An affordable airport rail link – is it possible?

I was reading an old post on Riccardo’s blog today about airport rail lines, and I tend to agree with the sentiment; namely that these lines don’t need to be fancy expensive express lines with existing stock. Rather, they should be integrated into the existing system, both in terms of infrastructure and ticketing, and be focussed on serving airport workers as much as aircraft passengers. In many ways, that’s why Bracks’ original plan was doomed to fail – it set a 20 minute off-peak journey time, only achievable with expensive amplification projects on existing lines (between Footscray and Albion or Ascot Vale and Broadmeadows) .as well as the new track. Furthermore, it mandated the use of trains fitted out specially for the airport run. That would have lead to an expensive project no faster than SkyBus that completely failed to serve airport workers. I’ve included a couple of maps from the original plan, obtained here.



Really, the plan should be much more basic – I’d consider two options: a simple spur line from Broadmeadows, and a somewhat more complex re-working of the Upfield line.

Spur line from Broadmeadows

A simple 6.5 kilometre spur line from Broadmeadows, stopping all stations to the city, would be the cheapest and easiest way to do an airport rail link. The trip would take about 40 minutes to get to the city. Here’s how it would look:


Cost shouldn’t be to difficult to approximate using the NCCCS estimates. They cost double track rail at$1.9m/km, overhead at $0.8m/km and signalling at $0.8m/km. That’s basically $3.5 million per kilometre of railway in 2001 dollars. Indexed to 2006 dollars, the cost is $4.03 million per kilometre. We’ll assume each grade separation for a new rail line costs $8 million (look how low the NCCCS estimates are – it’s not the same as Middleborough Rd!) and that rail flyovers cost $10 million. We’ll also assume that a station at Melbourne airport would cost $15 million. So let’s add up the costs:

Double track railway @ $4.03/km x 6.5km $26.195m
Grade separations @ $8m x 3                        $24m
Rail flyover @ $10m x 1                                  $10m
Airport station @ $15m x 1                            $15m
Substations @ $0.58m x 2                             $1.16m

That’s not a lot of money to pay for a line to the airport.

Reworking the Upfield line

I like this idea for two main reasons: firstly, it makes public transport so much more interconnected and useful, and secondly I haven’t read about it anywhere else yet. My proposal cuts off the Upfield line at Sunshine St. Campbellfield, and pretty much follows the old Broadmeadows Barracks siding alignment (which can be seen in the 1966 Melway – maps 6 and 7) for approximately 3 kilometres until it reaches the Craigieburn line just north of Broadmeadows station. Only a small amount of land would need to be acquired. The Upfield line north of Sunshine St. could be converted to standard gauge, reconnected at Somerton and used as a freight siding for the surrounding industry.

A new 5 platform interchange station would be built at Riggall St. with 2 broad gauge through platforms, 1 broad gauge terminus platform and 2 standard gauge platforms (I’m assuming the entire North-East will be SG within the next couple of years). Services from the Upfield line would then continue on the airport spur at 10 minute frequencies daytime off-peak, while the Craigieburn line would see 10 minute frequencies as far as Riggall St. and 20 minute frequencies to Craigieburn daytime off-peak. Here’s what it would look like:


Let’s add up the costs:

Double track railway @ $4.03/km x 3km $12.09m
Grade separations @ $8m x 2                     $16m
Rail flyover @ $10m x 1                               $10m
Riggall St. station @ $10m x 1                     $10m
Substations @ $0.58m x 1                           $0.58m
Property acquisition                                      $2m

The total cost to get to the airport would be $76.355m + $50.67m = $127.025m. Why do it as part of the airport line? There are a couple of reasons:

1. Integration. This line would better integrate the Craigieburn and Upfield lines for a similar price to extending Upfield to Somerton, while allowing Upfield line services to go all the way to the airport.

2. Demand management and efficiency. The Craigieburn line already sees fairly heavy loadings, whereas Upfield is reletively lightly used. Running the airport line via the Upfield line maximises passenger growth while minimising the creation of bottlenecks.

I think it’s a very sensible idea, and it’s a pity it’ll never happen under the current state government. I hope the Liberal party can clean up their act…


56 Responses

  1. Oh, I forgot to mention that my Upfield line-Craigieburn line link would cut through military land at Broadmeadows Barracks. That’s a minuscule problem compared to getting state labor to back metropolitan rail though!

  2. Could you translate those aerial photos into maps to pinpoint any problem areas with the proposal?

  3. Hey Phin,

    A friend mentioned a similar idea to me a few weeks ago, so I’m glad to see you’ve covered more of the details. Its confirmed for me that this is indeed a brilliant idea! $127m is a small price to pay to undo the shame of living in a city without a train to the airport. Unfortunately it is not only the taxi drivers standing in our way, I have heard rumors that the freeway has a non-compete clause which prevents public transport development. Kindof defeats the purpose of private roads doesn’t it. Maybe you could investigate this for a future blog post 😉

  4. Gus, you do realise that it would cost everyone a lot less money if you just moved to Sydney 😉

  5. I think it would cost more than $127m to undo the shame of living in Sydney …

  6. Touche 🙂

  7. On the money Phin, especially re Upfield – hence Botchmeister wanting to run Vlines down it, less congested than Broady

    Can’t compete with Skybus (although it is a sham, remember took well over 40min one time off the Flemo rd exit).

    And you can use frequency to overcome average time (Skybus every 20 minutes, av wait 10 minutes, Broady line with airport spur could be every 10 minutes, av wait 5 minutes, saves 5 minutes – likely to be quicker in peak than Skybus)

  8. I thought frequencies on the Upfield were already pretty low, around every 20 mins?

    Couldn’t you then run a mix of airport train expresses stopping at the major stations, and stoppers going the whole way? Thus increasing the service from say 3 to 6 per hour.

    The stoppers cater for local users & workers (both to and from city and airport), while the expresses serve the commuters and airport travellers that want a faster journey. So you’d have at least a 1 in 2 chance of getting a journey which would compete with skybus on raw travel time, plus there’s improved frequency overall.
    Also, new airport arrivals often just look for the train… another bonus!

    It could compete with Skybus on price pretty well if it’s just a Metcard zoning. With an easy interchange at any city loop station might appeal to those further out too, provided you didn’t have too much luggage.

    I really like the Upfield proposal, because with the interchange to the Broady line, and integration of the airport into standard PT, it’s suddenly a lot easier for locals to get to/from airport (work & pax) and also surrounds, and a credible option for everyone else.

  9. Not kidding here – it’s almost worth setting you & Riccardo as an Institute or something and submitting some of these kinds of proposals to the newspaper/govt discussion, that sort of thing.

    A lot of times these “Institutes” are no more than a few people with good ideas, operating out of a small office anyhow.

    Something to think about, anyway! : )

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone – much appreciated!

    Gus, you’re correct – the CityLink contracts stipulated that Transurban could claim compensation from the government if they constructed competing transport (roads or public transport) along the CityLink corridor. Whether or not the lawyers could wrangle our way out of it is another question – it’s certainly an anti-competitive agreement.

    Riccardo, I didn’t realise that Skybus had such reliability problems – that’s something you definitely don’t want on the way to the airport! Even if Skybus gets there faster than the train, I’d hope the lower average wait time, better reliability, metcard fare and the average Melburnian’s hatred of buses would make the train the preferred option anyway.

    Dave, thanks for the complement! It would be good to get more involved in public transport issues and I’d certainly be up for discussing them over a beer! Writing letters to the Age is also a good idea – your suggestion gives me a great deal more confidence to pursue it. Admittedly I hadn’t thought about running a mix of expresses and stoppers up the Upfield line, but it could be a good idea. You’re spot on about the metcard and integration issues – a zone 2 metcard is a much better option than the $25 or whatever fare for Skybus.


  11. The Upfield line is either a disaster or a wonderful opportunity, depending on how you look at it. We had some good discussions on it on Railpage before the better posters started drifting away.

