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Canberra airport management has fired a blistering complaint to the federal government over the plan to terminate the high-speed rail line on the north side of Canberra.
Managing director Stephen Byron is scathing of the proposal to build a terminal near Civic, effectively snubbing the airport's commitment to build a $140 million station within 300 metres of the new air passenger terminal.
He says the economic analysis is ''unbelievable'' and suggests the study is slanted against the airport by giving weight to pedestrian access to Civic.
''There is no doubt that many of the conclusions reached in the Phase 2 Report are puzzling,'' his letter to Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.
''I am very disappointed to note the result a year later is that both government and its consultants are not only disinterested in a $140 million private sector investment, but go further to discredit a station at Canberra Airport because, amongst other things, there is an incorrect belief that it will disrupt aviation operations.
''I am completely at a loss to understand why the Phase 2 Study determined a high-speed rail terminal would disrupt the airport, and confirm Canberra Airport was never approached about this understanding.''
The study, commissioned by the federal government, proposes a high-speed train into Canberra would travel under Mount Ainslie and terminate at a station to be built on the eastern fringe of Civic, near the corner of Ainslie Avenue and Cooyong Street.
Passengers on the high-speed rail network could travel from Canberra to Sydney in 64 minutes.
The report, released in April by Mr Albanese, identifies a preferred route and says the very fast train could carry an estimated 84 million passengers throughout Australia each year, with express journey times of less than three hours between Melbourne and Sydney and between Sydney and Brisbane.
Mr Byron urges Mr Albanese, the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, to consider the $430 million saving that would be made in building a terminal at the airport instead of the central business district.
''Contrary to the report's comments, it is on an easy-to-build site with no disruption to aviation operations - rather, complete integration,'' Mr Byron says.
''In preparing the 2014 draft master plan we will again include plans for integrating high-speed rail into the terminal precinct because we get the importance of connecting national transport modes.
''I am frustrated the Australian government persists with its thinking that Canberra Airport is not 'connected' and then sets about planning nationally significant transport modes that do not connect with the airport.
''So the Phase 2 Report progresses its analysis armed with another untruth - connectivity between rail and air is a waste of time.''
Mr Byron says it is ''unbelievable'' the economic benefit derived from a station at the airport is put at half that of any other centre in Canberra.
''Much consideration is given in the report to the accessibility of rail passengers to CBD which perhaps in the case of other cities I can understand, but the planning of Canberra has not resulted in a city laid out that way,'' he says.
''Take it from us - the biggest existing transport hub in Canberra - the CBD - is just one of many hubs, origins and destinations for visitors and locals of the city.
''To place significant weight on the role of the Canberra CBD in determining a high-speed rail station is to misunderstand the Canberra pattern of development. ''Not only is this misinformed as a principle for how transport in Canberra works, it appears an airport station was just never meant to measure up.
''A station at Canberra Airport will deliver higher passenger numbers not only because of connectivity with an air terminal, but also due to easy road access, and plenty of space for car parking and a public transport hub for the region.'' A spokesman for Mr Albanese said Canberra Airport's views would be considered by an expert advisory committee chaired by a senior departmental official.
It would examine about 300 submissions received and report to Mr Albanese.
''This was not done by the government, this was done independently and externally from the government so we haven't ignored anything,'' the spokesman said.
''Drawing on international experience, this is what they came up with as their plan, so of course people will have different views and that's why we opened it up to community consultation.''
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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