Melbourne Airport Rail Link: here’s what you need to know

Melbourne Airport Rail Link: here’s what you need to know

Melbourne’s long-awaited railway link between Tullamarine Airport and the CBD has been getting plenty of coverage following this weekend’s promises by the state government.

Here’s the Australian Business Traveller executive summary while to read while you sit in an Uber, a taxi or the SkyBus.

Is the Melbourne Airport Rail Link finally happening?

Not quite yet. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that his Government will provide $5 billion towards the construction of a railway line between the airport and the city if his Labor government is returned to power in the November 24 state election.

This would match a $5 billion commitment from the Federal Government, with the project expected to cost between $8 billion and $13 billion.

However, opposition leader Matthew Guy has said that he would also back the Melbourne Airport Rail Link should his Liberal party win government.

When will the Melbourne Airport Rail Link open?

Construction is expected to begin by 2022, although likely that travellers won’t be punching their ticket for at least a decade. So, let's call it '2030something'.

What route will the Melbourne Airport Rail Link follow?

The Victorian Government’s preferred corridor for the airport railway will be via the inner-west suburb of Sunshine.

12km of new track would be laid between Melbourne Airport and Sunshine Station – which would be remodelled as a ‘super-hub’ – from which there are existing railway links to Melbourne CBD and suburbs on the Sunbury Metro line and through the new Metro Tunnel project, as well as regional V/Line services to Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

How long would it take between the city and Melbourne Airport?

While this won’t be a high-speed express train service similar to those of Hong Kong, Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur, travelling b between the airport and Melbourne’s CBD would take around 30 minutes.

(By comparison, the SkyBus must struggle along often-congested roads for 30 to 45 minutes.)

How much would tickets cost?

Lorie Argus, chief of parking and ground access for Melbourne Airport, says the airport expects the Melbourne Airport Rail Link to be “competitive” with SkyBus, which currently costs $19 each way.

While the state and federal governments have pledged a $10 billion pool for the airport railway line, Premier Andrews admitted the project could be an opportunity to partner with the private sector and deliver the Melbourne Airport Rail Link as a public/private enterprise.

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.
 

44 comments

  • daveX

    daveX

    24 Jul, 2018 05:16 am

    [Comment edited for content]

    My only wish is they would build a direct line via the Footscray or Essendon proposals rather than detour through Sunshine.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    24 Jul, 2018 06:08 am

    Note: This isn’t the place for political debate and mudslinging over Labor vs Liberal. Comments along those lines will be edited or removed. Please keep comments focused on adding value to the article, the topic and the conversation. 

    Member who gave thanks

    eq_syd

  • Cameron Hocking

    blingwad

    24 Jul, 2018 11:24 am

    I was very excited to hear about this being funded by both governments however i am confused over the route. It seems that the commonwealth prefer it to traverse the defense site in maribyrnong, which they would like to sell, where as the state have their preferred option which looks like it would be a longer trip.

    I can't help but think we will end up with a substandard product regardless. For the 10bil price tag i would expect a dedicated express train with in town check-in or why bother.

    I would love if Ausbt could put the question to any of the relevant ministers "study tours", Have you been on Airport Express HK, or Heathrow Express?
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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    24 Jul, 2018 12:58 pm

    It sounds like they went to Narita and looked at the commuter JR and Keisei trains while ignoring the Narita Express and SkyLiner.
    Member who gave thanks

    Johns

  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    25 Jul, 2018 09:53 am

    The proposed airport railway in Melbourne needs to offer connections at places like Sunshine and Footscray so it can attract the greatest number of travellers.



    No member give thanks

  • Rohitha Rupesinghe

    RR70

    25 Jul, 2018 04:16 pm

    If this is the model, the pricing needs to match it. Can't have the local train service with the express train price tag.
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  • Grand

    Grand

    26 Jul, 2018 08:28 pm

    This is what happens in Sydney
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    25 Jul, 2018 09:55 am

    David, just one point: it's not just 'Labor v Liberal', as latter is in a coalition with The Nationals, so correct to refer to it as 'Liberal-Nationals.'
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  • JBL

    JBL

    24 Jul, 2018 07:45 am

    Infrastructurally speaking, I honestly think this is not the best option. Standalone airport lines struggle to make money as has been seen with Brisbane they need to be integrated into a larger project. The direct tunnel would have been a great opportunity to provide regional trains from Bendigo/Seymour with a rapid option into the city while turning MEL into a transport hub with regional connections
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  • Jay

    ausJCP

    24 Jul, 2018 02:43 pm

    A direct tunnel option from city to airport would cost thirty to forty billion dollars, take twenty years to construct, and offer very few meaningful advantages over a surface rail corridor.
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  • JBL

    JBL

    24 Jul, 2018 03:27 pm

    Can you please link me the source to that price tag?

