A three-platform station servicing more than 3,000 passengers per hour could be placed immediately behind the Canberra Centre, under a proposed plan for a high-speed rail network on Australia’s east coast.
The second and final phase of a study on high-speed rail was released by Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday, and detailed proposed routes and infrastructure requirements for the network, which would eventually link Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
The report proposes the Sydney-Canberra link be built first, at a cost of about $23 billion, or $81 million per kilometre, with suggestions that the sector could be the only one in the network to operate at a loss. Passengers could be making the trip as early as 2030.
The second stage would be the Canberra-Melbourne link, starting as early as 2027, and operational about eight years later.
According to the report, the train would run along a spur line into Canberra alongside the yet-to-be-built Majura Parkway, entering a 4 kilometre tunnel on the north side of Mount Ainslie.
The Canberra station, consisting of three, 315 metre-long platforms underneath Ainslie Avenue, just behind the Canberra Centre, would service an expected 3,200 passengers per hour in peak periods by 2065.
Passengers on the network could travel from Canberra to Sydney in 64 minutes, with an expected five million trips to be made between the two cities each year.
“High speed rail is indeed a hot topic. Everybody seems to have an opinion,” Mr Albanese said when releasing the report for public discussion.
“Unlike other studies, this is not a desktop publication … we’re talking about the equivalent of building two Hume Highways from scratch.”
Mr Albanese was at pains to point out that the report was not government policy although he has long been an advocate for the a high speed rail network.
He said the report had no political interference and was now open for public discussion.
A high speed rail advisory group has been established as well as a ministerial group that will include ACT Environment and Infrastructure Minister Simon Corbell.
Mr Albanese also said the proposed rail network would not prevent the need for a second airport in Sydney, suggesting that it would not be in Canberra.
Canberra International Airport managing director Stephen Byron said while he would like to see the project start sooner and cost less, it was nevertheless good news for the ACT.
“This is a great win for Canberra and it ought to be built,” he said.
“What’s great about this report is that for the first time it says the Sydney to Canberra link should be the first stage.
“This is very, very strategically important.”
If the go-ahead was received, a decade would be needed for planning and another five years for preconstruction and buying land for what would be one of the largest infrastructure programs undertaken in Australia.
The report refines demand and cost estimates from the first phase of the study and says the proposed 1738-kilometre rail network would cost $114 billion in 2012 terms.