    The double track bit that parallels Sydney Rd is a classic above ground “metro” track and should have a very high frequency of services. Further, “navigability” needs to be improved.

    Navigability is the ease with which an infrequent user who is standing at a point X, anywhere in a city but NOT within view of a bus stop or a rail station, can find their way to the nearest one, and from there find there way to a point Y somewhere else in the city.

    It is amazing that on many parts of Sydney Rd you are not conscious that the railway is so close. Actually a lot of Melbourne has this problem, Prahran, Windsor and North Richmond being infamous examples.

    Big “Metro” signs on Sydney Rd, like London Tube, HK MTR or whatever, need to be installed, even if to point out that Moreland, Jewell etc are only a short walk away.

    Footpaths, traffic lights and station entrances all need to support this navigability. Too much of the station design is dictated by heritage or operator convenience, and little thought to the customer.

    Frequency and the ‘long way round’ are the next problems. No one is going to wait 20 minutes for a competitive journey time with tram or car. The outer limits of the line are more of a problem, but a shorter run, say Coburg or Fawkner, might help between the 20 minute Upfield runs.

    Nothing much can be done about the “long way round” until a line is built under Parkville, one of the many sensible suggestions around at the moment. From Jewell the next logical place to go towards the south is North Parkville (Pharmacy College etc) then South Parkville (the main part of Melbourne Uni). If you could only do one Parkville station, then in between the 2.

    Royal Park, Flemo bridge and Macaulay are really part of another area, and could run as a short shuttle off the Broady etc lines at N Melb, or got rid of (or converted to tramway). Royal Park itself is well served by the W Coburg tram, Flemo bridge by 2 tram routes including 1 that runs up to Newmarket Station. Macaulay is an also ran, and is not far from Kensington.

    The Sydney Rd tram is a distraction from the argument. It is hard to justify keeping an excellent tram service (but very slow) running parallel to an excellent rail service. It is now justified because the rail service isn’t excellent.

    I have suggested on railpage breaking the line into at least 3 pieces, based on actual traffic needs.

    The first is a route 19 from City to Brunswick Rd (rename University North, as it doesn’t actually cross into Brunswick).

    The second would connect with it at the same location, but would be a “South Brunswick-Moreland Stn” route. A third would run from Moreland Stn to the north, and would terminate a bit further north than the current Coburg. A fourth tram route would come into Moreland Stn, from the cross country route to the Lygon St route.

    The current 19 is too long, and the route either needs long cars (to cater for the University traffic) but then doesn’t need them past there. Elderly Zs could serve the rest of the routes, based on Moreland and Coburg. They could even swipe on swipe off via the front door under driver supervision.

    Notwithstanding what we’ve talked about here, I’d probably rather see the Broady line take the burden of express and long distance.

    But I do like the idea of the Upfield line taking more of the burden of Roxy Park and Cragieburn, because that then frees Broady to take more Vlines and potentially airport trains, as well as reducing the need for expresses on the line, helping Newmarket and Kensington.

    I would certainly prefer a clockface high frequency service to Upfield, perhaps with 2 trains an hour missing, so that these can be taken by a Cragieburn service that is running express from Coburg in.

    Some thought also needs to be given to the BG track to Albion.

    Despite dribbling to the contrary on Railpage, it would be straightforward to upgrade this line to 115km/h or more – Vlines from the north would just use this route to Albion then the standard Connex route in from there. In the peak direction 2 good long trains an hour should not disrupt the Sydenham flow too much, although this assumes the West Footscray triple has been done as promised!

  12. Just wanted to talk about navigability and presence (maybe I should do it on my own blog!)

    Look at this tube station pic

    A stranger to the area, but who knows the London Underground exists (and few people wouldn’t) would be instantly reassured in a way that is hard for Melburnians to imagine, but may be familiar to tourists in UK, HK or other places.

    You are instantly reassured that if you follow this symbol, across any road, down any passageway, through any gate – you will be taken to a train that will in turn, take you to anywhere else with the same symbol.

