Consortium proposes market-led 'Super Train' for Melbourne Airport Rail Link

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Consortium proposes market-led 'Super Train' for Melbourne Airport Rail Link

Mere days have passed since the Andrews Government called for expressions of interest from organisations wishing to participate in the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and on Sunday morning a consortium led by IFM Investors has gone one better unveiled a market-led proposal to do the link.

The consortium is led by IFM Investors which has a stake in the entities that hold the assets and operate both Melbourne Airport and Southern Cross station (both the airport and station appear on the list for the consortium in their own right).  Metro Trains Australia is also listed on AirRail Melbourne webpage - it is the operator of Melbourne's rail network, which is a brand-name for consortium headlined by Hong Kong-based MTR.

The AirRail Melbourne proposal, as the consortium has dubbed it, would include 27km of new dedicated tracks between Southern Cross, Sunshine and the Airport with two sections of tunnels - between West Melbourne and West Footscray, and the 'last mile' into the airport precinct and an underground airport station.

The proposal seeks to align itself with state government initiatives - utilising Sunshine as a hub for multiple interchange opportunities (Vlines from Ballarat, Geelong & Bendigo as well as Metro tunnel services to the south-east) and the consortium says it is happy to stump up $5 billion of private money to add to the already publicly committed $10 billion.

20/10 are the key numbers to remember - a 20 minute journey with a peak frequency of 10 minutes.  A media release from the consortium said it envisions tickets to be integrated into the myki ticket system with a 'fair' price of less than $20.


Consortium proposes market-led 'Super Train' for Melbourne Airport Rail Link
AirRail Melbourne proposal overview - image: IFM Investors


Despite a lot of money being spent on visualisations for what looks to be the start of a reference design for stations, there are some other key concepts outlined in documents released on Sunday which point to a more fluid assessment process.

Chief among them is how this link might integrate with the Suburban Rail Loop - a key election proposal for the Andrews Government.  Maps published on Sunday depict the SRL connecting at Melbourne Airport but a question of what is trying to be achieved must be answered.

The Andrews Government has made it clear that should they be re-elected in November the SRL will kick-off the planning and business case process with a $300 million commitment in 2019 and to date, the state government has been referring to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link as the north-western section of the entire loop line.

Having a private section of the line might make things more complex - for instance should the private proposal from IFM Investors get up in some shape or form, has that locked in the rail technology for the rest of the Suburban Rail Loop line?

There are many moving parts, the most important of which is the state election, and IFM's claim that building the link could start 'within 2 years' might be true if the Airport Rail Link was to be built in isolation, however there's now a much grander rail vision for Melbourne than just the Airport Rail Link and the decisions made on this private proposal will have ramifications for the Suburban Rail Loop or any other proposal the opposition may come up with.

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Discussion (3 comments)

Adam Ford's picture
Missing from this proposal is any consideration of commuter stations, given the route will be travelling through one of the city's largest heavy rail blackspots.

And yes, this would seem to limit the possibilities and options for looping all the way round to Werribee, but I'm about to do a blog on how the western portion is probably not going to be a continuation of services from the east, but instead offers greater decentralisation options.
My suburban rail loop runs Southland-Airport and Southland-Footscray, and the west is integrated but distinct.
Wayfarer's picture
A key different to previous Vic government plans is that this appears to connect to Southern Cross station rather than through Metro 1. Makes sense given the people behind the proposal, but wonder how that would impact other aspects of Vic government plans and overall connectivity.
Ewart Blunt FCILT's picture
The AirRail Consortium is to be congratulated for the quickness of their response to a complex and contentious Melbourne transport problem. I would be very interested in reviewing the Government's stated Statement of Requirement (SOR) and guidance to all interested parties that would have underpinned their call for Expressions of Interest (EOI).
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