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Plan for Mt Ainslie train tunnel

Date

Noel Towell

Tunnel vision? Mount Ainslie as seen from the lawns of Parliament House.

Tunnel vision? Mount Ainslie as seen from the lawns of Parliament House. Photo: Richard Briggs

The federal government will be asked to consider a very fast train line that travels into the heart of Canberra via a tunnel through Mount Ainslie.

The radical plan is one of three options for fast trains into Canberra to be presented this month to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese by consultants working on a feasibility study for the high-speed rail lines to link Australia's east coast capitals.

After tunnelling through the Canberra landmark peak, the line would continue down what is now Ainslie Avenue and terminate in the heart of Civic.

Sources close to the study's reference groups have confirmed that private sector consultants Aecom will also include two other options for the proposed Canberra leg of a high-speed rail system, a station in Mitchell, no further south than Epic, and taking the line down the Majura Valley to the airport with the latter options linked to Civic by light rail.

The Canberra Times understands that some Canberra-based bureaucrats close to the research work are "appalled" by the tunnel option with its expense and potential for years of protest and legal action.

But the consultants are also grappling with the "challenging terrain" of the Brindabella Mountains if they are to design a through-line to Melbourne.

It looks more likely that a spur line to the national capital with a junction at the head of the Majura Valley and using one of the three Canberra terminus options would be proposed.

The report, the second stage of the Gillard government's "implementation study" into high-speed rail for the east coast, is expected to be made public next month.

It will follow up on the work completed in August 2011 that found an east coast network would cost between $61 billion and $108 billion.

The second phase of the work will contain recommendations for track routes and station locations, an assessment of the commercial and financial viability and funding options for the project, and environmental, social and economic appraisals.

Chris Faulks, of the Canberra Business Council, a key proponent of high-speed rail for the ACT, said Canberra's unusual configuration meant a city-centre station was less important than in other cities.

"The optimal option always is that the station should always be in the centre of the city, that's the accepted knowledge base all around the world, in which case the best option would be in the middle of Canberra city," Ms Faulks said.

"But there are several things about Canberra that diminish the importance of that. It would be very expensive to get into the city because it would have to go underground.

"Also we don't have that defined city centre like Sydney or Melbourne, we have those five nodes and people who come here don't necessarily go to the city centre, they might go to Parliament House or Defence or where other government offices are."

Ms Faulks said the council believed the airport would make most sense as a location for a Canberra station.

"From our point of view, because we're very keen on the airport having international flights, we think it's imperative that there be a station at the airport," she said.

"So you get off an international flight you go down the escalator, get onto high speed rail and you go to Sydney or Melbourne.

"And that would have a big impact on the region economically, an absolute game changer for Canberra.

"We don't think that Mitchell is the best option and that's because you tend to get a lot of commercial development around stations and it would almost make Mitchell a second city centre, which we don't think is a good idea."

Australasian Rail Association chief executive Bryan Nye said that his organisation had no preferences on Canberra stations.

"That's between the ACT government and the airport, but I think the airport's offer to fund a station at a price of $140 million might be persuasive," Mr Nye said.

"We just want to see high-speed rail to Canberra and a commitment to get it underway at the next election."

40 comments

  • I have not had cause to be "outraged" for a week or so (hedges do not bother me) but this article beggers belief. We do not have the money; let alone the wit and wisdom to even put dotted lines on a map - the act of building this would take decades and likely lead to the collapse of Mt Ainslie!

    Commenter
    Outraged of Palmerston
    Date and time
    December 03, 2012, 8:23AM
    • Oh come on OoP, surely you're not scared off because it's 'too difficult' or might cost a bit and take a while to complete? The financial benefits to Canberra business would be enormous! It sounds like a fantastic idea, but Gillard (unlike Rudd) lacks the imagination to embrace such a grand plan so it's unlikely to get anywhere.

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      Reid
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 10:08AM
    • Not scared by the time and cost per se. More scared by the lack of talent in this country to make it happen. We are still a country of only 22 million and this type of infrastructure development needs a centre of gravity to make it successful. Canberra's population of 360 thousand is not big enough to do that.

      Commenter
      Outraged of Palmerston
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 11:43AM
    • @OoP - Your reticent conservatism is showing. Canberra is more than big enough to merit a tunnel and a high-speed rail link.

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      Reid
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 12:13PM
    • Yumq: my witty reply in this debate was sadly censored so let me try again. The cost outweighs the taxation base - even more so in times of austerity.

      Commenter
      Outraged of Palmerston
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 4:15PM
  • A tunnel through Mount Aisnlie is a good example of the level of imagination and endeavour which will be needed to get the training running. It might not be the best or only idea but it is a good start.

    Commenter
    woz
    Location
    civic
    Date and time
    December 03, 2012, 8:36AM
    • A better headline would be 'Tooth fairy discovered to be REAL'.
      Seriously the highspeed train is a pipe dream, and will not happen in the next 100 years.
      Take feasibility studies like these with a HUGE grain of salt.
      The government is already going millions into debt daily, the NBN is blowing out and connections delayed even here in Canberra by 6 months or more, and now they are chasing even harsher PS dividends in a last desperate attempt to meet their dubious budget surplus. They cannot even afford to maintain essential infrastructure, let alone super high projects like this.. What about the Pacific highway duplication, all these promises and bright ideas, but no way to pay for them.
      We will see a colony on Mars before we see a highspeed train in Australia.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:45AM
      • Facts -
        The GFC brought a $100 billion dollar reduction to Govt income, hence spending money to keep people in jobs and collecting taxes, as opposed to paying welfare to them was required. Not sure why this is so hard to understand.
        The NBN is being delayed (in some areas) because the handover from Telstra requires the underground pits to be of a required standard (and some are not), so they have to be fixed. Telstra's delay not the NBN's.
        There are some areas of the APS that are inefficient - Good on the Govt for trying to make it more efficient rather than sacking indiscriminately - therein lies productivity improvement.
        Infrastructure costs money - so you'd still complain about money spent on the infrstructure? I believe more money has been spent on the Pacific Highway in the last 5 years than in the preceding 10.

        Commenter
        Ron R
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        December 03, 2012, 10:11AM
      • I was wondering where all the labor=greens spin doctors were! Pleased you could make it on to comment Ron R and co. Haha.
        Lets talk in another 50 years (if we are still around) when they are holding yet another pointless chin wag study on whether Australia should have a high speed train. This is plain and simple, pie in the sky dreams of a few. Still I can understand why private Canberra aiport management is pushing it with their massive investment in Canberra airport desperately relying on a big increases in incoming flights and a VFT.
        In the meantime labor=greens should be trying to work out how they will fund all these current other promises like the Disability scheme etc, refugee living in the community benefits, and capping the fast growing government debt. And you can spin and blame whoever you want, but the NBN is blowing out in cost daily, and promised connection doubts growing longer and longer.....
        All good to make announcements that have been funded for the headlines, but more impressive is actually having these things up, running, and paid for. Anyway keep up the spin and excuses.

        Commenter
        Peter
        Date and time
        December 03, 2012, 12:31PM
      • Peter - Sorry you're interested in facts otherwise you'd tell me they were wrong and how - You seem to be one spinning - don't get too dizzy.

        Commenter
        Ron R
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        December 03, 2012, 12:50PM

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