Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Macquarie Bank Sydney Airport Train?

In November I proposed a "Hybrid High Speed Train to Sydney Airport":
... high speed battery-electric/diesel trains could be routed from Canberra to Sydney via the exiting line to Sydney Airport. ...
Perhaps we will see Macquarie Bank investing in a high speed Sydney-Canberra train, similar to the one they run in Sweden. This would be a relatively inexpensive way to free up landing slots at Macquarie's Sydney airport and allow Macquarie's Qantas aircraft to be used for more profitable routes.

Macquarie Bank have made a takeover approach to Qantas Airlines:
"Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia's biggest airline, received a takeover approach from Macquarie Bank Ltd. and Texas Pacific Group ... lifted the airline's market value to A$10 billion ($7.7 billion)."
From: "Qantas Approached by Macquarie Bank, Texas Pacific (Update4)", Bloomberg, 21 Nov 2006
Macquarie Bank has already invested in Sydney Airport:
"Sydney Airport - Australia's busiest and most important aviation hub for both passengers and freight - was opened in 1920 and is one of the oldest continuously operating airports in the world. Sydney Airport covers 907 hectares on the shoreline of Botany Bay, eight kilometres south of Sydney's central business district. The airport is a dynamic economic centre, requiring the services of some 500 businesses and organisations to meet the needs of airport users. Sydney Airport is owned under a 50 year lease, which started 1 July 1998, with an additional 49 year zero cost option.
From: "Sydney Airport - Macquarie Airports", Macquarie Bank Limited, 2006
Macquarie Bank's European Infrastructure Fund owns the Arlanda Express high speed train to Stockholm airport. I travelled on this train in 2001.

Replacing Qantas flights from Sydney to Canberra with a train would free up 40 landing and takeoff slots per day for use by more profitable long distance flights. It would also make better use of the underutilized Sydney airport rail line.

The UK High Speed Trains which the Australian XPTs are based on are being refurbished and fitted with new diesel engines. It would be much cheaper for Macquarie/Qantas to buy or refurbish some trains than buy additional aircraft for Qantas.

The term "high speed" would largely be for marketing purposes with a Sydney-Canberra train, as without extensive trackwork the train could not travel at high speed for more than a fraction of the journey. However, the hybrid technology being tested with UK HSTs might provide high torque for more rapid climbing of the NSW highlands, in a variation of the "ballistic travel" used by TGVs. Improvements being made to the line into Sydney to speed freight might also help reduce delays for a Canberra train, making the trip just over three hours and competitive with an airline flight with ground delays of just over two hours.

A parliamentary report noted time savings could be made from reducing delays:
"During 1995, the NSW State Rail Authority trialed a Swedish X2000 tilting train on the Canberra corridor, claiming notable travel time savings. However, most of the savings came from the deletion of normal station stops and special operational arrangements in the Sydney network to avoid conflicts with suburban trains. The X2000 actually achieved standard trip times of three hours and twenty minutes at best. ..."
From: High Speed Trains between Canberra and Sydney, Current Issues Brief 17 1996-97, Matthew James, Denis James, Parliamentary Library
But my trip on the X2000 from Sydney to Canberra was much slower. ;-)

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