|Doyle plea for rail link to airport|
The Age, 28 June 2010
MELBOURNE would fall behind other international cities unless planning began now on an airport rail link, lord mayor Robert Doyle said yesterday.
His comment comes as the head of Melbourne Airport says the state government is considering widening the Tullamarine Freeway again, from four to six lanes between the Western Ring Road and the airport.
The lord mayor said planning must begin now for a rail link to Melbourne - which has been on and off the city's agenda since first put forward by Sir Henry Bolte in 1963. Otherwise, Melbourne risked gridlock on the Tullamarine Freeway and losing tourism and business opportunities.
''Name another city in the world with our growth projections, our sophistication and our liveability, that does not have a city-to-airport link,'' Cr Doyle said. ''Either we have got it completely right or every other city has got it completely wrong. Would we seriously argue that Dandenong or Box Hill or other designated activity areas should not be connected to the city by rail?''
Long-term car parking now stretches almost two kilometres from the airport terminal. This could not go on forever, he said.
The Tullamarine Freeway has been widened five times since it opened just before Melbourne Airport did. This Thursday marks the airport's 40th anniversary.
Last year, parking at Melbourne Airport generated revenue of $95 million for its owners, Australian Pacific Airports Corporation.
The SkyBus route generated $28 million in revenue for its owners. The state government, which argues there is not enough demand for an airport rail line, received $1.1 million from SkyBus last year for the right to operate the route.
The government early next year will launch a new SmartBus route, going every 15 minutes to and from the airport to Broadmeadows railway station.
Last year, 13 million vehicles visited the airport via the freeway. Of these, 69 per cent were private cars, 17 per cent taxis and 14 per cent buses.
Melbourne Airport chief executive Chris Woodruff said the freeway, which is often heavily congested, varied between two and three lanes from the ring road to the airport.
Mr Woodruff said an airport traffic group, including VicRoads, was ''having conversations'' about widening the road.
It was up to the airport to ''build a logical case'' for widening the Tullamarine Freeway, Mr Woodruff said. ''It has to be a good business case because we compete with lots of suburbs and regions for roads,'' he said.
When the freeway was built over the Moonee Ponds Creek in 1966, it had two lanes in each direction. It now has eight lanes at its widest point.
SkyBus managing director Simon Cowen also said it should be widened. ''The freeway in the different directions changes from four to three to two [lanes], so to keep it at a minimum of three lanes would make a lot of sense.''
The Department of Transport said on Friday that there was not yet market demand for an airport rail link. However, it is studying an improved bus link.
Melbourne Airport had 25 million visitors last year. This is projected to grow by 2027 to between 44 million and 55 million. At least 12,500 people are employed at the airport.
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