Tick tock: Melbourne airport achieves 10% year-on-year international passenger growth in 2016

In December 2016, Melbourne airport almost nudged 1,000,000 international passengers through its terminals - on top of the 2,100,000 people who flew through the domestic terminals.

The January 25th media release title says it all: "Melbourne Airport passenger records smashed in 2016".

In December 2015, 864,477 international passengers used Tullamarine, in December 2016: 953,855 passengers embarked on their journey to or from Australia through our airport, representing 10.2% growth.

Domestic growth was a little more tempered, where 2,188,317 people used the domestic terminals (compared to the December 2015 numbers of 2,142,748) representing 2.1% growth.

Overall, the calendar year saw 34.6 million passengers fly through Melbourne Airport - 4.6% growth compared to the 2015 calendar year.  4.6% growth is bang-on the 10 year average growth rate at the airport.  

Tick tock, tick tock.

Monorail proposal pops up again

Despite the curious, generalised and overwhelmingly simplistic put-down of old steel-wheel on steel-rail technology in the first 15 seconds of its corporate video, Airshuttle Australia as it is now known, popped up again in October last year with a promise to build a cheap monorail down a freeway median with a ticket price similar to the current skybus.

On the whole we should encourage solutions that propose to use a different technology to fulfil a solution to a major problem. Yet, I question whether it should be a sky-high fares, private-sector type solution.

There's a now a decent amount of literature on Toronto's dalliance with dedicated "downtown to Airport" rail which began services with sky-high fares only to have them more-than-halved soon after launch.  4-5 months after fares were chopped in half, ridership had tripled according to Torontoist.  

I recommend reading Human Transit's "Keys to Great Airport Transit"; discerning readers will note this one major warning: don't limit the airport rail service to just make it serve one destination, having more is better.  

Consider this: Toronto Pearson saw 40 million passengers in 2016, Melbourne Tullamarine saw 34.6 million.  Toronto Pearson is - measured by rail distance 23 km from the centre of the city, Melbourne Tullamarine would be a similar distance via Sunshine & Albion.  The Union-Pearson Express has two intermediate stops, an airport rail line to Tullamarine would likely stop at Footscray and Sunshine (including Metro tunnel stations).

In fact the only dramatic difference between Toronto and Melbourne airport is that Toronto sees a much higher amount of aircraft movements (~440k versus ~250k), best explained owing to the nature of North American aviation: short and medium distance city pairs are generally served by regional jets (~50-100 passengers) on high frequencies; the bulk of Melbourne's aircraft movements are undertaken in Boeing 737/Airbus 320 or larger sized aircraft (~150-180+ passengers).

It's not uncommon to hear/read people use the early experience of Sydney and Brisbane when discussing (or debating) Melbourne's possible solution for better public transport to the airport. 

Sydney, if you go by Human Transit's guidance, got it right on making trains go "somewhere else" other than the city and airport (trains head all the way out to the south western suburbs) but got it wrong on fares.  Calls are still to this day being made to eliminate the high access fee which bumps up the Sydney airport rail fares.

The lessons of Toronto are possibly the most relevant to Melbourne and here's hoping the state government take heed of them when assessing an unsolicited proposal, should one actually end up on Spring Street.

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