    It doesn’t matter that the London Underground map is not literal and ressembles in topological terms more a plate of noodles than a Mercator projection. Your brain understands the topology and adjusts for it. Your path will be in 1 dimension, you will go wherever the train takes you. It is not the same skill as reading the Melways.

    And your brain finds it very reassuring. A simple, logical connection – like Pavlovs dog you become accustomed to it. See symbol, go to train, ride train, get off at destination, find correct exit on station map.

    I once stayed at Nan Yang hotel in Morrisons Hill Rd, Causeway Bay, HK. The MTR station is some distance away but the MTR logo has the same effect as above. You see it, you follow it – in this case, under a freeway overpass, through a side street, down an escalator, 3 underground levels of shopping centre and about 300 metres linear of underground passageway. But then the ticket machines, gates and so on come into view, and you know you went the right way.

    I wish Sydney Rd, Brunswick had the same effect. Even us railfans exaggerate the presence of the railway because we are railfans, we see glimpses of level crossing, or hear the hoot of trains, because we are sensitised to them. Average Joe isn’t, and doesn’t.

    Enough from me.

  13. It’s not so amazing that you don’t realise the train is there next to Sydney Road. Or at least, why there is no effort in advertising it, when the 19 has good frequency (6 min day offpeak, much better peak) and more direct route (albeit a bit slower, perhaps) compared to the train, which deviates via Nth Melb, etc. Obviously a Parkville/Uni/RMH station would be desirable, but don’t see it happening for some time (although now would be an ideal time, if tunnelling is required in the Haymarket roundabout area – the old UoM Dental Science building is about to be demolished, and I would imagine would make an ideal site to dig from, and install underground station underneath or nearby, should such a thing ever eventuate).

    You’re spot on regarding the tram usage though; I’ve often wondered why some trams don’t terminate just past RMH/Melb Uni (or Bruns. rd), and run shuttles (even just intra-CBD traffic can be substantial, so it would remain useful) at peak and shoulder. A route ’20’ or something.

    The other reason that line (Upfield) might not be so well patronised is a bit chicken/egg. The tram is more heavily used, especially at nights etc, and so more people take it because it is ‘safer’ to be around more people (notwithstanding the weirdos you do sometimes get on the 19). The train is less well patronised (frequency contributes, of course), and some stations feel a bit isolated (eg Fawkner/Gowrie – doesn’t really serve the housing to the east of the cemetery very well, but then, neither does the tram – so people drive, since the bus from the end of the 19 stops around 8pm(!) and is only hourly, anyway, and of course horribly convoluted in the way most bus routes are.

    Ongoing improvements to the 19 (r-turn bans, Royal Pde separation) have only served to enhance the appeal & speed of the tram cf. Upfield line, which seems to have been left to stagnate by Connex.

    Getting a bit off-topic now though… sorry!

  14. The classic railway texts, such as the Electric Railways of Melbourne, describe the tramway competition as the killer. For 2 fixed rail routes to be attacking each other is disasterous and a political failure, probably from the days when local councils or the MMTB ran the trams, VR ran the trains, they disliked each other and probably were making small amounts of profit from the services, hence no incentive to get rid of either.

    John Cain proposed converting it to tramway. This would have been worse all ronud – less comfortable vehicel, slower, offset only by a probable greater frequency in peakhour (but who knows in off peak) and not clear whether the SYdney Rd tram would have closed. I bet the situation would have looked more ludicrous than the present.

    Although you might have seen a smaller A2 class tram with one passenger on it at 11pm at Gowrie, rather than a 3 car Comeng at Gowrie with the same one passenger!

  15. Could you compare the carbon cost the airport-to-city passenger traffic of the current road mode with the rail mode you propose?

  16. Does road mode mean Skybus? I think they have made a fuss about buying carbon credits.

    Electric rail – how long is a piece of string. If they buy only renewable – the answer is zero.

  17. I may be wrong about this, but I remember something about a feasibility study that was done into passenger loadings on Route 19, with a view towards truncating the route (or providing Z class shuttles, etc).

    It found (surprisingly) that there was actually higher patronage on the section of the route BEYOND the University than there was on the section from Melbourne Central to the University.

