There are plenty of reasons why Melbourne was rated ‘most liveable’ city in the world for the second straight year. Its score of 97.5 per cent in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey was close to the perfect score, with the city only docked points for climate, culture and petty crime.
When looking at the transport picture, however, it seems strange that it did not lose points for infrastructure. One of the biggest downsides to Victoria’s capitalis in the lack of a convenient connection from the airport to the city; when one compares Melbourne to the other great cities on the EIU list, this is a glaring omission. Tourists and business travellers alike have noted this lack of transport between the city proper and its airport.
There has been endless debate over the real need, viability and sustainability of a Melbourne Airport Link but it appears now that the idea is closer to reality than before.
Although the plans are only in the concept stage, Melbourne Airport chief executive Chris Woodruff is hopeful that a new plan to consider the future demand for access to the airport will be given the green light by the Victorian government.
Planned improvements could bring about the realisation of a transport hub for private cars, taxis, SkyBus, public buses and – finally – the long-awaited airport link train station.
The initial plans suggest that traffic congestion might be eased with the building of an elevated road funnelling airport traffic into a multi-storey, multi-modal transport hub situated away from the main terminal.
The rail link study, which will assess the feasibility of such a move, is highly anticipated. There have been studies and examination on that issue before that have, ultimately, come to nothing. The new study will look to learn from these while taking into account current data on population, transport use and the needs of the growing city.
The possibility of installing a rail link was debated first debated back in the 1960s, but little progress was made.
It wasn’t until 2001 that the state government once again gave the idea serious consideration as part of the Linking Victoria programme. Although two options were put forward, market research actually concluded that most passengers preferred getting to the airport by taxi or car and, with similar links in Sydney and Brisbane under-performing, there was concern as to the viability of building one in Melbourne.
On July 21, 2008, the Victorian government reaffirmed its commitment to a rail link and said that it would be considered within three to five years. In 2010, however, newly-appointed State Minister for Public Transport Martin Pakula of the Labour Party announced that the rail link had been taken off the agenda with new freeway options being explored instead.
It was only later that year, with the Liberals taking over, that the policy for the introduction of the rail link returned to the agenda.
The current proposals have been developed as part of the next phase of the larger airport master plan. Over the next five years, according to Woodruff, Melbourne Airport will spend $1 billion on airside and landside infrastructure to cope with the predicted 60 million passengers in 20 years.
The plans will be open for public comment early next year before being submitted to the federal government for approval. Many travellers flying in and out of Melbourne are certainly hoping the plans finally take off.