Airport Rail is the wrong project to leave in limbo

In 1965, Victorian transport minister Edward Meagher delivered a clear message about the need for a rail line to Melbourne’s new international airport.

The airport at Tullamarine was set to open in 1970 and predicted to welcome almost 3 million passengers annually by 1980. Meagher argued that made a rail line essential, and the Bolte government passed a bill allowing it to acquire land for a rail link via Glenroy that would provide 20-minute train journeys to the city.

The site of the proposed train station at Melbourne Airport.CREDIT: CHRIS HOPKINS

“If we are to attempt to move all of this by freeway, it will be so bogged down we will have to build another freeway besides this one,” he said.

Almost 60 years later, that’s precisely how it has turned out. The Tullamarine Freeway has swollen from four lanes to 11 at its widest. And a train line – debated, planned and promised by governments for decades – is nowhere to be seen.

This week the Melbourne Airport Rail project appears to have inched closer to reality, after the airport’s private operator relinquished demands for an underground station rather than the state government’s preference for a cheaper above-ground design.

Premier Jacinta Allan and her ministers had painted the station dispute as a fundamental stumbling block and accused the airport of trying to kill the project to protect car parking revenue. But the state Labor government’s commitment to the project must also be questioned.

If there’s one thing the history of Melbourne’s airport train line tells us, it’s that delays beget more delays. Each year that passes is an opportunity to find another reason not to build it.

Whenever a train line to the airport opens, it will already be far too late. Victorians have waited long enough.

The Age Extract

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *