High speed future remains in the air 

CANBERRA airport would be “turbo charged” with a fast train connection on the eastern seaboard.

Management has been so intent on the technology that plans for a high speed rail (HSR) terminal have been factored into the facility’s expansion since 1998.

The $450 million terminal, also incorporating 14 aircraft parking bays, 10 aerobridges, two of these with international capacity, will be finished next month.

The airport’s planning and government relations manager Noel McCann gave attendants at Thursday’s High Speed Rail and Freight Forum a glimpse into the future.

He screened a video showing a fast train snaking sleekly beside Majura Rd, slowing as it emerges into the Canberra Airport terminal, within easy distance of plane take-offs.

While the federal government is hardly talking up the possibility of HSR, Mr McCann believes it and an international airport at Canberra are not pie in the sky.

But it will take a concerted push.

“More needs to happen,” he told the Post.

“The government needs to say we will get in and do detailed (high speed rail) work and engage with the private sector.

It won’t do it on its own.”

He and observers are keenly awaiting stage two of a federal government commissioned study into HSR, which will drill down to routes.

Mr McCann told the forum he was not confident the government would spend money on the technology but there was immense opportunity to “work our way through that.”

Political pressure, emerging from forums like Thursday’s, was essential in that respect.

Canberra Airport is increasing its freight capacity and negotiating international flights to Singapore and the US, the latter connecting with the Pacific and US. Mr McCann sees a much bigger role for Canberra, taking pressure off Sydney airport.

It would also solve angst about the best site for Sydney’s second airport. He told the forum that both state and federal governments had ruled out Badgerys Creek and the community around Wilton didn’t want it either.

Moreover, Premier Barry O’Farrell had talked up Canberra’s prospects. Mr McCann says a HSR connection is vital to its success.

“It would turbo charge expansion of the airport,” he said.

He expected patronage on Sydney to Canberra flights to initially drop by one-third but recover within eight years as the airport picked up more international trade. With Sydney expected to run out of slots by 2019, the congestion would also create greater opportunity for Canberra, Mr McCann said.

For now, he says preserving the rail corridor and getting business involved through joint venture or ownership of HSR is essential.

The airport has invested $1.3 billion on infrastructure since its privatisation in 1998, including lengthening the runway.

Blast from the past

Former Goulburn Mulwaree Council general manager, Luke Johnson, now heading up Wollondilly Shire also attended the day.

He said his council opposed Wilton as a second Sydney airport site on environmental, social and economic grounds.

“We are keen to make the point that the proposal is largely in the Sydney water catchment, which we find extremely disturbing,” Mr Johnson said.

He told the Post Wollondilly Shire was arguing for a more integrated solution to Sydney’s flight pressures, including HSR, improving the land around Kingsford Smith Airport and maximising use of Bankstown and Richmond airports.

Forum organiser, Mayor Geoff Kettle was buoyed by the day’s success.

“It’s not about the Australasian Railway Association leading the charge.

I’m getting other councils and business to contribute to keep it (HSR) at the forefront of government and agencies’ mind,” he said.

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