Australian leaders call for Melbourne express

Posted on in News

Former Australian premiers have called for an express rail link to Melbourne airport, warning that a slow, all-stations service will simply not attract passengers.

Jeff Kennett and Ted Baillieu told The Age newspaper on 30 June that high costs and a lack of demand had delayed airport rail links in recent decades, but that the time is now right to create such a link. Melbourne Airport opened 50 years ago this week, yet it is still without a dedicated rail link, leading to congestion and delays on the 11-lane Tullamarine Freeway.

The Victorian and federal governments have each committed AUD5bn towards a new fixed link, with the final alignment set to be confirmed shortly. It is understood that a new above-ground line between the airport and Sunshine is favoured, with services using existing tracks between the western hub and the city via the new Metro Tunnel. This proposal would render a competing AUD7bn design from IFM Investors to build a tunnel between the city and Sunshine, allowing express airport services on dedicated tracks.

Former Liberal premier Mr Kennett – who reserved land for a rail line through Broadmeadows while in power but prioritised the construction of CityLink – called for an express rail service from the city to the airport to ensure the service was competitive with road-based alternatives. “If people are going to use it in large volumes, you’ve got to get to and from the airport quickly,” he said. “There’s no point in stopping at one or several stations along the way; its self-defeating.”

Mr Baillieu – who promised to build rail links to Avalon and Tullamarine during his time in office – said, when asked why the project has been put off so long, that the “more direct” airport rail routes had always proven more costly. “It has been difficult to demonstrate the benefits in terms of speed and time for passengers and, secondly, it seems to be getting more expensive by the day,” he said.
“Commuters will judge this very quickly and very harshly," he added. “It will be judged on frequency, speed and cost to them – not to the taxpayer – and what happens at each end. That’ll be it.”