Passenger Rail

Unpacking the Melbourne Airport ‘Super Train’ proposal

The investment firm which owns a stake in Melbourne Airport and Southern Cross Station says it will pitch a $15 billion PPP to the state and federal governments, aiming to start work on a rail line to the airport by 2020. Here’s what we know…

What’s the plan?

A consortium called AirRail Melbourne is proposing a “world-class, fast, reliable and competitive” rail link between Melbourne Airport and the CBD.

The plan would turn Sunshine Station into a ‘super hub’ connecting the existing Metro Trains Melbourne network, and the regional network, to the new rail line.

The new line would provide 20-minute travel between the CBD and the Airport, with one-way tickets costing less than $20 “in today’s prices”.

Custom-built trains would include luggage racks and a high level of accessibility.

Trains to and from the airport would run 24/7, and would depart every 10 minutes at peak periods.

The project would rely on new, dedicated track between Southern Cross Station and Sunshine, and then more new track to the airport.

The dedicated track would also improve travel times for regional passengers to the CBD, and would unlock more frequent, electrified services, and the future development of high speed rail to Geelong.

Who’s pitching this plan?

AirRail Melbourne is a consortium of fund manager IFM Investors, Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains Australia, and Southern Cross Station.

IFM Investors owns, operates and maintains Southern Cross Station under a public private partnership (PPP) with the Victorian Government.

IFM Investors also owns a stake in Australia Pacific Airports Corporation, the privately-held corporation which owns and operates Melbourne Airport.

Metro Trains Australia is the holding company of Metro Trains Melbourne, and is a consortium of Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation (60%), John Holland Group (20%) and UGL Rail (20%).

How much would it cost?

Figures released by the consortium equate to a $15 billion PPP.

The consortium wants to provide $5 billion to match the $5 billion already committed by the Federal Government, and the $5 billion committed by the Victorian Government.

Why now?

Just four days before AirRail Melbourne made its plans public, the Victorian Government opened the Registration of Interest period for those looking to help deliver the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

The consortium says it can execute its plan and begin construction work by 2020, “two years earlier than currently planned”. The State Government plans to spend roughly 18 months to pick a winning bidder for the contract by 2020, meaning construction wouldn’t begin until 2022.

The state has called for interested designers, engineers, rail systems providers, rollingstock providers, investors, financiers, developers and other rail infrastructure providers to take part in the RoI.

The RoI announcement followed a recent decision by the Andrews Government to develop a business case for the project.

It also followed the Government’s blockbuster announcement for a Suburban Rail Loop project, which would build a ring of rail connecting each of Metro Trains Melbourne’s suburban corridors.

“If re-elected we’ll build the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and Suburban Rail Loop our state needs,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on September 12.

What are they saying about it?

IFM investors boss Brett Himbury said the ‘Super Train’ plan represented a good opportunity for the seven million Australians whose superannuation funds invest in IFM, to invest in a nation-building project.

“This ‘Super Train’ will help grow the superannuation accounts of millions of Australians through a dependable long-term crucial infrastructure investment,” Himbury added.

Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said: “As we expand our runways and terminal facilities [over the next 20 years] we also need world-class linkages between the airport, city and regional Victoria. Our vision is for a seamless passenger experience at the airport, properly integrated between the train carriage and the terminal.”

Acting Metro Trains Australia managing director Leah Waymark said Victorians and visitors would benefit from being able to plan their journey with precision.

“The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is an essential part of an interconnected public transport services for our growing international city,” Waymark added.

Finally, Southen Cross Station chief executive Colin Chanter said the station was uniquely positioned to take part in the project.

“Our design enhances the capacity of Melbourne’s broader rail network from day one, allowing more trans to run more often, and supercharges future upgrades to metro and regional rail lines,” Chanter said.