    The advantage is not about whether it's above ground or not, it's about directness. For many people who are heading to the airport on tight schedules, a quick ride is invaluable. Furthermore, there are plans to route regional services through the airport hub in the future, so a more direct route is also more valuable in this case, especially if the state govt wants to go through with building regional high speed corridors.

    Sure there are disadvantages to the direct route, but you're really under selling it by saying it offers 'very few meaningful advantages'
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  • Jay

    ausJCP

    24 Jul, 2018 03:51 pm

    Back of a cocktail napkin maths:


    Westgate tunnel project = 5km @ $7b (avg cost per km $1.4b)

    Melbourne metro project = 18km @ $11b (avg cost per km $611m)


    Avg cost for a 26km airport tunnel project in 2030 @ say $1b per km = $26b


    Add several billion for new train fleet construction, cost of money, feasibility & design, etc. = $30b without breaking a sweat. (Higher if implementing a new technology such as high speed rail.)


    If you imagine otherwise, you are a very optimistic man ;-)

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  • JBL

    JBL

    24 Jul, 2018 04:51 pm

    Your napkin maths contains a few flawed assumptions, including a major one that the entire direct tunnel route is a tunnel. Only approximately 9km would be tunnel, the rest being above ground. This would put it at about the same length as the metro tunnel, without the complexities of building within the CBD.

    The Westgate Tunnel project is completely incomparable. Freeways require larger TBMs with a greater diameter. The Westgate tunnel also goes under a much, much wider portion of a river.

    All the other costs you mention are attributable to all the other routes. For the tunnel to accommodate higher speed services it mostly just requires shallower curves and less steep gradients which are not a massive cost either.

    So I really can't see this 30-40 billion price tag you're talking about happening, the napkin maths behind it relies on a number of flawed assumptions. The premium for the 9km of tunnels is worth it for the future.
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  • Rohitha Rupesinghe

    RR70

    25 Jul, 2018 04:21 pm

    Actually, the Westgate tunnel doesn't go under the river at all. There is a bridge over the Maribyrnong River, and an elevated road which make up two thirds of the project. The tunnel is under Yarraville only. It requires a degree of creative licence to label the whole project a 'tunnel'.
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  • JBL

    JBL

    25 Jul, 2018 11:41 pm

    You're right. I don't know why, but for some reason I had in my head it went under the Yarra
    No member give thanks

  • stredinnick

    stredinnick

    24 Jul, 2018 09:20 am

    Rail is of course a great idea, I'm a big user of Syd CityRail to airport and Bris' Airtrain. I much prefer those options to your generally odorous taxi. However unsure why the dislike for Skybus, which is pretty efficient. I'd rather be paying $19 for a Skybus in peak hour traffic than $50 in a horrible cab.
    No member give thanks

  • RTWFF

    RTWFF

    24 Jul, 2018 10:01 am

    If I’m not in a hurry I catch the bus to/from Broadmeadows Station and the train to/from the city. Not sure why this is not upgraded and promoted as an alternative in the interim
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    24 Jul, 2018 12:44 pm

    Seriously who came up with that route, 35min to the city!
    The point of mass transit is direct and efficient, the two hubs are the airport and the CBD, it needs to run direct, the logical is connect onto the Essendon line it’s the direct to the city. Look at that first pic, it’s a big C shape, the background to these decisions are mind boggling!
    No member give thanks

  • Himeno

    Himeno

    24 Jul, 2018 01:01 pm

    It gives them an excuse to toss money into Sunshine. Just as the CBR phase 1 light rail project is being built in the wrong place, simply to give the government an excuse to redevelop the Northbourne Avenue corridor.
    No member give thanks

  • WeeWillyWonka

    WeeWillyWonka

    24 Jul, 2018 01:15 pm

    Not quite sure but the Sunshine route it may have something to do with transurban holding road rights access (or whatever it's called) to Tullamarine until around 2030 (or even 2040)
    No member give thanks

  • Jay

    ausJCP

    24 Jul, 2018 02:29 pm

    Hi guys, let me explain.