    Now, I cannot remember where I read this, and as someone who catches the 19 for 3-4 return trips to Uni a week I thought it unlikely…but I definitely read it somewhere…

    Anyway, some fine ideas here, esp re: better use of existing infrastructure on the Upfield Line. And for what little it’s worth, I reckon a Phin & Riccardo Public Transport Institute/Think-Tank could be a force for good in this city (sort of a PT Batman and Robin). Stuff the lobby groups, these “Institutes” seem to have far more say in things anyway…

  18. That would be very interesting Yoghurt. Not from my observations either.

    I’ve posted a little bit on my blog on the division of labour in public advocacy for rail.

    I was disappointed with PTUA and with Smartpax – neither of which has managed to get above community activist level

  19. Meredith, the methodology for calculating carbon savings from public transport isn’t too tricky. Work out how many trips are switched from car to public transport and multiply that by the average carbon emissions that cars would make on those trips (obviously minus the carbon cost of public transport, which while small, does exist).

    The big problem is getting the numbers in the first place, especially if we’re talking about a hypothetical new service. You need to do pretty comprehensive patronage studies and even then the estimates can be quite a long way out. On top of that you have the induced demand issues.

    It’s something worth doing, but takes a lot of resources to do even close to accurately I’m afraid.

  20. Riccardo, Dave and Yoghurt – thanks for the interesting insights into the Upfield line and the 19. I’m all for the idea of linking the Upfield line to a new north-south tunnel taking in the Doncaster line and heading south to St Kilda. I’m waiting for the Eddington report to recommend just that, but somehow I can’t see it happening…

    At the very least the line should have better signs and a higher frequency. Even running 3 car sets every 10 minutes would be a good start and take pressure off the 19, potentially even freeing up some trams for other areas.

    Once the Upfield frequency is increased though, the Northern loop starts to have serious problems. If I recall correctly, it can’t handle any more trains at peak hour already.

    That’s why they need to get a move on and take Werribee out of the loop, and run it to Sandringham instead. It’s far simpler and easier to understand to take lines rather than individual services out of the loop. While they’re at it, they can stop reversing the loop at midday as well.

    Sadly, the political will doesn’t seem to be there for even these small and virtually cost free projects. It’s been 3 years since the government announced that the Clifton Hill loop would run clockwise all day, but we’re still waiting! Taking Werribee out of the loop will never happen on the time scales that seem to be the norm over at DoI.

  21. Had a quick look on the Upfield timetable

    The long way round has a real effect – it takes 30 minutes from Melbourne Central to Upfield, and 12 minutes from Melbourne Central to Jewell.

    The current timetable has the MC-Jewell section taking nearly half the MC to Upfield time. And it is a fraction of the distance, basically the length of Royal Pde.

    Assuming a Parkville Station and on a straight alignment would take 2 minutes from Melbourne Central to Parkville, and 2 minutes from Parkville to Jewell.

    And this “straight alignment” is the one 19 takes.

    Phin, is your proposed airport spur off the Upfield line, N or S of Upfield station?

    I have proposed moving Upfield station to south of Barry Rd – that level crossing is kept busy for no real reason, and there is plenty of land to the south to build a station

  22. For a Parkville station, the best location is under the Uni Melbourne car park – that big open space in Grattan St. With entrances towards the hospital precinct to the west, and towards Swanston and Lygon Sts to the east.

    It would be excellent if a new Doncaster line wsa built with 9-car length platforms minimum, and a long E-W station built under Grattan St – entrances as above and one entrace right past the old Women’s hospital so that the Lygon St crowds could access the line too.

    My other Doncaster line station would be Fitzroy, under Johnstone St with one set of entrances at Brunswick and Johnston St, the other set closer to Smith St.

    Call it Carringbush to honour the Hardy’s book Power without Glory

  23. My proposed Upfield spur would see the line chopped about half a kilometre north of Camp Rd. Upfield station would close – a cost no doubt – but I think that the benefits would outweigh that and Coolaroo station will open up just down the road in a couple of years anyway. The unused bit of the Upfield line could be converted to SG and reconnected at Somerton for use as a freight line if the local industry is interested.

