I meant to write this back in November: amongst the information published with the Airport rail link announcement was this diagram summarising the indicative journey times:
I think there’s a couple of interesting things worth noting here:
Airport to City
The anticipated travel time from the Airport to City is 27 minutes, which is longer than the theoretical quickest 22 minute trip on Skybus to Southern Cross, but shorter than the more typical 30+ minutes when the roads are busy
(Skybus no longer boldly promises any specific travel time, though they mention on their FAQ page that “in general” trips take 22 minutes. They also say it’s longer “during peak times”, their definition of which covers 8 hours per day.)
But for most people, Southern Cross is an interchange, not a destination. In fact for changing from Skybus to trains, it’s a really inconvenient interchange.
For people heading to most parts of the CBD, being dropped at State Library Station in 27 minutes or Town Hall Station in 29 minutes (hopefully reliably) is actually very competitive with Skybus.
In fact I suspect for most journeys to somewhere other than Southern Cross and the western end of the CBD, the rail link will be faster.
Even if you add a minute for a stop at Keilor East/Airport West – which makes a lot of sense – it’s still faster than the end-to-end journey time with Skybus plus connections.
Metro tunnel journeys
The second thing of note is that the diagram shows the journey times through the Metro tunnel, because that’s the route the Airport trains will take – they will be some of the same trains that run the regular service to Cranbourne and Pakenham.
I’m not sure that expected Metro tunnel travel times have been published this clearly before.
Parkville to Caulfield in 18 minutes is a pretty speedy journey. In comparison:
- by car (timed at 10pm on a Sunday in the middle of a lockdown) Google Maps says 21 minutes, and a typical journey in daytime could easily be double that
- the quickest option by tram and train I can see is 36 minutes
- if you want to avoid interchange, on weekdays the number 3 tram from Melbourne University (a different spot in Parkville to where the station will be) to Caulfield can take almost an hour
Of course the travel time benefits of the tunnel are highest when looking at journeys to/from places that don’t currently have rail – Parkville, Arden and ANZAC (Domain). But that’s one of the key advantages of the project, alongside the rail network capacity boost, and relieving St Kilda Road trams.
There is a caveat of course: they are going to need to provide consistently high frequency service, all day every day, so that people can depend on it being a Turn Up And Go service with minimal waiting, no matter when they’re travelling – just like the St Kilda Road tram spine the rail tunnel is seeking to relieve.
Frequent service on the connecting routes is important too.
In fact to spend billions on a rail tunnel but not provide high frequency services would be like building a big school but then only filling half the classrooms.
Provided the services are up to scratch, the tunnel is going to bring huge benefits to inner Melbourne once it opens.