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Would HSR solve Sydney’s airport woes?

An animated history of the growth of the Boston metro system from 1897 to 2012 (click to view)

The inability of successive NSW and Australian governments to construct a second Sydney airport is taking on the proportions of a national tragedy. The failure to expand Sydney’s aviation capacity isn’t because of technical, environmental or financial difficulties – it’s solely due to political selfishness and opportunism.

The new study by the Federal and NSW governments, Joint study on aviation capacity for the Sydney region, estimates the economic losses from failure to act at $60 billion p.a. in foregone expenditure and $34 billion p.a. in foregone GDP by 2060. Nationally, 79,000 jobs would be foregone.

Airlines and travellers will experience even worse delays and higher costs, with the effects rippling across the country, unless decisive action is taken. The noise from Kingsford-Smith will get worse – the noise-sharing arrangements designed to spread noise impacts equitably will no longer work for most of the day. Huge increases in road and rail capacity will be required to cope with the ever increasing numbers wanting to get to and from Kingsford-Smith.

The site at Badgerys Creek is the obvious best location for a new airport and is recommended by the Federal-NSW joint study team. The Federal Government acquired 1700 Ha of land for the airport at Badgerys Creek 26 years ago.

The land has been protected from encroaching development and is close to existing transport infrastructure and growing passenger markets in western Sydney. An airport would provide a major source of employment in a region that could do with an economic shot in the arm.

Yet the Premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, says there shouldn’t be a second airport anywhere within earshot of Sydney. He proposes instead that Canberra Airport should be upgraded and linked to Sydney via a High Speed Rail (HSR) line.

Presumably Mr O’Farrell imagines he can sell his Canberra Option as visionary, economy-building and environmentally sustainable. But if so he would be completely and utterly wrong. It’s effectively a non-option – just more do-nothing. There are at least eight good reasons to question Mr O’Farrell’s wisdom on this issue.

First, a Canberra-Sydney HSR service would cater for 250 km of what is essentially unnecessary travel.  It would not replace an existing inefficient or environmentally damaging mode. It wouldn’t even satisfy some existing unmet demand. (Note that Sydney-Canberra passengers currently only account for 3.1% of all passengers through Kingsford-Smith).

Second, according to the HSR Phase 1 study prepared for the Federal Government last year, an HSR line between Sydney and Canberra would cost in the order of $30 billion to construct. That would be in addition to upgrading Canberra Airport. That’s serious money – if applied to Sydney’s public transport system the city could have a network to rival the best in Europe.

Third, the operating costs of the Canberra-Sydney leg would be high. One way economy airfares between Canberra and Sydney currently range from around $397 for a fully flexible ticket to $150 for a steeply discounted fare.

Economies of scale might lower the HSR fare, but then again loss of competition if airlines are forced out of the market could exert upward pressure. Alternatively, of course, all this unnecessary and ongoing travel could be funded by taxpayers at mind-boggling (recurring) expense.

Fourth, providing adequate frequencies and span of hours would be extraordinarily costly outside the peak when passenger loadings are low. As a benchmark, consider that Melbourne Airport’s SkyBus currently operates for most of the day and night at 10 minute frequencies. Kingsford-Smith’s Airport Link train offers 7 minute frequencies in the peak.

Fifth, the trip from Canberra to Sydney would add considerably to total journey time. In terms of flying distance, the two cities are 250 km apart. A train with a maximum speed of 300 km/h will still take around an hour to make the journey. Of course there’s also waiting time, which depends on frequencies – if trains only operate every half hour like Brisbane’s AirTrain, then journey times could be considerably longer.

Sixth, there will be extra travelling time for passengers connecting to flights at Kingsford-Smith (or vice versa). Connecting passengers make up 20% of all traffic though the existing airport. They include country NSW, interstate and international passengers travelling beyond the Sydney basin.

Connecting passengers would need to change to the existing Airport Link train service at Central. Alternatively, the HSR line could be routed to the CBD via Kingsford-Smith, but that would add to costs and extend the train trip time a little (the Phase 1 HSR study does not propose HSR should service existing airports).

Seventh, construction of 250 km of dual track carriageway with stations at Canberra, Parramatta and Sydney Central (and possibly Kingsford-Smith) would release enormous quantities of greenhouse gas during construction. A British study by Booz Allen estimates that a fast rail line from London to Manchester would emit more GHGs in construction than it could recover from lower air travel over the 60 year time horizon adopted for the analysis.

