the reality of the Airport Rail Link is the high cost of getting from Southern Cross to Tullamarine, irrespective of which route is chosen.
The current preferred option of Via Sunshine , a recognised transport hub , and making provision for V/Line services to run into Melbourne via Tullamarine is sound, as it allows regional access, and outer western suburbs access without the need for people to travel into Southern Cross first.
There is also the slight problem of building an optimal alignment to get the travel time from Southern Cross to Tullamarine down to around 25 minutes , this is the perceived travel time to make the project worthwhile from a passenger usage perspective. ( In the Off Peak the Airport Bus takes 25 minutes ! )
The Kennett Government decision to guarantee no competing public transport to the operators of the Tullamarine Upgraded Freeway Toll road may have delayed that process, but with the benefit of hindsight , the Airport Bus has demonstrated that it can meet demand, plus it pays the State Treasury an estimated $1m / annum. So from a Treasury perspective, what is not to like about the still current arrangement ?
I would also add that neither the Sydney Airport , nor the Brisbane Airport trains are packed with airport only passengers ; in Sydney's case , the fact that Airport trains ( T8 ) also service Cronulla ( T4 ) , Waterfall ( T4 ), and Liverpool ( T8 ) makes the service viable , it would not be anywhere near viable otherwise. ( And did not the Airport Rail Link financiers go broke ? )
I am supportive of the Airport Rail Link to Tullamarine , but lets be realistic about both its viability , its actual costs , and the revenue generated , and a realisation that the line , off itself , excluding its onward connections , will still require an annual subsidy, whereas the Airport Bus Link , which will remain in service anyhow , will still pay the Treasury an annual fee .