Rail body advocates for separate airport line between Sunshine and CBD

Rail industry advocacy body, Rail Futures, has criticised the Victorian government’s plan to run the Melbourne Airport Rail Link to the city via Melbourne Metro.

The body called upon the Victorian government to build additional tracks between the CBD and Sunshine, where the airport link will join the existing Melbourne rail network. This would benefit both regional Victoria services and trains to Melbourne’s west.

Rail Futures estimates that soon after the new lines are open in 2025, the new Melbourne Metro (MM) train lines will reach capacity, potentially as early as 2030.

“Notwithstanding this, the State Government appears intent on allocating 25 per cent of MM track capacity between the CBD and Sunshine to Melbourne Airport trains,” said Rail Futures president John Hearsch.

To accommodate demand from trains from the airport, western Melbourne and regional Victoria, the number of trains running at peak times on the Sunbury/Watergardens, Melton, and Ballarat lines.

“Once added to the metropolitan network, the Airport line will remain part of it for a very long time. This is bad news for these communities, long denied adequate train services but promised major service improvements once MM is completed.”

Rail Futures is advocating for a separate rail line, similar to the one proposed by IFM Investors, as part of the AirRail consortium.

“The alternative, long promoted by Rail Futures, is an additional express track pair between Southern Cross and Sunshine, supplementing MM and the Regional Rail Link track pair opened in 2015, already operating at near its designed capacity,” said Hearsch.

Population growth in western Melbourne and Geelong is already placing strain on trains travelling from Geelong to Melbourne via Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. Patronage on the line has grown by 131 per cent since 2015.

“Our plan transfers Geelong trains to the new fast tracks between Southern Cross and Sunshine and also provides additional express tracks between Sunshine and Wyndham Vale,” said Hearsch.

“These changes will enable Wyndham Vale to have a full metro-style service and for Geelong to have its long promised fast trains. Without them, Wyndham residents will have a much less frequent service and Geelong commuters will continue to endure slow journeys and chronic overcrowding, as no more trains could be accommodated between the City and Sunshine.”

Light rail proposed for Sunshine Coast Airport development

Sunshine Coast Airport has delivered a draft master plan for the development of the Queensland-based airport to 2040 that includes details for the creation of a light rail station.

The draft of the Sunshine Coast Airport Master Plan 2040 document was developed by Sunshine Coast Airport with key stakeholders and includes Sunshine Coast Council’s infrastructure plans under the Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion Project (SCAEP).

The airport’s document includes plans related to the provision of a possible direct rail corridor from the city to the airport. Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland Government are investigating “numerous options for rail access” to help minimise a reliance on motor vehicle access to the airport, according to the draft master plan.

The ongoing development of the new Maroochydore central business district, a 53-hectare greenfield site development expected to cost $430 million, is also hoped to bolster the attractiveness of the region for locals, businesses and visitors, with the airport serving as a “gateway” for this development.

“[Sunshine Coast Airport] is a strong supporter of the introduction of light rail to the airport providing a fast, clean and efficient link to Maroochydore and on to broader destinations within the region,” the draft plan read.

“Both heavy and light rail infrastructure is planned for the transformation of the region, and a connection to Sunshine Coast Airport is a critical link in the effective public transportation visions for the region.”

The report went on to stat that a prospective light rail service would provide direct flights to domestic and international destinations by offering seamless connections between Maroochydore CBD and the airport.