Operating trains with under-capacity passenger loadings in off-peak periods would also be costly in environmental terms, as trains consume a lot of energy – they only score well if they carry large numbers of passengers. And in this case, of course, the travel is essentially unnecessary.

Finally, the joint Federal-State study team unconditionally, unambiguously and emphatically ruled out the Canberra Option. The team included the Directors General of the NSW departments of transport and planning.

So, Mr O’Farrell’s Canberra Option is dubious to say the least. The main point of course is all that infrastructure and all that operating cost (both financial and environmental) would be for the purpose of meeting a need that doesn’t exist! It would be almost solely for Mr O’Farrell’s political convenience.

Some will argue that a second airport at Canberra makes sense in the context of a full HSR network along Australia’s East Coast, from Brisbane to Melbourne. That possibility is only logical if the full network makes sense and, as I’ve pointed out before, that’s highly improbable.

Another argument is that the Canberra Option would avoid the cost of upgrading transport infrastructure to Badgerys Creek. Since this site is already close to road and rail links, the additional expense is likely to be pretty small compared to the cost of 250 km of HSR and ongoing operating losses.

In fact depositing all those HSR passengers in the CBD or Parramatta would present its own challenges. Public transport and taxi capacity in these locations would need to be expanded to cope with the extra load as only a small proportion of passengers would be going to destinations within walking distance of stations. Public transport’s share of (Canberra) airport travel would doubtless increase at the expense of taxis and cars, but it would be bought at ludicrous expense.

Unfortunately, Simon Crean and Kevin Rudd both ruled out Badgery’s Creek. Anthony Albanese is now promoting an alternative site at Wilton. It’s not as good as Badgerys Creek – not even close – but it’s a lot better than O’Farrell’s Canberra Option, which is effectively another jelly back non-decision.

It might also be argued that Sydney’s failure to expand its aviation capacity doesn’t matter – it’s Brisbane and Melbourne’s gain. These cities would very likely pick up a lot of air traffic and economic activity repelled by Sydney, but the Emerald City is awfully important for Australia. I think it’s very likely Melbourne and Brisbane, on balance, will be worse off if Sydney’s aviation impasse isn’t resolved soon. All of Australia needs a second airport in Sydney.

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  • 1
    moonetau
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Here are some initial responses to get the debate going:

    1.Canberra – Sydney accounts for 6.1% of flights according to the Joint Study. HSR is likely to take 90% of that judging by European experience, if the terminals are in the CBD.
    2.Base Corridor 11 was costed at $15 billion by HSR Phase One, not $30 billion (see p. 81)
    3.It is not unnecessary travel as it will mainly be mode shift from air.
    4.Load factors will be lower out of peak and so frequencies of HSR will probably drop from half hourly to hourly.
    5.Door to door travel time will be shorter if the terminal is in the Sydney CBD. Most business travellers come from the north and east of Sydney which are closer to the CBD than KSA.
    6.HSR could easily add a stop at KSA as it is anticipated that it will follow the Airport East Hills line (if the terminal was to be at Eveleigh).
    7.Will have to do some research on that one. As for load factor see 4 .
    8.“Finally, the joint Federal-State study team unconditionally, unambiguously and emphatically ruled out the Canberra Option”
    This is nonsense. Only 3 of the 3200 pages in the Joint Study were devoted to a discussion of HSR and then only in a perfunctory manner (see pp. 114-116).

    No mention of the price of oil and how that will affect the demand for discretionary air travel.
    No mention of the NBN and how that might affect the demand for business air travel.

    This issue is really about risk management.
    What if the price of oil increases dramatically because of the cost of extracting it rises exponentially and reaches $10 a gallon in 2020 when a second airport might be finished?
    No mention of the progress being made to combat peak oil (i.e. what progress is being made on developing alternative fuels: what if, at the same time, biofuels based on camelina (for example) or sourced from algae, cannot be produced in the volumes and at a price needed to satisfy the transport industry?

    Where is the discussion of the report from 2009 “Transport energy futures: long-term oil supply trends and projections.”?
    It was on the Department of Infrastructure website but has been removed.
    Was it because that report found that there would be a significant drop-off in oil production from 2017?

