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Melbourne Airport railway line gets go-ahead

By David Flynn     Filed under: Melbourne, Melbourne airport

A railway link for Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport has received the green light from the Victoria's state government as part of an election year budget.

The airport line is part of an ambitious Melbourne Rail Link project costed at $8.5 billion to $11 billion, with construction due to begin mid-2016 and some trains running from 2023, although the government hasn't spelled out exactly which of the link's services these would be.

That's because the project includes not only a line to Tullamarine Airport but a 7.5km underground train tunnel running from the city's Southern Cross gateway to South Yarra.

“We expect to see it come into operation from 2023, but obviously final end dates for the whole project will depend to some extent on the procurement process" said state treasurer Michael O’Brien.

However, the Victorian government will contribute only $830 million over the next four years as the project kicks into gear, leaving as much as $10.2 billion still to be found and funnelled into the scheme.

Previous | The long-promised but always-delayed railway link for Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport is back on the agenda, with Victorian Premier Denis Napthine today promising the line will be built under his government.

The state government's May budget is expected to outline the timetable and cost for the city-to-airport line, which would see new tracks built between the Melbourne Airport to Albion, from where it would "join the existing rail network and run through to Southern Cross Station" Napthine said.

Trains would run as frequently as every 10 minutes during peak periods with a total travel time of 25 minutes between Southern Cross station and the airport.

"This project has been on the books for 40 years" Napthine said during his address to the state Liberal Party's council meeting on Sunday. "It is time this rail link was built."

Napthine and his party head to the polls in the Victorian state election on 29 November 2014.

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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.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 13/4/14 by Dot

Are they sending the train line to Tullamarine or to Avalon? If ti's going via Weribee, it has to be Avalon, and I thought the plan there was a spur line from the Geelong line between Little River and Lara...

1 on 13/4/14 by David

It's to Tulla, Dot - have added that into the first line to clear up any confusion.

1 on 13/4/14 by Dot

I note that the location of rhte line has changed too - no longer via West Weribee (which is why I thought it might have been to AVV)  A line from Albion makes much more sense. 

2 on 13/4/14 by Chris_PER

How about a spur line to Tullamarine itself rather than tinkering around with an airport that has a handful of flights a day.

Sounds like Perth Airport, only 10 years ago.

1 on 13/4/14 by Chris_PER

Today even

2 on 13/4/14 by hutch

This plan (if it ever happens) is to Tullamarine.

3 on 13/4/14 by TheRealBabushka

"...Trains would run as frequently as every 10 minutes during peak periods"

MEL runs 24h. How frequently would the trains run off-peak?

There was an article in the Fairfax papers a couple of weeks ago, where an expert suggested we be careful with what we wish for (a train service to MEL).

The key questions are:

  • Will this proposed rail link be in addition to the other forms of transport or will it seek to replace the Skybus service? 
  • Will the pricing for this rail link be part of the pricing structure of the existing metropolitan/V line fare regime or will there be a premium attached to this service?
  • Is the intention of this rail link therefore an effort to open up the market or merely to tick a box, whilst preserving the special interest of a different set of stakeholders?

1 on 13/4/14 by abudhabi1

They should copy like what Adelaide does with the other Airport Bus which is essentially a suburban service and charge standard rates for it.Say if off peak is a $1 or less with a Card so be it.

4 on 14/4/14 by V1213

The train won't be any faster or more frequent than the current Skybus...

1 on 14/4/14 by hutch

A well run train will always beat a bus.

1 on 14/4/14 by Hugo

Not necessarily, when the train has to go via Albion. Check the map -- Albion is about as far from the city as Tullamarine is, but in the wrong direction. The train has to hit Albion and then it's about a 135 degree turn before you can actually start heading towards the airport. And while the bus is non-stop, the train shares a suburban line so it's either making all the stops (including those in the most unsavoury parts of town) or it has to wait behind suburban trains which make these stops anyway.

The train will be faster than the bus in peak-hour conditions, it's true. The rest of the time it'll be pretty equivalent. And is building a new train line cheaper than sticking an extra SkyBus lane on the Tullamarine freeway?

Sometimes there's a good reason why these projects have languished unbuilt for decades -- it's because they sound like a good idea but make less sense the more you look at them.

1 on 14/4/14 by Dot

I'm not sure what map you're looking at but Albion station is due south from Tullamarine. There is already a dual line that branches off at Albion that heads North (which joins the Broadmedows line at Jacana).  There are no stations between those two as this line is prmarrily for north/south freight.  A spur off that line at Airport drive, Airport West would minimise the new track needed, but has challenges with crossing the Western ring road, Sharps Road etc - perhaps a tunnel under those might be the way to minimise disruption to he road system albeit an expensive option.

