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Sydney-Canberra flights will end if fast rail arrives: report

Date

John Thistleton

Canberra Airport.

Canberra Airport. Photo: Supplied

If high-speed rail goes ahead instead of a second Sydney airport being built, airlines will not fly between Sydney and Canberra.

A report to be issued today says airlines may try and compete to stem the loss of passengers to high-speed train on the lucrative route between the two capital cities.

But this would leave the busy route with such a big cut to frequency it would be unviable and airline services would no longer exist.

This is the view of the Canberra Airport, which is issuing the report on the impact of a second Sydney airport not being built, which is based on the ''High Speed Rail Study phase one'' and ''Joint Study on Aviation in the Sydney Region''.

The airport's report says if high-speed rail went ahead, more passengers would travel between Sydney and Canberra, via Canberra airport, aboard fast trains.

They would arrive by train in Sydney's central business district at least an hour quicker than if they arrived at Kingsford Smith Airport, where they would run the gauntlet of increasing traffic congestion and strong winds, which already restrict flights.

Infrastructure NSW dismissed the high-speed rail scenario last week, saying operating costs would to be too high compared to air transport.

Canberra Airport nominates Badgery's Creek in Sydney's outer west as the best option for a second airport.

But the airport believes a second Sydney airport will never built there, nor at Wilton, south of Sydney, because of political opposition, a view shared by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell.

According to Canberra Airport's forecasts, nearly 12 million passengers will be using high-speed rail between Canberra and Sydney CBD by 2036. The airport committed $140 million to building a new high-speed rail terminal earlier this year and has released a YouTube clip promoting the project:

Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the case was simple given Kingsford-Smith Airport would be at capacity by 2027.

The growing passenger numbers from Sydney's overflow would make high-speed rail a viable solution for aviation capacity needs.

''It is only 15 years until KSA is at capacity according to the Joint Study on Aviation Capacity for the Sydney Region and if nothing is done the revenue forgone for NSW and Australia will be billions of dollars,'' Mr Byron said.

The Canberra Airport study concludes that in 2030, the number of passengers overflowing from a capacity-constrained Sydney airport and using Canberra Airport and high-speed rail will be 2.5 million. This would boost the total number of high-speed rail passengers by 37 per cent to 9.3 million.

''With HSR from Canberra Airport, passengers will reach the Sydney CBD in 57 minutes - faster than from Wilton, Badgery's Creek, or even KSA given the ground transport forecasts,'' Mr Byron said.

''And although they show Canberra Airport's relative advantage, the raw travel times fail to capture the biggest transformation of the HSR option: the certainty of travel time.

''The HSR will be on time, every time, as it is elsewhere in the world with average delays measured in seconds, not minutes.''

Mr Byron said a high-speed rail link between Sydney and Canberra would cost about $11 billion, equivalent to building a new second airport for Sydney at Wilton.

37 comments

  • So Canberra Airport recognise the opposition to a second airport in Sydney but don't recognise that there will be a huge opposition to them boosting the number of flights by a huge proportion. Or is it their view that they have the Guvmint lobbying for them and don't need to worry about the masses?

    Commenter
    flabby joe
    Location
    Queanbeyan
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 9:34AM
    • Flabby Joe, what? Are you saying that the masses deserve 2nd rate travel services? Because that's what air travel is compared to HSR. I think Canberra....and even Queanbeyan deserve the best travel servies we can get, and that's High Speed Rail.

      HSR beats rail between Sydney and Canberra on every measurable indicator...... except maybe altitude. If you like to fly for the view then I can't help you, but if when you travel between Canberra and Sydney you want to do it as fast as possible, on time, in comfort and safety at an economical price then HSR is for you.

      $11 billion is actually pretty cheap. Build it now and get our economy running!

      Commenter
      Stir the pot
      Location
      Woah there pickle!!
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 9:52AM
    • Stir the pot, you misunderstand me. I am fully in favour of HSR. It is extra flights into Canberra airport I am against.

      Commenter
      flabby joe
      Location
      queanbeyan
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 10:15AM
    • Sorry Flabby Joe, glad we're on the same page re HSR. An increase in flight numbers to Canberra is a valid concern, however, any new flights from overseas may well be offset by a decline in flight numbers between Canberra-Sydney and Canberra-Melbourne.

      Commenter
      Stir the pot
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 10:35AM
    • Pigs will fly backwards on the Canberra/Sydney route before a slightly faster train does.

      Commenter
      dusty
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 1:02PM
  • Good to hear that if the HSR is built there will be no more flights between SYD-CBR. It is a waste of resources to have such a short flight when there is a much better alternative. 57 minutes is comparable to the travel time between Narita and Tokyo, no one complains about that journey.

    With less than an hour of travel time between these CBR-SYD then a commuter run is viable.

    CBR airport could then became a viable alternative international airport for many airlines especially low cost carriers. The use of landing slots for longer flights is a much better use of limited resources than it is for short flights.

    And with no curfew (yet, don't build Tralee!) at CBR the opportunity for 24 hour flights would be an absolute boon to travellers and freight operators.

    High speed rail is an absolute boon for everybody including the airport operators. Just build it and reap the benefits.

    Commenter
    PH
    Location
    CBR
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 9:39AM
    • OK PH, as someone who has flown around Canberra for hours before being diverted to Sydney or Melbourne because of the fog, what's the plan for making Canberra a reliable place for an international flight to land there?

      I sometimes took photographs of the fog over Canberra as we did hours of circuits and it seemed to me to be an impossible problem. The fog gets funnelled towards the airport and it stays there forever.

      In my experience the typical "fog closed" scenario is the plane sits on the ground at Melbourne until it looks like the situation becomes "landable" at Canberra. Then we get hustled onto a 737 and head towards Canberra. If you can see the Black Mountain Tower above the fog as you come around the bottom of the Monaro Highway you know you aren't landing this time. Then its circuits with an increasing membership of planes - and you can watch them at times having a go at landing. Then you get diverted to Melbourne. By now it's afternoon and you decide to cancel the trip. This costs you an airfare, parking, income and credibility.

      With international flights, you'll find people avoiding flights that go to Sydney via Canberra in the same way that people avoided JetStar flights to Melbourne via Avalon. Despite its name, Canberra is only an international airport for politicians.

      Commenter
      Yours Truly
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 10:16AM
    • HSR runs in the fog, problem solved.

      As for international flights, I see your point.....sort of. London is foggy (it's pretty famous for it) and yet I'll fly into Heathrow or Gatwick or Luton if that's where my airline takes me. The chances of a fog diversion are way down on my list of concerns when purchasing a ticket.

      1. Does it take me where I want to go?
      2. How much does it cost?
      3. What's the service like?
      4. Any good in-flight movies?
      .
      .
      .
      86. Is there a chance of diversion due to fog at my destination?

      Commenter
      Stir the pot
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 11:04AM
    • Re the fog at CBR airport, they have previously used anti-fog machines so maybe need to be investigated.

      All airports have reasons for delays, the fog at CBR is only a few days a year. Well worth the risk and with the HSR if forced to land at SYD then easy enough to recover the journey.

      Commenter
      PH
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 11:13AM
  • Apart from placing the Canberra end of the line at the airport, that would appear to be win-win from a pure infrastructure viewpoint (ignoring the cost). An extra few slots a day would open up at Sydney airport, slightly decreasing the pressure on Kingsford-Smith while a second airport was built, and a better Canberra-Sydney transport option would be available.

    Commenter
    TimF
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 9:54AM

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