Canberra Airport is continuing its campaign to become a de facto second airport for Sydney, with this week's release of a report promoting a high-speed rail link between the nation's capital and the harbour city.
"What may have once seemed like a pie-in-the-sky idea – a high speed rail solution linking the upgraded Canberra Airport with Sydney’s central business district – is becoming increasingly plausible as an antidote for the looming aviation capacity challenges of Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport" the report says.
The line is estimated to cost $11bn but would whisk passengers between the cities in just under one hour, says Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron.
The line has already been proposed as part of a much larger and far more ambitious Aussie bullet train running from Brisbane to Melbourne.
“Anyone who alleges that there is no case for HSR is simply not looking at the evidence,” Byron says..
Building a new airport at either Badgery's Creek or Wilton, the two proposed sites for a second airport within the Sydney basin, would cost between $9-11bn, Byron claims – and it would take 65-70 minutes to travel by train from those airports to Sydney.
Byron has already promised to fund construction of a $140m high-speed rail terminal at Canberra Airport, to "provide a seamless interface for passengers arriving in Canberra by air ready for their 57 minute train trip to Sydney."
"Passengers will be able to transfer from arriving aircraft to their train in under five minutes without baggage and be in Sydney in less than an hour."
Recent upgrades to Canberra Airport have seen its runways "lengthened, strengthened and widened to 747 and A380 standard" Byron told Australian Business Traveller last year.
"So we've got a fully kitted-up airport, you can go anywhere off our runway with a fully-laden aircraft that you can go out of Sydney Airport."
Byron considers Canberra as an ideal "overflow airport" as Sydney's congestion continues.
"Sydney will become more crowded and that's when our role as an overflow airport comes into play. We won't formally be a second Sydney airport but we believe there will be parts of the market that will grow for us in response as Sydney's capabilities are challenged."
Byron sees Canberra eventually becoming the natural home of low-cost Asian carriers such as Air Asia X and Jetstar Asia. "I think a decade down the track (Canberra) will be Sydney's low-cost airport for international services" he predicts.
"They'll be squeezed out of Sydney in due course as the capacity constraint hits, just as the low-cost airlines have been squeezed out of Heathrow and other major 'first airports' in larger cities around the world. We think we'll see the Air Asia X's and Jetstar Asias will be flying out of Canberra."
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.