    Moontau: Er, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. Why on earth would I need to mention the NBN? I think you’re debating the merits of HSR as an alternative to air travel on the Canberra-Sydney corridor, but that’s NOT what I’m discussing (although I’ve discussed HSR elsewhere many times). In this post, I’m discussing O’Farrell’s proposal to substitute Canberra Airport (with HSR) for an airport at either Badgery’s Creek or Wilton.

    Anyway, re your points:

    1. Yes, Canberra-Sydney travellers account for 6.1% of flights through KSA and 3.1% of passengers.
    2. My $30 billion cost estimate is from p115 of the current report i.e. the joint Federal-State officials report (you’ve referenced the HSR Phase One report). They give a range of costs with different probability estimates. There’s no point choosing the lowest estimate because it has an assigned probability that it’s only 10% right. I’ve used the $24.5 billion figure because there’s a 90% chance it won’t cost more than than. I’ve added 15% for procurement and planning management costs because, as the report indicates, they’re not included.
    3. Here I think is the source of your misunderstanding. O’Farrell’s proposal is not about shifting existing Canberra-Sydney travellers from air to HSR. It’s a proposed substitute for Badgerys Creek or Wilton. That’s why it’s unnecessary travel i.e. travellers to Sydney can arrive at Badgerys Ck within Sydney, or they can arrive 250 km away in Canberra. If the latter, they need HSR to take them 250 km to Sydney. That’s 250 km of unnecessary travel.
    4. One hour frequencies would be ridiculous. Imagine flying from Albury to Sydney but you have to wait for up to one hour at Canberra for the train and then take a one hour train trip to the CBD! Or if Canberra were used solely for international travel, imagine coming in after a 15 hour or longer trip from the US (my last trip with Qantas from NY on an A380 was 21 hours to Sydney!) and then waiting for up to an hour at Canberra for a train followed by a one hour trip to Sydney, followed by getting a cab home…!
    5. There should indeed be a terminal in the CBD. But you’d also need to have Parramatta and KSA.
    6. No trouble with a stop at KSA but there’s additional cost. The Phase One Study assumed costs for stations in built up areas in the region of $2 billion.
    7. Add in direct visual and ecological impacts too
    8. You don’t even need three pages to say no. One sentence is enough. Sure, the report’s in bureacratic speak, but neither Lenore Taylor nor the SMH editorialist missed the loud and clear message. Even Joe Hockey describes the Canberra option as absurd.

    This discussion has nothing to do with oil prices! O’Farrell isn’t proposing HSR as an alternative to existing flights between Canberra and Sydney! AD

  • 2
    rachel612
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    That was a short debate. Did moonetau skulk back to Barry O’Farrell’s office?

  • 3
    moonetau
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Rachel612
    Some of us have to work you know.
    One thing I have enjoyed about Alan’s blog is the tone of the comments.

    Alan
    Your question was “Would HSR to Canberra solve Sydney’s airport woes?” and my answer is “probably”.
    A debate like this needs to recognise that a lot of business travel is for meetings. While many meetings must happen face to face, there are possibilities for video meetings and the NBN may be a help in this regard. In my own experience I have attended conferences and meetings which could easily have been conducted by video.

    Regarding cost, I’m happy to stick with the estimate for a HSR link suggested by a HSR link study rather than an aviation one.

    Regarding unnecessary travel. Passengers arriving at Badgery’s Creek (not very far north of the South West rail extension, will have to travel for about an hour by conventional rail to get to the CBD of Sydney. An express train would be faster. If travelling by car the journey will be about 60kms, and presumably the M5 will be extended at both ends. In off peak times this will probably take less than an hour and in peak probably more than an hour. (If the airport is at Wilton add another 30kms or 30 minutes)

    When passengers arrive at Canberra Airport, HSR will take them to the centre of the Sydney in an hour, probably less if the average speed is 350kph or more. They will however be 95% sure of the travel time given the reliability of HSR in other parts of the world. (As a side note I travelled from Madrid to Barcelona a couple of years ago. The train was early and stopped for a couple of minutes before it then restarted and pulled slowly into Sants right on time).

    So what is the difference between an airport at Canberra and an airport at BC or Wilton, in terms of land travel time between airport and CBD?

    Sorry I don’t understand what you mean in 4.

    There will be no need for a stop at Parramatta, nor should the HSR go through Parramatta. The HSR line should shadow the East Hills line but be underground for a considerable part of the distance. Parramatta would then be linked to the CBD by the City Relief Line (ie. Express train stopping only at Olympic Park, Redfern and CBD).

