Victorian Government commits to Sunshine-Albion corridor for Melbourne Airport Rail Link

Victorian Government commits to Sunshine-Albion corridor for Melbourne Airport Rail Link
Victorian Government commits to Sunshine-Albion corridor for Melbourne Airport Rail Link

A rail service to Melbourne's Tullamarine airport is a step closer with the State Government announcing it will join the Commonwealth in proceeding with a rail link that will run via the National Employment and Innovation Cluster (NEIC) in Sunshine.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced a route options assessment undertaken by Transport for Victoria has resulted in the Sunshine route - also known as the Albion (East) route - has come out on top.  The strategic appraisal has now been published on the government's Big Build website.

In the route selection process, the Victorian Government has reaffirmed what previous studies have resulted in - from a connectivity and constructability point of view, the Sunshine (Albion) corridor has the greatest merit.

The other three routes, via Flemington, Maribyrnong and Craigieburn have all rated lower than the Sunshine corridor.  Constructability and cost penalise the Maribyrnong and Flemington routes with the strategic appraisal estimating 8-10 years and $15-$20 billion via Flemington and a whopping 10-12 years and $20-$25 billion via the Maribyrnong defence site.

The Craigieburn route scored the best on lowest cost ($5-$10 billion) and had a similar constructability and delivery time (7-9 years) as the preferred Sunshine route ($8-$13billion).   Sunshine won out over Craigieburn in connectivity and reducing travel time to key economic centres.

Victorian Government commits to Sunshine-Albion corridor for Melbourne Airport Rail Link
The routes that were assessed - again. Image: Transport for Victoria

A new super-hub station will be created at Sunshine for facilitating greater interconnection with the Ballarat and Geelong regional lines.  

Reflecting the position we're in with regards to the electoral cycle - Spring Street goes to an election on the last Saturday in November - the language from the Premier and Minister for Public Transport is starting to sharpen up.

"Only Labor has removed the level crossings and is building the Metro Tunnel – and only a re-elected Labor Government will deliver the Melbourne Airport Rail Link," the Premier said.  "The Andrews Labor Government will build the airport link via Sunshine, so that all Victorians can access the airport by rail, no matter where you live," the Minister for Public Transport said.

Analysis & Comment

All (rail) roads certainly do lead to Sunshine.

There's still a long way to go before shovels hit the ground.  The Strategic appraisal sets out a timeline over the next four years and now that the route has been selected, a detailed business case on that route will be conducted and finalised by '2019/2020'.

"This strategic assessment will now inform the development of a full Business Case," the documents published today say - and hopefully when the business case is finished we'll know why the line is expected to cost $8-$13 billion.

Noting that maps released today state city access options are to be explored, I'd expect the full business case to now focus on different levels of quality. 

Quality in the sense the Airtrain concept from the Rail Futures Institute would be at the upper echelon because it's as strategic as the 1960s-era act of locating Tullamarine where it now stands and by comparison simply building a branch line to the airport from the metro tunnel track pair would be significantly lower in quality.

The Government's language is headed in the right direction - even though the new infrastructure is located entirely within metropolitan Melbourne, there are just as many benefits for regions outside the capital as well.

Another hope for the full business case would be that the powers-that-be take a more holistic approach to public transport planning for the airport. 

Beyond the headline heavy rail link this would including looking at the benefits/costs of extending the #59 tram to the airport from its current terminus at Airport West - therefore servicing the jobs located on airport land to the south of the terminals and connecting passengers (and employees!) who live in the inner-middle north-west with the airport.

We also have a robust freeway network that is going to see a lot of changes in the north-east very soon - taking a detailed look at a strategy to get faster/express bus services into the areas to the east of the airport on dedicated lanes on the Western/Northern Ring Road should also be studied.

Alastair Taylor

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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Melbourne Airport Rail Link Victorian Election 2018

Comments (4)

