Victorians will be able to catch a train to the airport with Premier Denis Napthine today announcing that the upcoming State Budget will outline the Coalition Government’s commitment to build a new rail link from Southern Cross Station to Melbourne Airport.
Really we’ll have to wait for the Budget to see the detail, as it’s pretty vague at the moment.
Here’s the route:
Rough route for airport rail promise. No financial details. In May budget. pic.twitter.com/R5ygNvdeN4
— Brendan Donohoe (@BrendanDonohoe7) April 13, 2014
Given the track will run via Sunshine, presumably it’ll use the RRL tracks, which include provision for future electrification.
They haven’t stated a fare cost, but I’m hearing it won’t be standard Myki fares. All they’ve said is it’ll be “affordable”. It’d better be. Skybus is now $18 one way — it’s still cheaper than a taxi for a single person, but a big discouragement for groups.
They haven’t said when it’ll be built, or how much it’s costing.
The airport station will be elevated. I’d been under the impression for some time now that there was existing provision under the terminals for the station. Oh well. Hopefully that means easy level access to the Departures level of the main terminals.
Travel time of 25 minutes is slightly slower than Skybus in off-peak, but considerably faster than peak. And capacity will be much better — Skybus currently gets overloaded at peak times, and it’s very common to see full buses at off-peak times.
25 minutes is not actually that fast for a 30ish kilometre journey. Given the City to Albion section of RRL should be capable of 80kmh, does this mean the train will trundle along at low speed the rest of the way to the Airport? Does it mean a later upgrade could improve the overall travel time, if the Albion to Airport section is upgraded to 130 or 160?
Frequency 10 mins in peak is good. What will it be off-peak? Not sure. There seems to be some talk of also 10 minutes in daytime, which is promising.
They’ve decided the Metro tunnel does not need to be built first. The existing (but unconfirmed) RRL service plan says initially 16 trains per hour from Geelong/Ballarat/Bendigo in peak, and the capacity is 24, so there’s space.
True, it doesn’t allow for much future growth in train numbers, but that’s a problem to solve later. Waiting for a multi-billion-dollar rail tunnel nobody seems willing to fund shouldn’t hold up other projects indefinitely. There are measures you can take when capacity runs out: upgrade the signalling, run longer/higher capacity trains, and of course build more tracks.
Anyway it makes more sense to use express tracks for an express service than fit them onto suburban tracks into the tunnel which have stopping trains on them. It also allows airport trains to be a dedicated fleet, designed specifically for passengers with luggage. (Counterargument: running via the tunnel would provide better access to the CBD, and better connections to other rail lines, assuming it runs down Swanston Street.)
But it’s not clear where they’ll terminate at Southern Cross. Given a premium fare, they might want dedicated platforms to isolate those users and do proper ticket checks, though this would still be a problem at Footscray and Sunshine.
Stopping at Footscray makes sense. I’m not sure about Sunshine, 6-10 minutes away. With each stop taking an extra minute, if most other RRL trains end up skipping Sunshine, it might make better sense not to stop there — though doing so would improve accessibility to the airport, particularly for workers (who hopefully would get fare discounts).
The whole plan has all come out of nowhere, of course. One observer said it sounded like they’d figured it all out on the back of an envelope.
But the politics is encouraging. A few months ago their only major transport pledge was the toll road. Now they’re talking about PT, and the Dandenong package in particular includes real money. It seems they’ve finally realised promising a tollroad when the majority want PT wasn’t going to win them the election.
Oh, and the fact that they mention frequency in the press release? That’s also a good sign that the past myopic focus on infrastructure (with little regard to service quality) might be starting to change.
- For the record, no, the Citylink contract doesn’t prevent airport trains
- A good read (though I’m not sure I agree with it): Should a rail line to Melbourne Airport be the priority?
- Herald Sun: Napthine Government promises rail link from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station in State Budget — yes, I’m doing PTUA media again, to back-up Tony and make sure the message is loud and clear during this election year.
Update May 2014: The state budget announced the Melbourne Rail Link project, including the airport line. It appears airport trains will not use the RRL tracks, but will use the Sunbury tracks.