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Of Airports and High Speed Trains
April 11, 2013
Of Airports and High Speed Trains
The discussion of a High Speed Train (HST) along the east coast of Australia has rumbled on for decades but is now running into the issues surrounding the need for either a new airport in Sydney or an expansion of the existing one. The government has recently released a study into the feasibility of a HST system and is completing the other report about a location for a second Sydney Airport (SSA).
The Australian Greens argued in late 2012 that a new report, commissioned by Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt, outlined a strong economic case for High Speed Rail (HSR) and removed the need to build a second airport for Sydney. The study also concluded that $48 billion in benefits would accrue from a HSR network along the East Coast from Melbourne, to Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. High Speed Rail: Benefits that add up, A report for the Australian Greens, authored by Naomi Edwards, claimed that high-speed rail would lead to shorter commute times, reduced congestion, fewer accidents, and less pollution than existing transport options.
The Australian and NSW Governments are considering the findings of the Joint Study on aviation capacity for the Sydney region with respect to Winton, Richmond, Badgerys Creek and Canberra Airports. We may expect an announcement on the outcomes of the governments’ joint airport study sometime in 2013. The issue combines with the release on 11 April 2013 of the Government’s High Speed Rail Study (Phase Two) which has estimated that east coast construction would cost about $114 billion and take until 2053 to complete. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese noted that as any HST passes, noise levels would reach 100 decibels, the track would include over 144 kilometres of tunnels with many in Sydney, and would have a substantial and sometimes wide corridor in as straight a line as possible over the 1750 kilometre track from Brisbane to Melbourne. A first section Sydney to Canberra would start by 2035 as shown in the online route maps.
High Speed Rail Studies The former Very Fast Train (VFT) proposal and later HST plans for passenger services along the east coast have been well studied since the mid-1980s. So far, no proposal has proven commercially viable without a significant public sector funding contribution and/or other forms of financial concession such as for lands. For a list of earlier reports, see the two Library Publications High speed trains between Canberra and Sydney from 1996 and Australian Very Fast Trains - A Chronology of June 1998.
Before the current studies, the last major report was the 2002 East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study commissioned by the then Commonwealth Government in December 2000, to conduct a comprehensive examination of options for a very high speed train network connecting Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne with major regional centres along the way. In 2010, the Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation released a study to synthesise the current knowledge of High Speed Rail in the Australian context and to provide directions for further investigation.
During the 2010 federal election campaign, the Greens, the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal National Party Coalition all announced policy commitments to a feasibility study into an east coast, high speed train system. As well, plans were advanced for completion of an inland rail route to serve freight transport. The Terms of Reference for the latest study were released on 31 October 2010. The study by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport drew on international experience, public and private sector expertise, growth forecasts and other contemporary data. The initial focus, Moving forward with high speed rail completed by July 2011, identified requirements for a viable HSR network, including consideration of route and station options and costing. Bullet Train Party
The Bullet Train for Canberra Party ran six candidates in the ACT Legislative Assembly election held on 20 October 2012. The party ran two candidates in each of the three electorates. Information about each of them may be extracted from the Party’s information sheet. The party’s policy was discussed in an article covering public transport issues during the campaign. Buoyed by the campaign’s success, where it won about 4 per cent of the primary votes, the party announced it will field candidates at the 2013 federal election. The party website contains statements about its rationale, material about high speed rail generally and media releases. The party’s beginnings, from a Facebook page, were described in this article. Sydney Airport Futures
The library publication Second Sydney Airport: a decade of deferral 2002-2012 provides detail of the airport saga. In its 8 May 2012 Budget, the Government announced the intention to begin a detailed investigation of the suitability of Wilton as a SSA, while ensuring that Sydney Airport Corporation continued to invest in the existing main airport. The study would also assess the scope for RAAF Base Richmond to handle limited civil operations. The Minister wrote to Sydney Airport to develop a new Master Plan and initiated consultation requirements under its share sale. Meanwhile, there has been a business lobby push for an expansion of the existing Kingsford Smith airport through the construction of new facilities at Towra Point in Botany Bay. The Towra Point study was conducted by IAC Global consulting. Minister Albanese maintains the need for a SSA with or without this or a HST, but New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has previously pushed for Canberra as the second airport. Image source: author's own
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