    8.I almost wrote a letter to the SMH but didn’t have to as others beat me to it. As indicated above I would prefer a recommendation about rail from a rail study rather than an aviation study.

    There is a perfectly good 24 hour a day airport at Canberra the SAME land travel time from the Sydney CBD. (If this new airport was to be at Wilton then the Canberra airport would probably be closer in terms of time to get to the CBD).

    Regarding oil. This is a really important point. Mr Albanese et. al. are certain that Sydney needs another airport in the Sydney basin.
    I am uncertain about this because if the price of oil rises exponentially AND at the same time if biofuels cannot be produced with a comparable energy level and at the level needed by airlines the cost of air travel will rise considerably. This will have an effect on business travel even though it is not as price sensitive as leisure travel. The demand for air travel may remain steady or even fall. If this is the case there will be no need for a second Sydney airport.

    Hope this clears up a few things.

    Moonetau: Many of the trains to a Badgerys Creek airport would need to be expresses. You can in any event have a 51 km fast train from Badgerys Creek to the CBD rather than a 250 km one from Canberra to the CBD. A Badgerys Creek airport means many Sydneysiders could taxi, drive, bus or train directly to their homes and offices in the suburbs. Your Canberra HSR proposal deposits everyone in the CBD after an hours train journey, then they still have to travel home. AD

  • 4
    mrsynik
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    “Would HSR to Canberra solve Sydney’s airport woes?”

    Why bother even asking this question? We all know neither HSR nor a 2nd SYD airport will be built.

    mrsynik: I’m not that pessimistic, but the chances will be lower if O’Farrell gets away with his Canberra Option fiction. AD

  • 5
    michael r james
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/a-very-fast-train-is-a-model-of-sustainability-20100326-r2cv.html
    A very fast train is a model of sustainability
    MICHAEL R. JAMES March 26, 2010

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/10/28/we-need-new-fast-trains-fast/
    We need new fast trains … fast.
    by Michael R James Wednesday, 28 October 2009

    Michael: That’s all very well, but please note this post is arguing against a Canberra location for a 2nd Sydney Airport (rather than Badgerys Ck or Wilton), it’s not arguing against HSR per se. AD

  • 6
    michael r james
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Alan, you didn’t actually follow through on the economics. You would find that there is a considerable net benefit from building that HSR. Of course you must not stop at just Canberra-Sydney, as Melbourne-Canberra would have to be built. (Brisbane is a very long stretch and would be the most expensive, not just because of the distance but because of the topography.) Also, you have a touching faith in those government reports including the one on HSV and the recent one on Sydney Airport (and you should NEVER, ever cite a British report on trains or costs of trains, least of all HST! Try looking at those who have actually built HST. Please.) I don’t accept the outrageous costs for the HST which I think they cooked up in a lazy Brit fashion, then doubled it again. It is way out of whack compared to the French and Spanish, not to mention Chinese. Their estimate of $3 billion for modification of Central Station has been ridiculed by experts.

    However, in addition to nation building, I will agree with one indirect implication from the analysis: it would be better to remove KS airport completely and operate everything out of either Canberra or a completely new mega-airport in between (near Goulburn, serving yet another bit of nation building, regional centres). This would guarantee high ridership of the line! (Yes I can imagine what you think of that strategy. I love it.) This would, IMO, spur the growth of Canberra and Goulburn as alternative/regional nuceli. It would also bring tourist money to Canberra and country NSW (if TI had brains). It would also be worth maybe $20 billion in released land values for the ex-KSA (I am doing the calcs) and provide an amazing new brownfield site for practically a new city in Sydney of approx. a quarter million, yet just a hop from …. everywhere.

    AD wrote: “the joint Federal-State study team unconditionally, unambiguously and emphatically ruled out the Canberra Option”.

    Again, you like to take those report’s conclusions as proven truth. On reading they did no careful study to come to their “categorical” rejection of the Canberra option but gave two reasons to not consider it at all, neither of which is scientific but rather purely political (which means they proved NOTHING other than, as usual with these kinds of reports, they were merely coming to a predetermined conclusion; Badgerys Creek, doh ): 1. they decided that there would be a 90 minute travel requirement from Sydney (they did not specify by what mode, obviously not by HST, perhaps by bus?) and 2. the removal of KSA was not considered “practical”.