1 on 14/4/14 by Dot

Due South and much closer to Melbourne.... (I meant to say)

2 on 14/4/14 by hutch

Whilst I think the skybus service is good, as you have already indicated it struggles during peak times and there is little they can do improve that in the long term. If Melbourne airport's growth continues, the skybus service won't be able to operate effectively in 20years time.The train will seat more people, is more attractive to the public and if done correctly will be cheaper to the people who use it. It will also benefit airport workers.

So is the train needed today, probably not. Will it be needed in the future, absolutely.

1 on 11/6/14 by ILIKEPLANES101

I see what your trying to say but a vandilised Melbourne train is hardly more appealing than the skybus

2 on 14/4/14 by Dot

Even so, a Train will carry 800+ pax while a bus is limited to 55 or so....

I would also expect that the train would be more consistent and not dependent on traffic or weather conditions. I would also expect the train to be faster than the skybus - express to Sthn Cross even at standard metro train speeds will be faster than skybus.

1 on 14/4/14 by Hugo

More like a hundred on those big bendy Skybuses. However this raises a problem -- if the train carries eight times more people then either it runs 1/8th as often or it runs mostly empty. 

Now, how many extra people can be enticed onto the train who don't currently use the SkyBus? Maybe a few.

I hate Melbourne trains because no matter where you sit you're inevitably staring through the contribution to society of some dozens of teenage scumbags who decide to scratch their names into the glass. On the other hand I truly can't stand the SkyBus because it plays ads -- it's bad enough paying fourteen bucks to ride a bus, but to then be treated for twenty minutes as a captive pair of eyeballs so that someone can tell me about the "great shopping" on offer at Melbourne Airport makes me happy to pay the extra $35 for a taxi.

1 on 14/4/14 by hutch

It doesn't sound like you are somebody likely to use these options anyway. So the taxi will continue to be your method of airport transfer.

Personally I only taxi in Melbourne when work pays, if I am paying I am on the skybus. If I had a choice of paying the same money to get a bus or train, I would get a train 100% of the time. I'd also suggest, if the train is intergrated into Melbourne's transport ticketing system, most people would use the train as opposed to buying a seperate skybus ticket. In any case, once a train arrives, I doubt skybus will continue in its current form.

2 on 7/5/14 by abudhabi1

Those Buses are a Rip Off.I know it's a distance thing but I also remember prior to Torrens Transit in Adelaide introducing the J1 AND J2 services to and from the Airport here which for the distance travelled cost about the same.Our own Skybus had a monopoly on the Market too.I hope for Melbourne it provides some much needed competition the proposed train.


5 on 14/4/14 by SeatNextToYours

There are numerous articles about claiming that an underground station was actually constructed in 1970... It'd be nice (if not likely) if they could  connect to this and bypass all the hang-ups posed by any of the proposed above-ground alignments. Without something like this it'll seem pretty rude to demand a fee beyond what's charged for a "regular" public transport fare.

6 on 14/4/14 by Cluffne

Melbourne is probably one of the few major cities in the world that does not have a rail link to the airport.

When completed, this will be a huge improvement to the airport infruatructure.  

Lets hope it is affordable, and not rediculously priced like Sydney.  

7 on 14/4/14 by Serg

With all honesty I do not believe in success. Melbourne is not London or Paris. We live in suburbs and it is incredibly inconvenient to go to city and then to airport. Some (for example from Frankston) may live with that because astronomical taxi rates, but for those who live in north it will be ridiculous to go to city for 45 min or so and then catch other train for airport. By the way did I mentioned massive baggage in peek hours? So train will be only for use for backpacker and theoretically business people who came without baggage for a day from Sydney and alike. We have busses and I reckon it is enough for those who on budget. And business people will catch a taxi – they do not pay for it anyway and taxi will bring them to the door without necessity to know Melbourne. And yes, we also have tourists, but I am sure that one they learn about our myki – arguably most idiotic and tourist hostile ticketing system – they surely catch a bus.

As usual, YMMV

1 on 17/4/14 by Himeno

It depends if they use a metro train for the service (as in SIN) or an express train (like HKG).

What's wrong with myki? I have simliar smart card tickets for about 15 cities all over the world. I prefer the myki like systems to the older ticketing systems.

A new, dedicated rail line would be much better then sharing an existing metro line for part of the trip.

But as with a new SYD airport, I'll believe a MEL airport train will get built when I see it. They've been talking about both for so long that I'm sceptical it would happen even with big announcements.

