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IN MELBOURNE, French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said Europeans were increasingly choosing the convenience of fast rail over air travel.
The corridor between Paris and London is no longer the world's busiest air route, with some surveys suggesting 90 per cent of people are choosing to travel by fast rail instead.
''The air traffic between these two countries and two cities … is less and less because we have high-speed trains,'' Mr Mariani said.
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The French high-speed train TGV speeds over the Ventabren Viaduct near Aix-en-Provence, southern France, on the Paris-Marseille line, in this May 23, 2001 file photo. France's Interior Ministry has received threatening letters demanding millions of dollars or warning that French rail tracks will be bombed, authorities said Wednesday, March 3, 2004. French anti-terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere took over the investigation.
Australia may one day have high-speed trains like those in France. Photo: AP
''If … Paris and London or Paris and Brussels disappears off the most important [air route] list … it's because everybody takes the train.''
Ironically, Mr Mariani spoke of his enthusiasm for fast rail during a tour of French conglomerate Thales's futuristic new Melbourne air-traffic control research, development and training centre, CASIA, at the World Trade Centre.
At meetings with federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and his Victorian and New South Wales counterparts Terry Mulder and Gladys Berejiklian, Mr Mariani expressed the keen interest of French rail companies in being involved in an Australian high-speed rail project.
He said one of his reasons for travelling to Australia was to ''make the point about the project of high-speed railway … [because] you are having a debate about whether it is necessary or not''.
The latest AECOM Australia feasibility study for the federal Transport Department puts the cost of establishing high-speed rail linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane anywhere between $61 billion and $108 billion, depending on the route options chosen.
The leg from Melbourne to Canberra could cost $19.5 billion to $25.6 billion, and Canberra to Sydney another $10.9 billion to $24.5 billion.
Disappointingly for Melburnians crying out for a fast train to connect the airport with the CBD and interstate routes, the study finds that while there is a rail corridor which passes close to Melbourne Airport, a fast train ''will not provide a suitable airport rail link''.
''Airport rail links must have the ability to accommodate large volumes of passengers without seat reservations and are also likely to operate at a relatively high service frequency, making frequent stops at multiple locations,'' the report says.
Still, the French rail companies are keen to be involved in the project, if it ever goes ahead.
''The French companies are interested, too, because Alstom has great experience, because one of the first fast trains in the world was in France,'' Mr Mariani said.
''The TGV [Trains a Grande Vitesse, or trains at high speed] - the first one in France was in 1981 - which means we have more than 30 years of experience.''
- Business Day
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/fast-trains-winning-battle-with-planes-in-europe-20110823-1j7ku.html
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