    Finally, I am not sure if anyone following this epic (eg. Ben Sandilands) believes that Albo or Labor really wants to build a new airport at Wilton. Some think that it is all part of a plan to get BOF to eventually agree/both parties “compromising” on Badgerys Creek! (but note that housing has been allowed there that would compromise operation so, like at Wilton, some resumptions would still be needed; with Australian planning how could it be otherwise?). The politics needs that both must be perceived as doing it under sufferance: it is natural Labor territory but BOF also picked up seats in Western Sydney and future re-elections it could be more important). I think that is almost feasible but … nah, I think I’ll take the parsimonious interpretation: Australian bloody intransigence and head-in-sand syndrome. We’re Orstralian, we don’t do planning.

    (Oh final bit of pessimism/realism: does anyone for one blind nanosecond of blood to the head imagine that they would manage to build a good rail link to Badgerys Creek in, say, the first 2 decades?)

  • 7
    michael r james
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I am convinced that the Syd-Can-Melb HST with mega-airport at Canberra or closer to Goulburn would be a fantastic project for Australia and the three cities and two states. It addresses half a dozen growth issues for all cities, all airports and regional areas. I even think the economics adds up even according to the kind of economic rationalists I usually disdain. But even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t rule it out; as I explained in one of those articles that is what everyone thought about the Paris-Lyons TGV…. until a few months after inauguration it had carried it first million pax. Today the same kind of people are criticizing China for building so much HST!

    There are benefits that are impossible to capture in an Excel spreadsheet until something is built and often even after it is built. The obvious thing is that such infrastructure just goes on and on, serving its function. I can barely believe it is already 30 years (and 2 billion pax) since Paris-Lyon TGV opened (and I am 30 years older–groan–I was living there at the time and was one of those early passengers).

    And actually it is already approaching 20 years since Eurostar was opened; and it was an economic debacle but is there anyone (truly anyone) who doesn’t today believe it was the right thing to have done. As proof that I put my money where my mouth is, if I have to go to the UK I will go via Paris and take Eurostar. Why? Because no one enjoys Heathrow. Because the UK imposes the highest airport tax in the world ($150) and Eurostar is fast and fabulous and tickets can be as low as $50 (so actually it could turn out cheaper to fly into Paris anyway!). Paris-London TGV is 450 km (almost twice Syd-Can) and takes 2h34m. (Of course I have other personal reasons too.)

  • 8
    Herceg shayne
    Posted April 13, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Sydney-Melbourne, NYC-Washington-Boston, Paris-London, Madrid-Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro-SĂŁo Paulo are some of the woulds busiest corridors for short haul flight’s.

    Eurostar killed off most of the flight’s between Paris and London, freeing up many airport slot’s. Pre ES it was originally thought that people would only substitute a plane for a train if the train journey was in the 2-3 hour range but over the year’s it has been found that people are still prepared to substitute a plane for a train if the journey falls into the 4-5 hour range. And when the planed ICE service’s commence from London to the Netherlands and Germany this decline in flight’s is expected to be repeated, once again reducing pressure on the airport’s.
    Amongst the current debate about capacity in London airport’s is the idea of HSR direct from Heathrow, to Gatwick, then joining the ES line to France which would take the airport’s connecting passenger’s.
    In Spain the AVE has decimated flight’s between Madrid-Barcelona and is expected to take 75-85% of travellers away from the airline’s on this route.

    And Brazil is now inviting bid’s to build TAV to take the strain off its Congonhas and Santos Dumont airport’s. Even the train phobic USA is considering HSR in its northeast corridor.

    Building a line only to Canberra would seem a little pointless, but a line to Melbourne via Kingsford Smith, Canberra, Tullamarine would no doubt see a repeat of the same effect on flight’s and airport slot’s seen on other flight corridors around the world where HSR has been introduced.

  • 9
    michael r james
    Posted April 13, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    @Herceg shayne 9.44 am:
    “In Spain the AVE has decimated flight’s between Madrid-Barcelona and is expected to take 75-85% of travellers away from the airline’s on this route.”

    As I discussed in my article of several years ago (link below) it is not a case of “is expected” but that almost all airlines stopped flying that route within the first year of operation (2008/9). I stick to my contention that the Barcelona-Madrid-Seville HST axis (1170 km; serving about 12 m population) is broadly comparable to Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney, especially with growth projections for our two largest cities. This would be a huge infrastructure project which would address multiple growth issues and capacity constraints (air, road, housing). But it seems like we can only manage a significant infrastructure project once every 40-50 years; currently it is the NBN, prior to that the Snowy scheme, before that the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Makes one despair of where we will be by 2050.

