near these far more frequent trains, the passenger service that will be going up and down, what sort of noise can they expect?

Douglas: Well, I can't give you decibels, but it certainly is a very much quieter than any of those freight trains.

Kimberley: So it won't be like having a freight train going past 20 times a day.

Douglas: If people wanted to find out, they could stand next to one of the electric trains covers passed on the Gawler line. I don't know if people have experienced this in the state where they've been next to electric trains in Melbourne or Sydney or wherever. Everywhere else, they are very quiet. There's not silent, but they're very quiet, relatively. I'll just flag the good news.

Kimberley: Tell us good news.

Douglas: Yeah, there are initiatives of foot, in America to actually convert their main freight locomotives. Or at least there are tests going ahead to the same sort of system. Hydrogen fuel cell, battery, electric, because diesel locomotive is actually an electric locomotive with a big diesel generator on board. So if you generate the electricity silently.

Kimberley: You don't have that noise pollution. We all know about the smoke that comes from diesel.

Douglas: We don't have diesel fumes.

Douglas: That's right. In some of them have been very inventive and saying, okay, you know how the old steam engine used to have a tender, behind where they used to store all the coal? We could have a tender behind these locomotives. That was just a very big battery.

Kimberley: That sounds clever.

Douglas: It does

Kimberley: Just a modern interpretation on the same job, really.

Douglas: Isn't it the same thing? Your power unit actually has a large battery storage, as well as the actual axles on the ground being driven but of course on a tender like that you could drive the axles as well. Anyway that's future freight and I hold out that hope one day. One day. One alternative is to of course build a freight line around Adelaide and a lot of the traffic would then be diverted anyway because it's on its way to Perth and not into Adelaide.

Kimberley: So why should it go through our suburb?

Douglas: I won't get into that because that's another whole project and that's an expensive one. And this isn't.

Kimberley: The way that you've explained it. It sounds like we just sort out the track, update a few train stations, provide parking for people, get the rolling stock happening. How long would all of this take, do you think?

Douglas: Okay, I would say it takes time to get it right. Okay. I would say there'd probably be about a year to finalize all the design work, write the contracts for the construction mhm and get that started at least.

Kimberley: Yeah.

Douglas: Okay. Construction itself is fairly straightforward and that may take one year, it might take two.

Kimberley: It sounded when you explained it that it was fairly simple construction.

Douglas: It is very simple construction. Very simple construction. I'm a fairly simple engineer, I don't try to go for heroics.

Kimberley: Good, we like this.

Douglas: Now the next question is what rolling stock do we use? if we were to convert the    3000 class that could be possible within that two year time frame.

Kimberley: Wow.

Douglas: Because all we've got to do is take the bogeys off, send them over to Victoria, let them push the flanges in a bit further, the wheels in a bit further on the axle, put them back underneath, but on standard gauge.

Kimberley: Okay

Douglas: Job done. Almost. I'd like to see a change in the seating as well so it's more comfortable because it's a long trip.

Kimberley: It's about an hour, isn't it?

Douglas: It's about an hour according to my calculations. But it's got to be tested because where you put the passing loops and everything like that and the sort of frequency you want in your timetable, these finally determine where the track work needs to be.

Kimberley: That's for all the scheduling boxes.

Douglas: Yeah. It's a multifaceted solution and that's why I'm saying, yeah, a good year to do it. But the testing well that could be done. I couldn't get, could be done in six months. Not the two years that Talgo is talking about because we've got an Institute of Railway Technology at Monash University who can do the desktop analysis of it in the first place. We could even convert a couple of our 3000 class rail cars to standard gauge as a trial. But then bring them back on the standard gauge line and trial them down the hill and back up of course. And just see what times they could make to make it fit into a comfortable timetable for the drivers and the passengers.

Kimberley: We want to be going places when it's convenient for us. Getting to work on time.

Douglas: That's right.

Kimberley: Getting home at a reasonable hour.

Douglas: Yes, all of that. And I do believe it's possible to structure one's life around a particular timetable. Actually, going out and getting the train when you can and not having an   absolutely, every minute frequency of service. But just you plan your life a bit but just an appropriate frequency.