1 on 17/4/14 by Serg

Myki is incredibly inconvenient because you have to touch-in-out each and every time even if you have monthly one and not all touch ports work flawlessly. Myki incredibly “non-transparent” – you have to keep track how much money you have on it and not all touch ports show you balance. You cannot get “one way” or “one zone” ticket – you have to relay that Myki system calculates it correctly and in many instances it does not. You absolutely cannot purchase Myki on tram – you have to do it upfront. And you have to top it up upfront. And you have to pay for plastic itself and waste what is left over if you just a visitor. Sure some issues can be avoided if you link your Myki to your credit card, never look at balance and never look how much Myki charge you card – sure THE dream of Myki creators. Yes, you can register on Internet, right down all trips, match them on Internet and endlessly complain, but frankly I have better way to kill my time.

This is why I believe that Myki plainly inconvenient to regular users and simply hostile to casual passengers and tourists. And what was actually wrong with previous system?

1 on 11/6/14 by ILIKEPLANES101

I agree with both of you, myki is great for frequent travellers that are residents of frequent visitors. But it is horrible for tourists or other people that don't use Melbourne PT often.

8 on 14/4/14 by Adam

This sounds great to me, particularly if they build it into their ticketing. I've used the SkyBus every time I've visited Melbourne. I've always found it odd they didn't have a rail line there since every other capital city airport I've been to has one.

I personally find that Sydney does this best of the cities I've been to - it's stations within the existing network, not stuck out on the end of the line, and the services are quite frequent. The cost might be a little higher than ideal, but I think most people are now used to paying around the $15 for airport trains in Australia.

The train in Brisbane is useful, although the cost of a return train ticket vs cost of parking, especially on a weekend trip often means I'm driving to the airport. The frequency and timing of services in Brisbane has been an issue in the past - I know the added later departures but it's been a while since I've looked just how late they run and whether you can get a train from the last inbound domestic flight.

1 on 20/4/14 by GoYouBlues

"The cost might be a little higher than ideal, but I think most people are now used to paying around the $15 for airport trains in Australia."  

Adam, I just got back from SIN today.  Its MRT system is superb (fast, clean, cheap, no graffiti, train every 3-4 minutes, etc.) and it does not cost $15 to get from the CBD to Changi.

I could get very used to a Singapore style Melbourne train system, but I will never see it. Today I caught the 901 bus from Tulla to Broadmeadows train station, train to North Melbourne, train to Werribee, then local bus to my street. All up it cost $6.00 and took 2 hours!

And the MRT EZ-Link card reacts instantaneously when presented at a barrier, not like the two second delay the Myki card takes. I will never know why we didn't bring in Singapore's people when embarking on the A$1.5 billion Myki schemozzle.

We could learn a great deal about most things the Singaporeans do. It was like being in a third world country when I returned today.

1 on 7/5/14 by abudhabi1

The Singapore MRT system is second to none and since not everybody there drives or has a car They make it good value.I live in Adelaide and prior to 2010 They had this very useful bus out my way to and from the airport straight through.I am not sure what the cost was but you could get it for the price of a local public transport ticket.I miss the convenience of how the Airport Buses used to go right through the Eastern Suburbs on their way to Elizabeth or Greenwith which would make life a lot easier on anyone who lived anywhere betweeen Payneham and Salisbury Heights and any other points in between.

2 on 1/7/14 by johninoz

+1 for Singapore, the MRT is fantastic.  Station right under the terminal and you can get pretty close to your hotel in most cases in air conditioned comfort in next to no time.

The ticketing system works, first time, every time.  And unlike stupid Myki cards in Melbourne, Singapore cards don't go wonky on you.  I am now on my 4th Myki card in a couple of years.  I have had the same Singapore MRT Card for 6 years and it never fails me, even if I don't use it for 2 years.  But it is up for renewal next March so I need to visit Sg again soon and renew.

Kuala Lumpur is also great, the high speed train from the airport into KL Sentral is fantastic.

2 on 7/5/14 by abudhabi1

Not Quite.Adelaide at this stage doesn't have a rail line to town.It's a bit of a shock though As I have been to Singapore and they even offer a MRT into town from the Airport.Have not personally tried it out yet at this stage but will when I choose to go back.

9 on 18/4/14 by johninoz

Wow, lots of comments on this!

Don't get excited, it is never going to happen.  Just another worthless political promise like all the other times.

1 on 1/7/14 by Darkavid99

Why not invest the 11 billion into a Melbourne - Sydney - Brisbane fast train route? If Sydney is looking at having to spend similar money if not more on a new airport, a train route would render it unnecessary.


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