Melbourne Airport light-rail link proposed

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An elegant, super-fast solution for the city to Melbourne Airport rail link?

It takes just 15 minutes from the city to Melbourne Airport and runs every four minutes, 24 hours a day, carrying up to 40,000 people an hour.

It’s driverless, ticketless, fully automated, super quiet, will operate on or above existing infrastructure, is environmentally friendly and predominantly locally manufactured.

It costs you around $25 each way, less than half the cost of a taxi, integrates with existing infrastructure and provides options for service extensions and stops such as at Essendon Airport.

And the project cost is around $1.5 billion, about a tenth of what it would cost for standard heavy rail on the same route.

Would you use it?

The answer is yes

Peter O’Brien, former president of the Victorian and Australian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and a former board member of Tourism Australia, is leading the Airshuttle Consortium and believes the answer is a resounding yes.

He has 12 consultants working on Airshuttle on a pro-bono basis, has strong bi-partisan support, encouragement from the Committee of Melbourne, which includes RACV, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, and the backing of public figures such as Sir Rod Eddington, Martin Ferguson and John O’Rourke.

Proven technology

“In the past 50 years everything has moved on in Australia except the trains,” Mr O’Brien says. “What we are offering is 21st-century, state-of-the-art technology that is already proven in many similar situations worldwide.”

The Airshuttle proposal will use the latest light-rail technology and will run above existing roads, significantly reducing the land requirement – it takes up the equivalent of a standard bike lane in either direction. It will be near silent as the trains run on rubber wheels and use solar panels for power along with the latest battery technology. The trains will also be fitted with privacy glass that automatically switches to opaque in residential zones.

Airshuttle, if it gets the state government’s green light, will be privately funded and operated, and will take about five years to establish, according to Mr O’Brien. If the project gets approval in the near future it will be up and running by 2022, he says.

Growing gateway

Mr O’Brien’s preferred stop in the city is Southern Cross, but other locations are being considered, and he expects the new train link to take around 15 per cent of traffic heading to the airport, with the rest serviced by car, taxi and bus. Melbourne Airport currently handles around 34 million passengers a year and expects this to reach 64 million within the next 15 to 20 years.

“Melbourne Airport is the major economic gateway to the state and it’s essential we get an absolutely reliable, safe, high-frequency, express rail service,” he says.

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Written by Richard Webb
February 20, 2017