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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.”

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London City Airport has released a new video that showcases the extra measures that have been added to the passenger experience, to protect their well-being and make everyone feel safe at the airport. 

The video focuses on how London City will offer safe, careful and speedy journeys as more domestic and European flights return, with Loganair, Eastern Airways, KLM and British Airways CityFlyer all scheduled to restart in July. 

The measures include:

  • An enhanced cleaning regime, including a the use of a long-life anti-microbial surface treatment Touch-free hand sanitiser stations
  • One-way systems
  • Perspex screens at key points of interaction, such as check-in desks
  • Clear signage and floor markings to help maintain social distancing
  • Crowd monitoring technology to identify and manage busy areas
  • Non-contact, automatic temperature checking technology for rapid preliminary screening
  • Staff using face masks or visors and gloves

London City Airport temporarily suspended commercial and private flights on 25 March 2020, in response to the escalating public health crisis and government lockdown measures. During the suspension, the aerodrome was made available to government agencies and the military to support the national effort to manage the pandemic.

Flights resumed on 21 June, with BA CityFlyer’s flight between the Isle of Man and central London being the first. New routes between central London and Teesside and Dundee begin on 6 July, operated by Eastern Airways and Loganair respectively. BA CityFlyer will resume flights to Ibiza, Florence, Málaga and Palma from 10 July and staples of London City Airport’s Anglo-Irish network will resume from 20 July, with BA CityFlyer resuming flights to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. On 13 July, KLM will resume the airport’s most popular (by passenger numbers) route, between Amsterdam and London.

Alison FitzGerald, COO of London City Airport, said: “We want to reassure passengers that it is safe to travel and I hope this video allows them to understand the measures we have taken to protect their health and well-being. 

“We also hope to demonstrate that, despite additional safety measures, the uniquely important aspects of the customer experience at City have not changed. We will still be able offer the fastest airport experience in London and our staff will continue to welcome our customers in a warm, kind and respectful East London way.”

The video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/L2e8EQHFnZY

Full information for passengers is available at www.londoncityairport.com/safe-careful-speedy-journeys

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A new survey conducted by Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd (ERL) indicates that Malaysians are raring to travel again, with 35% of respondents saying they are planning to travel as soon as the border controls are relaxed, with a further 26% saying they will travel within the next six months.

Cleanliness of the accommodation, venues and transport, personal health concerns and being in an enclosed space with other people are the main concerns of the 657 respondents, comprised of both Malaysians and expats living in Malaysia. Only 33% of those surveyed said they would be flying for business, with the others planning overseas and domestic holiday travel.

Noormah Mohd Noor, CEO of ERL, said: “Like other businesses in the travel and hospitality sector, our train ridership was greatly impacted during the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO). Despite lingering fears of catching the virus, domestic leisure travel will nevertheless be starting to take off in the coming months, with the government’s new initiatives on domestic tourism recovery.

“ERL will continue with our value packages, and work with partners to offer promotional fares in order to attract passengers. From our recent survey, 64% of Malaysians and expats would welcome a promotional offer as an incentive to plan their holiday and business travel.

“Early this year, we partnered with TNG Digital to offer a 15% discount on selected KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit tickets bought using the Touch ‘n Go eWallet, from 1 January to 30 June 2020. As the fastest airport transfer in town, this partnership fits our mission to provide fast, convenient and more affordable service to our customers. Hence, we are truly delighted that TNG Digital has agreed on the extension of this promotion until 31 December 2020.”

Ignatius Ong, CEO of TNG Digital Sdn Bhd said, “We are very encouraged when partners share a similar vision for a truly cashless nation. With many adopting the practice of minimising the handling of physical cash, the Touch ‘n Go eWallet becomes a seamless travel companion in this new way of travel by being a convenient mode of payment.”

Customers can enjoy the 15% discount when they buy the following tickets using Touch ‘n Go eWallet at the ticket counter:

  • KLIA Ekspres Standard Single and Return (Adult/Child)
  • KLIA Transit Standard Single and Return (Adult/Child)
  • KLIA Transit Concession Fares for: Malaysian Senior Citizens aged 55 and above,
  • disabled holding the OKU card issued from the Department of Social Welfare Malaysia and students with KADS1M

For more details, please visit http://www.kliaekspres.com/touch-n-go-ewallet-deal

KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit are currently being operated as a combined daily service from 06.00 to 23.10 every day. The schedule will be reviewed periodically and adjusted accordingly to suit the growing passenger ridership. Any passenger whose body temperature is 37.5°C or higher will be denied entry. All passengers must wear a mask at all times when using the train; those refusing to wear one will not be allowed to board.

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TECHNOLOGY: Airports and railway operators worldwide are ramping up their programmes to introduce contactless technology to help them re-open safely and maximise passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.

While transport operators were increasingly adopting touchless and automated technologies before the pandemic to increase speed and efficiency, demand for these tools is increasing as routes reopen. Prioritising investments amidst a collapse in revenues will be key, however, as employers seek to cut costs and boost productivity against projected year-on-year losses of almost USD100bn for the sector.

Eurostar confirmed on 17 June that it will adopt facial recognition technology from 2021 as an alternative for passengers who want to check in without the physical transfer of passports. The technology, from biometric authentication specialist iProov, will scan a passenger’s face on arrival at a rail station to match it to a photograph provided via a smartphone in advance of the trip.

Abu Dhabi Airports is introducing touchless elevator technology for 53 elevators at Abu Dhabi International Airport, while at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, all the airport restaurants are adopting the Grab  digital ordering service to cut down on face-to-face encounters. Grab debuted its ‘virtual kiosk’ in April, a system that lets customers scan a QR code or use NFC-enabled smartphones to place an order without the need to download Grab’s app.

Another way to reduce face-to-face interactions is to replace workers for initial screenings. It is reported that South Korea’s Incheon International Airport intends to trial the use of robots to tell if passengers are wearing masks and flag those who aren’t to authorities later this year.

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UNITED KINGDOM: Proposals for a new GBP820m link between East Midlands Airport and the Midland Mainline by 2040 are key elements of a GBP2.7bn programme to connect more of the East Midlands region to the planned HS2 high-speed rail project.

Part of a 25-year masterplan designed to “revolutionise” transport across the East Midlands, the plans include a GBP150m proposal to allow four trains/hour linking Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Derby with the new HS2 terminal at Toton, and extending the Nottingham Express Transit light rail system from Long Eaton to Toton Lane.

A new East Midlands Airport railway station would allow journey times to Loughborough of nine minutes and to Leicester in 15 minutes. Current public transport provision to the airport includes buses and the East Midlands Parkway railway station on the Midlands Mainline a few miles away, which is poorly used.

The proposals tie in with the East Midlands Development Corporation’s plans to support 84,000 ‘high-value’ jobs and 4500 homes at key sites close to the new Toton HS2 station, including East Midlands Airport, the former Chetwynd Barracks and Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said: “The arrival of HS2 is a watershed moment for our region, and an opportunity that we must grasp with both hands.

“As we work towards an economic renewal post-COVID-19, the East Midlands must step forward and work together to secure the transport network, economic future and social mobility it deserves.

“This truly integrated transport strategy isn’t just about connecting more people to the HS2 station; it will also support the building of new homes, accelerate transformational regeneration and link some of our most deprived communities to nationally-important assets across the East Midlands.

“Our message to Westminster is clear; support us in making this vision a reality.”