    In the (highly probable) event that my plan never becomes reality, moving Upfield south of Barry Rd. is a sensible idea, and should really happen when Campbellfield station goes in.

    For the Doncaster line, I’d do pretty much the same thing with stations, except I was thinking along the lines of the old Dental Hospital site for Melbourne Uni, and Alexandra Pde/Nicholson and Brunswick for Fitzroy. Your plan to have it under Johnston St is actually more sensible though.

  24. Another fascinating blog, and what a great conversation without any of the crud that happens on Railpage. (Having my head kicked in on the South Australian forum at present).

    Your proposal for extending the Upfield line, and making it an actually useful line is top notch thinking. The sort of innovation that seems to be completely absent in public transport planning and advocacy in this country. There is absolutely no reason it couldn’t be made to work given the right political climate.

    Comparing with Brisbane, as I’m wont to do, I still believe that the Airtrain had been done the way you suggest for Upfield. Yes, it would have been a slightly circuitous route, but not too bad. There was ample opportunity to extend the Doomben line to the airport, with resumption of only a few hundred metres industrial land and a strip of the old airport adjacent to the Gateway motorway. Then up onto the viaduct somewhere around where the DFO outlet is now. No need for the expensive elevated line along the canal. I reckon the whole thing could have been done for less than $100 million. Instead the Doomben line continues to languish in the doldrums and we have an admittedly beautifully engineered, but woefully under utilised dedicated airport line. The extra few minutes to run via Doomben wouldn’t have hurt anyone, and the higher frequency of trains would have revived the Doomben line from its current near terminal state.

    With your Upfield proposal, Melbourne has the opportunity to avoid the serious mistakes with airport rail that were made in both Brisbane and Sydney. An Upfield extension would transform an under performing existing line, provide a fit for purpose airport link without silly over engineering, and enhance the network effect of Melbourne’s trains by joining together two lines that come tantalizingly close to contacting each other.

    Great thinking!

  25. Thanks Colin, much appreciated! Admittedly I don’t know much about Brisbane, but looking at the lines on google earth, it seems absolutely mad that the airport line doesn’t use the Doomben alignment. The viaduct looks great from the air, but it all seems pointless when so much money could have been saved by using a more simple design.

    Looking at the timetables – Doomben seems to get only 1 train per hour, and the airport 2. Worse still neither have anything in the evenings. Surely it would have been easier to run the service as one line. I’d be very interested to know why it didn’t happen that way.

  26. I agree re the Doomben line (off topic though it is)

    I would have built a spur under the runway from Doomben or Eagle Farm to the International terminal, and built a separate people mover (eg monorail)thing from there to Domestic.

    You would have saved a lot of money by using the Doomben line, or even improving it a bit while still using the same basic corridor. Once passengers have arrived at International you have reached the end of the QR section.

    That would also be the end of the railway’s revenue section.

    The leg from domestic to international would be on a people mover that has rubber tyres and guideway, and runs every minute or so, fully automatic, and free for all airport users.

    These people movers are also very cheap to buy compared with full-blown railway, and doesn’t need a driver.

    Here’s a simple map

  27. Phin & Riccardo,

    Yes – it should have been built as a single line, providing a unified decent service for both Doomben line stations and the airport.

    The people mover idea from a single Airport station at International would work as well. Something like the air-rail link at Birmingham Airport, which joins Birmingham International station to the terminal.

    I’ve used this, and it works well.

    Getting back on track – it is important that Melbourne and Perth avoid the mistakes of Sydney & Brisbane when the time comes to link their airports to rail.

  28. Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve checked this blog and in that time there’s been some great posts and discussion.

    Just on the citylink compensation issue, provided that it is calculated properly I don’t think that it should have an impact on the viability of the project. As I remember, the pay-out is equal to Transurban’s loss of revenue. This has the following impacts:

    1) Nothing would have to be paid for people who use the train, but who wouldn’t have used citylink. This means that a benefit has occurred for them at no extra cost.

