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Australia's peak rail body has strongly supported Canberra Airport's claim to host the high-speed rail station.
Building the station at the airport would save $700 million by removing the need to build a long tunnel under Mount Ainslie, the Australasian Railway Association says in its response to the phase II study into high-speed rail in Australia.
It says overseas experience shows the importance of locating stations to link with existing transport modes.
It also predicts the take-up by passengers on the Canberra-Sydney line will be greater than forecast by the government study. ''Between Paris and Brussels, for example, HSR [high speed rail] has completely replaced air travel,'' it says.
The Canberra Times reported last Monday that Canberra Airport management was furious at the phase II study, which proposes terminating the line from Sydney on the north side of Canberra.
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron was scathing about the proposal, which effectively snubbed the airport's commitment to build a $140 million station within 300 metres of the new air passenger terminal. He said the economic analysis was ''unbelievable'' and suggested the study was slanted against the airport by giving weight to pedestrian access to Civic.
The study, commissioned by the federal government, proposes a high-speed train into Canberra that 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.
In its response to the study, the ARA questions the cost of tunnels and calls for the concept of high-speed rail to be put to market to test its viability.
''In relation to Canberra, the ARA believes that the station should be located at the airport, noting that the owners have already offered to fund $140 million for the station, which would be relatively close to the centre of Canberra as well as many important institutions such as Parliament House, and tourist attractions such as the Australian War Memorial,'' the response says.
''The airport is well placed for road connections to locations throughout Canberra, and these will be further improved with the completion of the Majura Parkway, providing fast road
connections to large population bases north and south of Canberra.
''A Canberra Airport station removes the need to tunnel 3.6 kilometres under Mount Ainslie.
''The considerable tunnelling on the preferred route currently contributes 29 per cent of total construction costs.
''Re-routing to Canberra Airport would save $700 million in tunnelling and station costs - $540 million for the tunnel and $160 million for the Ainslie Avenue station.
''The cost saving has the potential to meet all, or a large part, of the cost to construct a light rail link from the centre of Canberra to the airport, improving the connectivity of the high-speed station and airport with Canberra city.''
The ARA points out that earlier studies predicted much higher passenger numbers, particularly on the Canberra-Sydney leg.
''A table in the report shows Sydney-Canberra HSR gaining 70 per cent of the market, compared with 83 per cent to 100 per cent HSR share in equivalent markets (similar HSR trip time of 75 minutes) overseas,'' it says.
ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said the nation could not afford to delay on high-speed rail because of its potential to transform Australia.
''The priority should be putting the project to market to formally test its viability in the private sector,'' Mr Nye said.
''This will have two benefits - it will deliver the project at a lower cost and achieve faster implementation.''
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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