    The "Sunshine" route (also known as the Albion East rail alignment) has looooooong been the favoured route for an airport link by both sides of the political spectrum.

    There are a number of very convincing factors:

    This route would follow an existing freight rail line, meaning the land is already owned by Victrack and easier to duplicate lines along this corridor. (This means no expensive and divisive compulsory land acquisitions, road traffic disruptions, community opposition, etc.)

    If you jump on Google Maps and follow the proposed route, you can see it would follow the existing freight rail line from Albion East (Sunshine) to Airport West... then diverge and cross the Western Ring Road and Steele Creek... then follow along Airport Drive to into the terminal. Nice and neat.

    Airport master planning is already in place for this development. Airport Drive has been built deliberately with an enormous, empty grass median for future rail... (Same as the Eastern Freeway). Check it out on Google Maps, it makes a lot more sense when you can see and absorb it visually.

    A rail route following the Tulla (or going via the old defence site) would be an infrastructure project nightmare.
    No member give thanks

  • sgb

    sgb

    24 Jul, 2018 01:33 pm

    The only thing totally sure with all this yet again, is that we are all going to be a lot older when they have finally signed on the dotted line let alone the actual construction and all the blowouts. It raises its ugly head every election year by both parties who capture us into actually believing them. Some of these proposed routes are just ridiculous, talk about the long route or the scenic route, just get me there as quickly as possible, all these Freeway/Tollway improvements do nothing for Friday evening trips out to Tulla. And if they are going to use actual suburban trains to the airport, they are an embarrassment with grafitti and totally scratched windows you can hardly see out, good look Government.
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    24 Jul, 2018 01:34 pm

    It is just so overdue.
    No member give thanks

  • AlexTravAddict

    AlexTravAddict

    24 Jul, 2018 02:01 pm

    I'm very supportive of investment in public transport, however this project just doesn't stack up.
    Speed: fail
    Project cost: fail
    Ticket price: fail
    Improvement on existing transport: questionable.

    It fails on the three biggest metrics.

    The project cost is mind boggling. The speed is substandard (particularly when you factor in many commuters will be traveling from the suburbs. In my case I live in Eaglemont which takes 30 mins to Southern Cross so my best case scenario would be 70 minutes but it is much likely to take longer like). If tickets cost close to $20 then it will make it amongt the most expensive airport trains in the world and personally the current price tag of the Skybus is the main reason I avoid using it.
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  • 346

    346

    24 Jul, 2018 02:40 pm

    I can honestly say, I will probably never use that facility.
    I caught a train from an airport into the city once in Barcelona.
    Happy to never do it again
    No member give thanks

  • jrfsp

    jrfsp

    24 Jul, 2018 03:09 pm

    Soon MEL will be the only major city in Australia not to have a rail link to the airport!
    I wonder what will happen first, MEL rail link, AKL rail link or the new berlin airport opening....
    Member who gave thanks

    stepandy

  • Richard Burgess

    richard89

    24 Jul, 2018 06:31 pm

    Hahahaha!! I think MEL and AKL will be fighting for who goes last...!!
    No member give thanks

  • Joel Sargeant

    Joels23

    24 Jul, 2018 07:24 pm

    Hobart has no passenger trains
    No member give thanks

  • Cyphar

    Cyphar

    24 Jul, 2018 04:17 pm

    Living in Melton, this is fantastic for me. I'm constantly stuck in traffic on the Calder getting to the airport. I will be very happy to take this
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  • Anthony  Warren

    anth0888

    24 Jul, 2018 04:34 pm

    I think this was a lost opportunity to have a fast rail line service which would also stop at Highpoint and nearby area (The pocket of area calling for more transport) - this isn't political but rather forward planning for the future. and then think about the congestion on the Sunbury rail line - as this now services the various Vline regional lines, Sunbury line and then now an Airport rail link.

    and a hub at Sunshine... Melbournians know that Sunshine is a bit rough around the edges (as in its known for crime), So its a bit concerning that visitors to Melbourne will have to go via Sunshine.