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/a-very-fast-train-is-a-model-of-sustainability-20100326-r2cv.html
    A very fast train is a model of sustainability
    MICHAEL R. JAMES March 26, 2010

    Incidentally my original title of that article began: ‘AVE a go Aussie. (Sub-editors reserve the sole right to make awful punning titles!)

  • 10
    moonetau
    Posted April 13, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Quoting Alan “A Badgerys Creek airport means many Sydneysiders could taxi, drive, bus or train directly to their homes and offices in the suburbs. Your Canberra HSR proposal deposits everyone in the CBD after an hours train journey, then they still have to travel home.”

    Just quickly checked Sydney Airport report from 2006.
    Origin Destination of Travellers
    36% Inner Sydney
    7% St George Sutherland
    7% Lower Northern Sydney
    6% Eastern Suburbs
    others then
    2% Outer South Western Sydney.
    So as you can see more than half are CBD or further away from BC and W.
    6% Northern Beachers

    moonetau: I think that’s good info, but bear in mind KSA will remain functioning when a 2nd airport is built, whether it’s at Badgery’s Creek or Canberra. KSA will serve different markets to the 2nd airport (and even Badgerys and Canberra wouldn’t necessarily serve the same markets). AD

  • 11
    moonetau
    Posted April 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Agree Alan
    KSA should remain premium (ie. if you want to get to the CBD within 20 minutes of landing you have to pay) and regional airlines.

    Canberra should be for low cost carriers and freight.

    BTW did you notice they are trialling high speed rail freight in Europe now.
    BTW2 Aust Post sends 7 semitrailers to and from Sydney and Melbourne every night
    That has to take at least 13 hours.
    If they sent if via a SNCF style TGV La Poste leaving at 10pm it would get there at 2am.

  • 12
    Russ
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    moonetau, if the second airport is only going to handle low-value KSA overflow (which is certainly what KSA would want) then almost every criticism of Alan’s applies.

    Traffic to KSA comes can be split into four different classes:
    - A: Traffic for the greater Sydney metropolitan area – generally reflective of the Sydney resident demand, with a high proportion of domestic flights.
    - B: Traffic for inner Sydney – high proportion of business traffic.
    - C: Traffic for South-East Australia generally, indifferent to which city – overseas tourists and domestic interchange to country NSW.
    - D: And traffic interchanging with overseas flights.

    Class A is indifferent to BCA and KSA, but would be greatly inconvenienced by CAN. Class B would prefer KSA but would be indifferent to BCA/CAN. Class C and D have no reason to travel to a low-cost airport. If the aim is to handle low-value overflow from KSA then it absolutely has to be in the Sydney basin.

    The HSR-Canberra proposal is interesting because it invites a different paradigm: the segmenting of class C and D travel into a predominantly international airport, with KSA being used for class A and domestic class B.

    There are several issues pertaining to it.
    - As Michael suggests it makes sense as a Melbourne alternative, meaning it needs HSR in both directions. Airlines get the advantage of shorter routes and turn-arounds, and the ability to service both cities with one flight – larger more efficient planes.
    - By my reckoning Canberra is neither close enough to a Melbourne-Sydney direct route (3 hours to Melbourne) nor sufficiently able to expand to be a major international airport.
    - Both KSA and Tullamarine would both lobby very strongly against an airport that reduces their international flights. As probably would both the Victorian and NSW governments.

    The upside is it would both generate sufficient trips to justify a HSR link between the two cities – approximately 20 million passenger movements per year – and anchor regional development wherever it was placed, which a HSR by itself wouldn’t.

  • 13
    michael r james
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    @Russ Posted April 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Just to clarify the way I think a major airport at/near Canberra could work:
    1. it would 100% displace all flights Sydney-Canberra (not least because KSA would close!)
    2. it would 100% displace all flights Melbourne-Canberra
    3. obviously it would displace all other Canberra-bound flights from elsewhere that often route thru Sydney or Melbourne.
    4. it could be Sydney’s main airport
    5. despite the longer train journey the experience o/s suggests it could steal some of Tullamarine’s traffic, eg. international flights because a single A380 could be more economic coming from LAX etc with pax for either city (& Canberra). HST fares would need to be competitive and perhaps special rates for connecting pax. On this point it would be interesting to know the experience of Madrid-Barcelona (630 km; 2h30m). Contrary to what AD implied, most people with experience would not be alarmed at a transfer to a HST from a plane particularly if it is about an hour; you arrive at your destination more relaxed than when you started!)

