Public Transport Victoria forum hears call for more Maryborough train services
State Government Commits to Developing Rail Infrastructure for Victoria
Horsham residents to be quizzed about future use of dormant rail corridor land
No choppers here: Malcolm Turnbull takes the train to Geelong
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy backs Melbourne Airport rail link
Jail time for train threats to Vline Staff
Premier Daniel Andrews hears efforts to address Central Goldfields disadvantage, push for more Maryborough trains
The Inland Rail Link Melbourne to Brisbane a Similar Case as the RAA's Bendigo - Geelong Rail Link
North-West Rail Alliance urges more council support amid push for return of Mildura passenger rail
Grampians Rail Trail: Shire calls for community to step up and manage facility
A rail line to Melbourne Airport won’t make economic sense for decades yet under standard assumptions but there’s a (politically courageous) scenario where it could work now.
Victoria’s Andrew’s Government has knocked it on the head for the time being, but the idea of a rail line from Melbourne CBD to the airport is still alive and kicking. Like the East West Link, it’s one of those notions that seems so patently obvious to its advocates they won’t let go.
Here’s The Age earlier this month manufacturing a reason to remind its readers yet again that Melbourne doesn’t have an airport train: Another freeway to Melbourne Airport set for approval while rail link languishes.
I’ve explained a number of times before that the rationale for building a circa $3 billion rail line to the airport at this time is very weak e.g.see Is it time Melbourne got a rail line to the airport? As conceived, all it would effectively do is transfer passengers from one form of public transport to another i.e. from SkyBus to a train.
The absence of a sensible rationale hasn’t stopped airport rail lines getting built in cities all over the world; they’ve mostly been built for nakedly political reasons. The airport rail lines in Sydney (partly privately funded) and Brisbane (fully privately funded) both experienced severe financial difficulties in their early years.
The only plausible way a train to Melbourne airport would make economic sense at present is if it were somehow set up to win a very large share of all landside airport travel. Not the mere 10% mode share that Brisbane’s Airtrain captures, or even the circa 16% that the operator says Sydney’s Airport Link achieves, but something much bigger.
If a train could win (say) a third to a half of all airport trips, it would necessarily supersede SkyBus because patronage would be too high for a bus system. It would also necessarily replace road trips, thus significantly reducing airport-generated traffic on approach roads.
The revenue produced at current SkyBus fares ($18 one way) would cover operating costs and a large proportion, or perhaps all, of the capital cost. That would in turn make it a more attractive proposition for private investors willing to take on the associated risks.
We already know trains can win high mode share in defined circumstances. The clearest example is the CBD; in the order of 70 -80% of peak period trips to the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne are by public transport, mostly by train.
That’s in large part because high parking costs and severely congested traffic – combined with the availability of good public transport – make driving to the CBD in peak hour uncompetitive for the great majority of travellers.
That suggests the way to dramatically shift the mode share at Melbourne Airport would be to make the option of driving to the airport so difficult that travellers would voluntarily use rail, as they do in the CBD. The available “levers” include higher parking fees, airport access fees, and tolling of major freeways like the Tullamarine and the ring road.
The curious thing though is that Melbourne Airport already experiences the sorts of conditions that should generate high public transport use.
The roads to the airport already suffer severe congestion in the peak; parking fees are already widely regarded as exorbitant; and there’s already a reasonably direct journey by rail/SkyBus from the southern and eastern suburbs to the airport.
Despite all that, airport users overwhelmingly prefer to drive. In fact take out visitors to Melbourne and it’s obvious the public transport option just isn’t attractive to Melbourne residents. So the charges would have to be very high – and politicians extraordinarily courageous – to deter driving to the airport.
There’d be some other ripples under this scenario too. The higher assumed rail use would put strains on the capacity of the rail system. According to the Premier, Daniel Andrews, the $11 billion Melbourne Metro will only boost morning peak hour capacity by 20,000 passengers; there’s not much leeway there for a step change in airport-related demand.
It’s also likely high airport motoring charges would lead to demands for another rail line – or some form of rapid transit – to service the northern suburbs. Residents in the more populous south and east would have a reasonably direct route by train to the airport, but those in the north would object to having to go in the “wrong” direction in order to board the airport train in the CBD.
The airport operator could be another fly in the ointment; whether it would agree would presumably depend largely on how the considerable revenue it earns from parking would be affected. That might depend on how much parking revenue it could extract from premium travellers and whether or not it could get a share of any surplus rail revenue.
This article first appeared on blogs.crikey.com.au
About this website
Railpage version 3.10.0.0037
All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all the rest is © 2003-2021 Interactive Omnimedia Pty Ltd.
You can syndicate our news using one of the RSS feeds.