ACT News


Fast train campaigners call for a station in Canberra's north near Gungahlin

Supporters of a future high-speed rail link from Canberra to Sydney have proposed a station be built near Exhibition Park to connect with the planned Gungahlin tram line.

Ahead of the federal and ACT elections in July and October, members of the Bullet Train for Australia and Like Canberra groups want a high speed rail precinct built between Exhibition Park and Mitchell, linking to Canberra Airport through a second stage of light rail.

The group will stand candidates at both polls. Their ambitious call comes ahead of the ACT budget on June 7 where they want the Barr government to put aside funding for detailed investigations.

They have also called for the federal government to pitch the Canberra precinct to consortiums considering a train line linking Australia's eastern capitals.

Included in the precinct could be offices, hotels, apartments, town houses, child care and car parking.

Organiser Tim Bohm said a 2012 report on high speed rail found a station in Mitchell would be cheaper and offer good access to the Barton and Federal highways. It would also avoid the need for a tunnel to be constructed under Mt Ainslie and could save more than $3 billion from a future rail plan.


Canberra Times editorial cartoon

The report shortlisted Civic and Canberra Airport as preferred locations for stations, while the ACT government this month said trains should link to Canberra Airport.

The group is yet to register with the ACT Electoral Commission, but Mr Bohm said it would easily meet the June 30 deadline. New parties must have a written constitution and the names of at least 100 members who are on the ACT electoral roll.

He said a station near Exhibition Park would provide the best option for maximising commercial land uplift and value capture. Most of the land is vacant and owned by the government.

"Value Capture is the game changer for high speed rail," Mr Bohm said. "Both Andrew Barr and Jeremy Hanson say they support high speed rail, so here's their chance not just to give lip service but get behind the plan and make something big happen in this space.

"We're not asking for much, just for the site to be looked at and for high speed trains and value capture in terms of high speed rail to be carefully considered."

The Bullet Train for Canberra won about 8800 votes at the 2012 ACT election, but none of its six candidates were successful.

The territory government has told the Commonwealth a rail link to the airport would connect to other parts of the city through a future light rail stage. Earlier this month it began writing to lease holders in the Majura Valley about plans for a rail link.

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

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

The federal government has yet to commit to any plans but said it was consulting with NSW, Victoria and Queensland over preserving a corridor for the train line. Former trade minister Andrew Robb said Australia should take advantage of low interest rates to build the east coast train.

"If the major parties can't come up with their own ideas, maybe they shouldn't be there," Mr Bohm said. "It should not be about which side of politics you are from. We want it to be investigated by someone showing leadership to see if it stands up."