    A HST from existing Canberra airport to Sydney would be 1h17m (based on somewhat older TGVs that do slightly longer 300 km Paris-Brussels in 1h23m). (Does anyone imagine a conventional rail link–if the swine actually built it–from either Wilton or Badgery’s Creek would be as good?) Canberra to Melbourne would be about 2h40m using same train, however it would make sense to go for the latest HSTs which can manage 340 kmph, reducing the journey to 2h20m.

    However, as you say, Canberra airport is probably not the best location to consider expanding into a mega-airport and a location to the north closer to Goulburn would better serve all objectives (closer to Sydney; same stop could serve Goulburn and the new city that would inevitably arise due to the 60k jobs).

    Of course I know I’m dreaming but only because of the timidity of Australians. It is entirely do-able and makes economic sense; more than that it solves several problems. But our politicians and commentator class (journos or academics like AD and Ben Sandilands) are pessimistic about doing anything so we end up doing close to nothing then apply band-aids when it gets unbearable. It is why when one flies back into Oz from almost anywhere o/s (except perhaps, not accidentally, the UK) it feels like we are a second-rate country.

  • 14
    Dudley Horscroft
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Most of the responses have been arguing over whether HSR to Canberra is a good idea or not. However, it appears that CBR would only remove about 6% of the flights into and out of KSA. Not enough, if the forecasts are to be believed (very doubtful – forecasts by alarmist people wanting another large airport are about as believable as projections made by climate change alarmists wanting massive control over ‘carbon’ policies).

    But is there a better alternative to Canberra, Badgery’s Creek or Wilton?

    Yes. It is to develop Sydney’s second airport – Bankstown. Admittedly, its runways are too short and public transport to the CBD is dead poor. But these factors can be rectified at reasonable cost.

    The main 1200 m runway can be extended by up to 400 m to the NW and, if industrial land is resumed, by up to 1300 m to the SE. This gives 2900 m, more than Gold Coast Airport. The Bankstown railway line passes 4 km away at Yagoona. A single track tunnel from near Yagoona could run under the Hume Highway (cut and cover or deep tunnel) to Bass Hill (possible new station) then under the parklands to the airport. A thirty minute interval service does not need double track for a five minute run in the new tunnelled branch. The existing service from Yagoona via Sydenham runs at best every 15 minutes (a bit less in the rush hour) and stops at 14 stations to Central, taking 40 to 45 minutes. An express stopping only at Bass Hill, Bankstown, Sydenham and Redfern (interchange stations) should take at most 34 minutes, 23 minutes more than Domestic Airport to Central, and given the time from plane to station at KSA, Bankstown could be quicker! An Airport Express arriving at Bankstown immediately behind the train from Liverpool/Lidcombe and departing first would arrive at Sydenham close behind the previous stopping train – no delay. Cost of the rail extension – about $400M, at $100M per km, another $50M for a station at Bass Hill. Cost of the extensions and buildings at Bankstown Airport – no more than at Badgery’s Creek or Wilton.

    Bankstown Airport should be definitely the winner in any properly run competition.

    But should there be HSR to Canberra? In the not too far off past there have been two groups willing to put a large chunk of their own money into the line – which means they would expect it to be a profitable venture. But they were not looking at any grossly inflated $30 000M cost. A 30 minute interval service from Canberra to Sydney needs only single track with suitably placed loops. You would meet a train in the other direction every 15 minutes. In 15 minutes at 300 km/h (new stock would undoubtedly be faster) you travel 75 km. So a loop every 75 km should be adequate. Loops 10 km long should enable trains to pass at speed.

    There is no need for modification of Sydney Central – there is plenty of platform space. The line would use the existing Aiport-East Hills line, with an additional third track where there are only two – these being for the stopping trains. The reservation is wide enough for additional tracks. At Glenfield there would be a stop for interchange, then off to the west to join the Hume Highway alignment, which would be used almost all the way to Goulburn, then the Federal Highway alignment to Canberra Airport Station. Costings of $30 000M are out of this world! The line could conceivably be profitable, as it would just about wipe out the competition from airlines, and would be far quicker than travelling by car. Even families would find it worth while, and it would compete very reasonably with the private car. Plausibly worth while as a project on its own merits.

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