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ACT wants high speed rail to run to Canberra airport, not to the city

The ACT Government will call for a significant change in the route of a future high speed rail link, saying it should go to Canberra Airport rather than into Civic.

It will tell the federal government that Canberra would greatly benefit from running the future rail line to the airport, with the likelihood of a light rail connection to the city.

The ACT Government is now writing to lease holders in the Majura Valley about its plan for changes to the blueprint for the futuristic link.

The Canberra-Sydney link would be the first stage of the network to be built on the Australian eastern seaboard, at a cost of about $23 billion.

A report released by the federal Labor Government in 2013 proposed a terminal for Civic that would require four kilometres of tunnel passing through Mount Ainslie.

A three-platform station under Ainslie Avenue – north of Cooyong Street and the Canberra Centre – would eventually serve more than 3000 passengers in peak hour.

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The report recommended Canberra Airport as the first alternative if Civic is unable to support the parking infrastructure needed for the station.

A year before, in June 2012, the Capital Airport Group unveiled plans to invest $140 million in a high-speed rail terminal at Canberra Airport.

The federal Coalition Government has yet to commit to high speed rail but is consulting with the ACT, NSW, Victorian and Queensland Governments over preserving a corridor for the link.

ACT Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman says a very fast train would take only 64 minutes between Canberra and Sydney.

"High speed rail is on the future agenda for our capital city and today I urge the federal government that Canberra would significantly benefit from a potential airport alignment," he told Fairfax Media.

The ACT Government is working on a light rail network plan for Canberra, with work on the Gungahlin-Civic route to begin before the ACT election in October.

"Through this process it may be more cost-effective to have fast rail connect to light rail at the airport," Mr Gentleman said.

"I encourage that the approach we are taking in developing an integrated network should also be applied to the future planning of a high speed rail corridor in the territory.

"The ACT Government is liaising with lessees in areas adjacent to the HSR alignment regarding tenure arrangements to provide further certainty that lease arrangements and environment studies are of high priority."

Former trade minister Andrew Robb says Australia should grab the opportunity of low interest rates to build the very fast train now along the east coast.

An international expert in high speed rail says the "stars are aligning" for Australia to make a decision on building a line to link Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Torkel Patterson, vice-chairman of the International High Speed Rail Association, says while Australia has "flirted" with the idea for long time, "it's time" for Australia to act.

Member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy is strongly behind the VFT project because of its potential to develop regional Australia.

The Abbott government decided in 2013 to abolish the High Speed Rail Advisory Group but the Turnbull government is continuing to work with the relevant governments to protect the identified rail corridors.

In April 2013 the cost of the project was estimated at $114 billion, with the line able to be fully operational by 2065.

In August 1991 the federal cabinet rejected proposed tax breaks which were estimated to cost $1.4 million in 1990 dollars, for the very fast train.

Ministers were told the case presented by the joint venture did not warrant government intervention on the scale sought for the private sector project.

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