    2) Nothing would have to be paid for induced demand, though I don’t think this would be much of a factor in airport trips.

    3) For people using the train instead of citylink, they are getting more value from the train than they did from the road (otherwise they’d still use the road). So for them: total value = road value + marginal train value.

    The cost paid out by the government however is only equal to the road value cost. So overall there is still a benefit to the people of Victoria (though much reduced).

    Hope that made sense (both in expression and concept).

  29. Phin – we haven’t met and I’ve only just discovered this forum.

    While I think connectivity is vital so that we can make the system work, I’m not sure the extra funding (for the link to the Upfield line) wouldn’t be better spent towards…..a ‘New’ link line. (ok, but if you only had a limited pot, would you do this?)

    I really have to get my scanner running again so I can post some pictures (XP keeps wiping out the driver 😦 ) However – if we electrified the Albion freight line – at least to East Keilor – we can by-pass Jacana.

    Have stations at Highpoint Airport West and Keilor East (between Calder and Keilor Park Dr) – then (my nefarious plot) – divert off and go underground after Keilor Park Dr with a line direct to HighPoint Shopping Centre (station at Milleara SC) – then come above ground in Pipemakers Park, travel along the river and put a bridge to connect with a slightly realigned Flemington/Showgrounds line now going through the far end of the VIP carpark (away from racecourse) and with the bridge going over the access road to Flemington at that point.

    You’d need to duplicate the track to Newmarket, new station at Flemington (but that shouldn’t be a major one) and may need a new platform at Showgrounds – then you’d need to upgrade the bridge at Epsom Rd and probably put the line below ground at Ascot Vale Rd.

    From Broadmeadows, that would be Five stops before Southern Cross assuming you stopped at Newmarket but went express through Kensington and North Melbourne. That compares to 3-4 stops for a limited express going solely on the Craigeburn line.

    It gives access to Highpoint, a mass through transit for Melbourne Cup and other Flemington events or showground events and serves the Keilor East community.

    “If” you connected the remaining portion of the Albion line to Sunshine – you could even run some services from the west – with a station, or two, in Sunshine North before it went through to Highpoint SC etc.

    This could take some traffic off the Sunshine-South Kensington corridor.

    I make it as about 5.5km underground, and I’d try to get the shopping centres to kick in towards costs of the stations.

    Some might moan about the loss of some parkland by the river – but …. I’ll do the sums and post them.

    What would really help me is some advice on the cost of stations.

    Based on advice from different people, I’ve got costs of:

    double electric line – about $6m per km (incl substations)
    line duplication – bit less
    Underground double line (or bridges) – about $10m per km

    Also, can the freight trains run on the same rails on the Albion loop?

    If pulling something together to respond to the Eddingtong report – there’s no point in not having reasonable and justifiable figures. This (apart from the airport link) is an ‘extra’ though.

  30. […] Calculating rail line construction costs in light of the Eddington Report Posted on April 26, 2008 by Phin I wanted to have a look at prospects for rail to Chadstone and Monash Uni in this post, but Eddington has inconvenienced me somewhat. He came up with some outrageous cost estimates for rail construction – far higher than the Northern Central City Corridor Study figures I’ve been using for costing projects like a north-south tunnel and airport line. […]

  31. Apologies for the cynicism, great post and research, but I personally think it is obvious that the government has done anywhere near the required due diligence for the airport link. Its hands are too tied by the motor vehicle and taxi lobby to put in a much needed rail link. As a result, they are likely to artificially inflate the cost of any such project and eliminate the most feasible options to use cost as an excuse. The Myki ticketing system was a waste of time, but like Spencer Street station, it is a conveniently unneeded project designed to take funds away from any constructive public transport projects that will actually make a difference. Hopefully the tide will turn in the light of environmental and fuel price pressures. Even the RACV is beginning to wake up, but the government is still stuck in the 1950s ….