Kimberley: Well here's a question from the cynics among us and this is one that has come up with regard to services that we see disappearing. And that is we see the service providers, whether it's government or a contractor they think, well for example, we don't want to do buses to Lobethal anymore. So the bus that goes to town from Lobethal you have to catch it after lunch and you can't get home until two days later. And then nobody uses that bus service and the contractors or the government or whoever's making the decision says, well nobody used it. You clearly don't like busses, we'll take them all away. Is this the sort of thing that we want to avoid we might see happen? What's the likelihood of something like that?

Douglas: Well, two things. The first thing is I would think this would be a long term solution and   with a passenger service like this you can expand or contract the service by simply making longer trains or shorter trains. So that's a possibility for the variation in the resources you're putting in onto the track to cope with either fluctuating times or footy crowds. Okay, let's say festival crowds and also in the middle of the day maybe no one is going into town very much so you need two cars on and then when it hits the peak hour, we got six using the same frequency or perhaps double the frequency for peaks. But you're increasing therefore the carrying capacity by a factor of twelve. So that's pretty significant. And you're carrying about 1000 people per train which is also quite significant. If you have a rail service that is reliable and also frequent enough then some of these bus services don't need to go right to the city. They could in fact be interconnectors. So Lobethal might feed - the Lobethal bus - might feed to Balhannah and then you hop on the train at Balhannah because the bus drops you off at the station next to the platform. That's all been designed.

Kimberley: I can hear people in Lobethal cheering already.

Douglas:  and then again because you're not having a driver drive all the way to the city that can be a local pick up service or it can be someone picking you up from the Balhannah Railway Station as opposed to trying to pick you up from Grote Street or whatever it might be in the city. So that's the sort of interconnectivity that I think is a key feature for a good public transport system.

Kimberley: Well, it all sounds very good, but you're not the only one with an idea to bring passenger rail into the Adelaide Hills. We've had just recently an offer from Talgo to do their trial. What can you tell us about that and how does it compare with your plan?

Douglas: Okay, the Talgo thing has a couple of aspects of the tailgo train sets. The first thing is, Talgo provides passenger trains with an interchangeable bogey system. Well, actually, wheel system can be independent axles so that you can change from one gauge, to another. Now, I don't know whether they have yet built one that changes from broadcast to center gauge and vice versa. And what you simply do is you, run the trains through a 20 metre long converter that as the train goes through at about 15 km an hour, the wheels are moved in and out on their, axles and so you change from one to the other. Now, this is particularly useful in Spain and France, where they have a standard gauge high speed train system that connects into France. But then the local gauges are different and so they have to convert over to that. I don't think that's necessary. I think the track work that we have that would allow us to get into Adelaide Railway Station, as I've said, is not that much. I think it's about $30 million or something like that to convert all that. And that's being very on the general side, these convertible bogeys, if, we're looking at about 30 rail cars, would probably be about the same amount. But you don't have that technology. And the other thing is that I think there's a great fallacy with converting that technology. We could put it down right into the city near the Goodwood, railway station. And don't do the conversion there.  the key thing is not to join, into the Belair line because the Belair line has a lot of stops on it.

Kimberley: It does.

Douglas: And that would mean the journey time would be very much slower. And what we need is an express. What we need is the intercity express that goes from the hills right to Adelaide Station, with only two intermediate stops on the way.

Kimberley: Now, I know they do express buses. Is there such a thing as an express train?

Douglas: Oh, yes.

Kimberley: Okay.

Douglas: But it makes it very much more difficult if you're trying to work it within a timetable for an all stops service. I think my cunning plan is keep them completely separate.

Kimberley: Okay.

Douglas: And then the Belair line can chug along on the lovely scenic trip that it has, stopping everywhere. And we just whizz past and have our intermediate stops for transfers to other, public transport services. That connected various places, including a Goodwood a nice interchange there, would connect to the Glenelg Tram, but also to all the no longer line services, instead of having to go all the way into Adelaide Rabbit Station. So that seems cunning to me at Flinders University and to Flinders Medical Center and so on.

Kimberley: All the places we need to go.

Douglas: All the places we need to go. So that's, again, the key interconnectivity thing. So that's the first thing about Talgo. The second thing about Talgo is they do have a system of tilting trains so that you can go around the corners a bit faster because you're leaning like you're doing a bike. That could be appropriate, that could be necessary. I'm not sure that it is, because we'll have to have a very careful measurement of how much gain there is from that much more speed, and it may not be worthwhile. Maybe we can just do a very good fast service. And we're talking trying to get it down to about 45 minutes, as opposed to about 60 that I've calculated at the moment. And just as a comparison, the, train trip to Gawler is 42, takes 55 minutes.