    A lost opportunity.
    No member give thanks

  • sgb

    sgb

    25 Jul, 2018 11:53 am

    Heavens forbid if the train breaks down at Sunshine, watch your purses and valises.
    No member give thanks

  • coriander

    coriander

    24 Jul, 2018 05:39 pm

    anth0888 - a bit of dog-whistling perhaps? or maybe just someone from the eastern suburbs? Sunshine is rapidly gentrifying and improved public transport will only accelerate that trend. I've worked in Sunshine for over 40 years and have felt unsafe or threatened when taking the train to and from the CBD.

    Regional lines now run on separate tracks from Spencer Street to Sunshine and the regional lines are capable of increased traffic. (Personally I'd prefer a 9km tunnel to Maribyrnong / HighPoint to the airport which would provide a separate regional exit for trains to the northwest but that would probably mean electrification and that'll never happen.)

    Thirty minutes from airport to CBD matches cities like Helsinki or Brisbane, both of which use suburban trains.

    My concern is that the airport station will be placed well away from the terminals so as not to interfere with the Skybus operation (much like the metro bus stop located way down at Terminal 4). There'd need to be a minimum of two stops, preferably 4 at Tulla - T4 (T3) T2 (T1) and a simple escalator ride up into the terminal proper (like say Zurich).

    No member give thanks

  • JBL

    JBL

    24 Jul, 2018 07:00 pm

    If you look at the masterplan they're fortunately aiming to have the station at what will become the centre of the terminal precinct.
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  • Nick  Sydney 348

    Nick Sydney 2

    24 Jul, 2018 07:10 pm

    Worthy but academic. Will stick with the sky bus and tram to Collins St...
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  • sgb

    sgb

    25 Jul, 2018 11:59 am

    I think they should just extend 'Puffing Billy' a bit out to Tulla. make it a real tourist attraction.
    No member give thanks

  • Hotcat1970

    Hotcat1970

    25 Jul, 2018 03:12 pm

    Sounds like the usual political promises in play (from any side). Had a good friend of mine involved in cost estimations at a consultancy firm for a rail line city-MEL when he was living in MEL- over 5 years ago! He said he thought it'd never happen, he was just plucking numbers out the air and everyone was happy enough with that as it was roundly accepted that it'd never actually go ahead, something about the freeway operator having a monopoly for x years to recoup their investment, as I recall. Very short sighted of any major metropolitan city (anywhere in the world) not to have a rail connection to the city from the airport(s) IMO.
    Don't hold your breath.
    No member give thanks

  • Jason Fowler

    Ifly2

    25 Jul, 2018 04:23 pm

    We just need a monorail straight from the city to the airport via (above) the Tulla - no stops!!
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  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    25 Jul, 2018 07:43 pm

    Via Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook perhaps!
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  • Andris

    stepandy

    25 Jul, 2018 05:10 pm

    Give the build contract to China and they will build it in two years and half the pr
    No member give thanks

  • John Leslie

    monoccular

    25 Jul, 2018 07:08 pm

    Unless it is
    1/ fast .... 20 - 30 maximum
    2/ frequent ..... 10 minutely minimum at peak and 15 - 20 maximum off peak
    and
    3/ affordable $12 -15 max per person (remembering if a party of 3 can Uber city to MEL for maybe $35 - 40
    then it will atrophy.
    No member give thanks

  • John Leslie

    monoccular

    25 Jul, 2018 07:09 pm

    PS and why 10 years to build? China or UAE would get it done in 2 Y max
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    25 Jul, 2018 07:19 pm

    CFFMEU is reason.
    No member give thanks

  • michael blazewicz

    blaz

    25 Jul, 2018 11:12 pm

    We need better technology to produce affordable tunnels...I think Elon Musk is looking into it after his sub to get Thai children out of the caves was rejected. I really think that to be a workable solution you need a ten minute regularity, and a price tag of $10 ( especially true for families) A thirty minute journey is fine as long as it is direct or possibly 2 or 3 stops. If you can’t achieve this, then it will be a lemon.
    No member give thanks

  • Ian Whillas

    Racala

    26 Jul, 2018 07:13 pm

    I'm 67 in reasonable health and I don't expect that this will be built in my lifetime. After all it took 100 years to build a spur line to Redcliffe in Brisbane.

    Think 1.squabbles regarding the route

    2. sacred sites.

    3 critically endangered fragile plants

    4. critically endangered mammals and woe betide the collective yelps if there are any koalas living anywhere near. (Living in Brisbane makes me cynical re the last one!!)

    No member give thanks

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23 Jan, 2019 07:05 pm

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