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theboynoodle's picture
"people are either going to take the certainty of the timetable or take the "king in my castle" attitude that drives motorists, who are flat out never going to mode shift this journey anyway." Putting the corporate-card taxi crew to one side (do we have the tech to put a punitive levy on taxis arriving from a CBD location?), I wouldn't expect all that many people to be taking that position. More likely, they drive because any PT option requires them to go into the city centre and out again. So that time and inconvenience aspects heavily bias them towards their car. THAT is why connectivity matters. If there is a solid one change (max) rail service then the calculation changes dramatically. If that change is pleasant (ie. at a purpose-built hub or SXS station properly setup to make it pleasant) then that's great. The Sunshine option should drastically change the calculation for people from places like Geelong, which is good. It probably doesn't do much for Melbournites. It's coming from SXS, not the Metro Tunnel, right? That might be a shame as new stations could be much better built to accomodate airport passenger changes I absolutely agree that a project of this scale (expense) must be about more than shuttling between the CBD and the airport and addressing commuter rail shortcomings makes sense. The only way that compromises the airport connection is if the trains are too crowded to be attractive to airport patrons and their luggage. I'd like to know that the plan is such that *if* that ever becomes an issue there is capacity to mix provision between commuter and shuttle services. Let's face it, if the South Morang line was stopping to pick up airport passengers then there'd be a solid 4 hours a day when none would get on it. An airport connection does have particular needs, and users of it will pay a premium to *not* be on a train rammed with commuters. For good reason.
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Adam Ford's picture
Hi John. No, I'm definitely not mixing those two statements. Because statement 1 is invalid. We do not NEED a rail line to the airport, or if we do, it's only because it's a significant employment destination. And I also have repeatedly rejected the idea that people considering using airport rail are going to be doing some sort of time comparison. The point, again, is that the benefit of rail is providing a reliable timetable. Nobody is going to stand there and go "geez 20 minutes by train, or 17 via the Tulla", people are either going to take the certainty of the timetable or take the "king in my castle" attitude that drives motorists, who are flat out never going to mode shift this journey anyway. The point is there is no timetable for the Tulla. Literally nobody in Melbourne could tell you with any confidence how long the journey takes today, and this will never change. Alan Davies crucnched the numbers and even at the upper end suggested that airport rail would have the trains operating at something like maximum 20% capacity. Pure asset efficiency DICTATES that this needs to be about much more than just getting Melburnians to the terminal quicker on the handful of times a year most ever need to access the airport. This is NOT how we should be going about wasting $10bn. Then there's all the business travellers who will look at the corporate credit card in their wallet and still get a taxi. This project is going to do bog all to reduce traffic volumes on the Tulla. All of my suggested new stops - Sunshine North, Keilor East and Airport West are employment destinations in their own right, and once again, I personally think creating effective suburban employment centres is the only potential benefit that makes these sorts of projects stack up. Alastair deletes my posts every time I link to my blog on one of his articles on a similar topic, but I'll *try* this again. THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE, and you'll note I have kicked the can of other potential local PT improvements down the road, but yes that should be in the mix too. https://bloodiedwombat.blogspot.com/2018/06/melbourne-airport-rail-link-case-for.html
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johnproctor
Adam, I think you're mixing problem statements. 1. 'we need a train line to the airport' 2. 'East Keilor is a public transport blackspot' Answering those questions doesn't need to happen in one project, and trying to answer them in one project may well lead to substandard outcomes for both problems. In an Albion East scenario airport services slowed just enough to make them unattractive compared to alternatives and slow/poor connectivity for Keilor East residents to anywhere they want to go. In a direct tunnel scenario a project that is so expensive it wouldn't be built. Lets say to get those 2 stations on Albion East (one north and one south of the Calder) would cost $250 million. If I was a resident in that area I'd have to go away from my destination to get on a train and then go the long way around via Sunshine and Footscray to the City. Why wouldn't I just keep doing what I do today and get to Essendon etc? Off a very brief thought process if I was spending that $250 million. I'd be spending $50 million making the 59 run a lot more efficiently from Airport West to Essendon Station (starting by removing about half the stops on the route, making the rest DDA compliant and getting tram priority/separation). I'd then look at spending $50 million each on 2 'green bridges' (bus, ped, bike) across the Maribyrnong into that area. One from the Sunshine area (maybe near that Riverview estate) and one to the Highpoint area probably through the Defence Site. That would still leave me $100 million to pay opex for 10 buses for 10 years providing more direct connections (or just more ferquent services on the existing bus routes) to Sunshine, Highpoint, Essendon, Moonee Ponds etc.
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Adam Ford's picture
I disagree Steve. The benefit about this service is not TRAVEL TIMES, it's CERTAINTY for people getting to the airport. There will be a timetable telling them when they need to be at the station to get to the terminal on time. The Tullamarine can never compete with this. Consequently, this line also needs to cater to new commuter stations as it runs through one of melbourne's largest PT blackspots.
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Aussie Steve's picture
Unless this is going to be a high speed route, non-stop from Southern Cross to Sunshine and then onto the Airport, then the long trip out west and then north is pretty silly and a waste of time for many people. The better option would have been to extend the Flemington Line as shown above as a new suburban route with stops at VicUni/Footscray Hospital, Highpoint, Marribyrnong, Keilor East and onto the Airport. I think this route, granted may take longer, but it would service a greater population and fill in a gap in the suburban rail network.
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