A high-speed rail station is planned to go below Ainslie Avenue near the Canberra Centre.

A high-speed rail station is planned to go below Ainslie Avenue near the Canberra Centre. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra Airport has welcomed the latest government report into high-speed rail even though it advocates a different vision than it had itself proposed.

A terminal for Civic that would require four kilometres of tunnel passing through Mount Ainslie is mooted in the government's report.

It would result in a three-platform station eventually serving more than 3000 passengers in peak hour under Ainslie Avenue.

A high-speed rail station planned to go below Ainslie Avenue near the Canberra Centre.

A high-speed rail station is planned to go below Ainslie Avenue near the Canberra Centre. Photo: Melissa Adams

In June last year the Capital Airport Group unveiled plans to invest $140 million in a high-speed rail terminal at Canberra Airport. But instead of a fast train terminal at the airport, the report proposes the Civic option.

On Thursday federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese released the government's final report for public discussion and flagged the details of suggested routes and infrastructure requirements for a network linking Brisbane to Melbourne.

He said while there had been several options put forward for a fast train network along part of the nation's east coast, this stage two independent report was by far the most comprehensive study.

"High-speed rail is indeed a hot topic. Everybody seems to have an opinion," he said.

"Unlike other studies, this is not a desktop publication … we're talking about the equivalent of building two Hume Highways from scratch."

While Canberra's four kilometres of tunnel would be a tiny portion of the total 144 kilometres of tunnel along the whole route - including a 67-kilometre tunnel proposed for Sydney - the fast train project would still have a major impact on the ACT.

The Canberra-Sydney link would be the first stage of the network to be built, with work on the project starting in 2022 with a goal to be operational by 2030.

The Canberra-Sydney stage would cost about $23 billion, with suggestions that it could be the only link not to become economically viable.

Canberra International Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the report was good news for the ACT. He said while it was not the plan his organisation had put forward, it was nevertheless a smart option.

"The fact that it says the Sydney to Canberra link should be built first is very sensible and shows that it is the most important stage," Mr Byron said.

"The study started with the preconceived strategy that Newcastle to Sydney would come first, but it is very, very strategically important that the Canberra leg is first.

"The station location is secondary for all 430,000 of us in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region - so we support Civic as the location if it gets us HSR [high-speed rail]. We note the report recommends Canberra Airport as the first alternative if Civic is unable to support the parking infrastructure needed for the station."

But Mr Byron did express concerns about the cost of the project and he also said work should start on it much sooner than the report recommends.

According to the report, the train from Sydney would run along a spur line into Canberra alongside the yet-to-be-built Majura Parkway,

entering a four-kilometre tunnel on the north side of Mount Ainslie.

The second stage would be the Canberra-Melbourne link, with work starting in 2027 for operations starting in 2035.

The Canberra station would serve an expected 3200 passengers an hour in peak periods by 2065. Passengers on the network could travel from Canberra to Sydney in 64 minutes, with an expected 5 million trips to be made between the two cities each year.

Mr Albanese was at pains to point out that the report was not government policy although he has long been an advocate for a high-speed rail network. He said the report had no political interference and was now open for public discussion.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said Australia lacked the population and money needed to support the network. He said while he was in favour of high-speed rail, it was hard to justify spending such large amounts of money.

''I would hope one day that it would be done,'' he said in Melbourne on Thursday. ''But many people will look at it in the starkness of daylight and say we need to have a much bigger population to sustain it. Sometimes when you've got a limited amount of money, you've got to have your priorities right.''

The project would take about four decades to complete, according to the government analysis. A high-speed rail advisory group has been established as well as a ministerial group that will include ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell.

Mr Corbell and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher welcomed the release of the report, saying high-speed rail would expand the transport options available to Canberrans and improve cross border connections.

Mr Albanese also said the proposed rail network would not prevent the need for a second airport in Sydney, suggesting strongly that it would not be in Canberra.

Mr Byron said Canberra as a second Sydney airport would only be preferable if the Badgerys Creek option (in Sydney's western suburbs) isn't chosen. "If Badgerys Creek doesn't happen, then high-speed rail and the Canberra Airport become even more important," he said.

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.