Kimberley: Okay.

Douglas: Okay. And we're trying to get the service to Mount Barker, which is 55 km, taking about 58 minutes. That's not a bad effort, is it? Again, the number of stops is very significant in that. but we have to prove it. We do have to do the test, and I think we could do our own test quickly, rather than waiting for the time for Talgo to reengineer their system to make it suitable for the Australian gauge changing and so forth. So, tilt train, maybe not the other things with regard to it, I'm not sure how the tilt train would go on our high level platforms. That's to be seen. Most of Europe, as you know, has low level platforms. And that means you can get the centre of gravity of the rail cars lower. And this helps with the cornering and also helps with the geometry of the mechanics of their tilting system, because they've got to have a high pivot point in each car. So they're the technical, things that may simply not be necessary.

Kimberley: Okay. A little bit of over servicing in their ideas at the moment, perhaps.

Douglas: Well, there are people interested in making sure that this will trying to get that system adopted, who will probably benefit from that, where that may or may not be a good thing.

Kimberley: Okay.

Douglas: The other point I'd like to make is about electrification. As I said, the Gawler line has been just done. Yes, it was 42 km it cost for the electrification, not including the rolling stock, about $580,000,000, something like that. Now, that works out to about $13.6 million per kilometre. Now, coming up through the hills, single track, we could probably have that. So we might do it, in say, $7 million per kilometre. That would mean for our 55 km, around about $400 million. But with the hydrogen cars that cost wouldn't be needed. And we'd be doing the whole project for about the same cost as it would cost to put electrification through to Mount Barker. So that's why I'm saying let's go Hydrogen. Don’t spend enormous amount of money on electrification because it's actually yesterday's technology. It was good in 2010 2005 2014 when it was all proposed.

Kimberley: Yeah, but that was years ago now.

Douglas: That was years ago now. Certainly years ago as far as renewable technologies and pollution free technologies.

Kimberley: And that's what we're all looking for. Something that's going to be renewable and not cause pollution because it is a necessity. And we want to do everything in the best way possible. If we can do our necessities in a way that's renewable, that's going to make a lot of people very happy, I think. So what's your prediction for how things could pan out over the next few years?

Douglas: Optimistic.

Kimberley: Optimistic. That's good.

Douglas: I think there could be a rush of blood to see. It's a really good idea. I think four years, i, think we could have it in for the next election.

Kimberley: That's a big statement there.

Douglas: It is, actually. Yeah. But it's quite feasible, I think, within that time frame. And as I said on the PowerPoint, it still requires a lot of cooperation and collaboration and creativity to make it happen. But that's feasible. And if not within the four years? Well, shortly after. I think it's quite realistic. That's certainly within a time frame of doing any major roadworks anywhere around, that.

Kimberley: They all take that long anyway, don't they?

Douglas: They do indeed. Yeah, they do indeed.

Kimberley: Okay, well, big things possibly in store for the future, and it's possible that we could all look forward to catching trains into town and back again for work, for shopping, for festivals, as you mentioned, for all sorts of things in the future that we can see.

Douglas: I would like to think so, but I also don't think we can be entirely passive about it.

Kimberley: We need to make some noise.

Douglas: We need to make some noise. And the Residents Association, we're quietly trying to get a petition together to say we want to train. And we'll be taking some steps to, get that out and about and a bit more information out and about, thanks to programs like yours to push it forward.

Kimberley: Well, I think there'll be a lot of listeners who will be right behind you with that. So good luck getting all of that happening. Look forward to seeing things happening sometime in the near future.

Douglas: Good luck to us all.

Kimberley: Thanks for talking to us about reconnecting rail in the Adelaide Hills.

Kimberley: That's all for What The Hills this week. Tune in next week for more local stories from the adelaide Hills on Lofty 88.9 and au at midday on Monday and in your podcast app anytime. What The Hills is produced on Peramangk land in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. Music is written and produced by Daniel Biggs, voiceover by Andrew Challen. What The Hills is produced and edited by Studio 4. If you have a local story to share, get in touch with us on social media.