Tick tock: Melbourne airport records 5.1% FY16 passenger growth

Tick tock: Melbourne airport records 5.1% FY16 passenger growth
Alastair TaylorJuly 21, 2016

Melbourne's Tullamarine airport published its latest passenger numbers on July 20th and announced it had achieved 5.1% passenger growth in the financial year ending June 30. This comprised 9.5% in international passenger growth compared to the same time last year and 3.7% passenger growth in the higher volume domestic segment.

At June 30th 2015, 32,192,000 passengers either originated or terminated a trip at Tullamarine's terminals and a further 122,000 transited at Melbourne to weigh in with a financial year 2015 total of 32,314,000 passengers.

Contrast this with the financial year just finished: 33,876,000 origin/destination passengers - made up of 9,165,000 international and 24,711,000 domestic trips - and coupled with a further 91,000 transiting passengers, the financial year to June 30 2016 total 33,967,000 passengers.

That's 1,684,000 more passengers that will have needed to travel to or from the airport terminals, compared to last year. All of those transfers/last mile trips will have taken placed on roads: on SkyBus, smart buses, private cars, taxis, Uber, town car services or shuttle buses. And that's only the passengers, never mind the legions of people who work at or near the airport precinct.

Aviation passenger statistics have peaks and troughs - at different times of the year and at different times of the week - for simplicity's sake by dividing the year-on-year growth number by 365 days in the year, we come up with an average of 4,613 new passenger trips along the Tullamarine Freeway, Airport Drive or Bulla Road.

But what is it going to be like in 10 years if similar growth continues?

According to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Economic's aviation statistics, in the past decade Melbourne airport has no recorded a negative calendar year of passenger growth. We've had two years of slow growth (1.3% in 2009 and 1% in 2011), however we have had on average 4.73% passenger growth each year since 2006. (See the data here).

Calendar YearProjected passenger growth 4% p.a.Projected passenger growth 2% p.a.

* The above passenger projections are based on BITRE's 2015 Calendar year figure of 32,790,000 (rounded to nearest thousand) with 4% and 2% per annum growth scenarios accordingly.

Both growth scenarios above - the high growth scenario representing less than the average which has occurred over the past decade - paint a picture of Melbourne airport seeing between 40 and 49 million passengers either originating or terminating their trip at Tullamarine.

And all of these passenger trips through the airport terminals are going to be dependent on the road network.

The Citylink-Tulla widening project that is set to add an extra freeway lane from the West Gate Freeway all the way out to the airport is set to be complete and the short-term road capacity unlocked in 2018.

The Melbourne Metro Rail project, which according to its business case documents is a dependent project for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, is not set to be complete until 2024.

Assuming a best case scenario where the planning, approvals, tendering and financing of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link were to occur in the latter stages of the Melbourne Metro Rail project's construction phase, so that construction can start in earnest soon after the Melbourne Metro Rail project is complete, we'd be looking at a rail link to Melbourne opening sometime in or after 2027 assuming a quick three year turnaround for construction of the Airport Rail Link.

10+ years from the time the new freeway capacity is unlocked (I give it, maximum, five years before we're back to the same congested status quo, just with higher volumes of traffic) to when a potential rail link would open is enormous. And risky from a congestion point of view; not just at the airport, but on many other segments of the Tullamarine Freeway.

The roar of engines on their take-off roll is only going to increase in frequency, yet this relentless passenger growth, both current and projected, is met with silence on providing real structural change in the way we interface with the airport.

Tick, tock.



Lead image credit: wongm's rail gallery

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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