  32. Hi,

    Not sure if you have seen it, but Melbourne Airport have issued their Draft Airport Master Plan 2008 for public comment. It includes the following comments regarding a possible future airport rail link.

    “The Albion East route is shown in the Master Plan in Figures 1.1 and 1.2. The route is to be underground for the entire on-airport section to maximise airport development opportunities, unless commercial negotiations between Melbourne Airport and the State Government facilitate some above-ground routing.

    An underground station, with direct links to the passenger terminal complex, is proposed between the existing multi-level carpark and the passenger terminal complex.

    The timing for the introduction of a rail service to the airport will, to a large extent, be determined by commercial considerations. However the on-airport planning will allow this to proceed at whatever time is appropriate”.

    Nice to see this in the planning.

  33. Hi Graham, I read about the underground station at the airport in an aviation industry magazine but I haven’t got a link. Do you have a link to that report?

  34. oops, sorry Graeme for the name typo.

  35. Very interesting Graeme and James – I’ll have to track a copy down!

  36. The Draft report is on the Melbourne Airport webpage, see the link there.


  37. […] I wanted to have a look at prospects for rail to Chadstone and Monash Uni in this post, but Eddington has inconvenienced me somewhat. He came up with some outrageous cost estimates for rail construction – far higher than the Northern Central City Corridor Study figures I’ve been using for costing projects like a north-south tunnel and airport line. […]

  38. […] all hope of a rail link is lost. Phin has done a post on an affordable airport rail link that suggests a reworking of the Upfield line to serve the airport, also picking up the […]

  39. The Albion East route is being protected as the preferred airport route from Melbourne to the Airport… As it says in the masterplan the Government has placed an aquisition overlay in the planning scheme to protect (and ultimately connect) the Broadie-Albion freight line to the Airport generally along the Airport Drive Alignment.

    Having said the above which obviously infers that government has 1 plan for a rail link to the airport I like both of your Upfield and Craigiburn connections and believe one or other should be constructed.

    I refer to the Munich Airport which has a general train line connection, an express connection and is currently in planning for a Mag Lev connection which vary in travel time (all to Munich Central Station) from about 15 mins to 40 mins. Vienna airport also has multiple rail connections depending on what you’re prepared to pay. Starting with the cheap connection you could then build the express 20 minute connection when travel demand warrants in another 20 years (but still have had the benefit of a rail connection).

    The other thing that is forgotten often in this discussion is that the Airport area is the second largest ‘point source’ of employment in Melbourne (I believe I heard this somewhere before) connecting this land to a rail connection makes sense solely for the workers there let alone the airport passengers.

  40. Hi Phim/Riccardo,

    Another good idea that should be considered by government for construction. My comments are:

    1. I think I have heard Melbourne Airport say that they need 40m passengers/year to make rail link profitable; but they currently get 22m/year – however, maybe that is with Albion link. $127m is not expensive cosidering the benefits that will flow from it if it is built. To mitigate the current unviability of it, a new commercial hub with high rise office blocks should be built at the entrance to the airport to increase workers on airport grounds. With connectivity to the airport station, this should bost the 22m/yr figure towards the 40m mark.

    2. I support the integration with the Upfield line idea. However, I think the upfield line itself needs some updating. Considering a tram runs parallel a hundred metres away from the railway line I would be inclined to close some stations, such as Anstey and Jewell and maybe Merlynston to create a quicker journey rom airport to city.

    3. The people who will use this train will be overseas and interstate visitors, and locals who prefer public transport over the freeway. Most Melbournians, however, will choose their cars anyday b/c it is convenient from their homes and can carry suitcases in the boot.

    4. Luggage – another problem; we could not use normal suburban trains as they are at the moment b/c they have no storage for luggage. Not a big problem b/c fit out existing trains with storage but then this adds to initial cost.

    All in all, this project is worth pursuing.

  41. Since it’s such a small amount in infrastructure terms, that wouldn’t take to long to pay back from the added revenue that the system could generate.

  42. A plan like this is fantastic, and should have been built years ago, I actually reckon a very fast train Mono rail system just for airport and City and thats it. Like in Bangkok. 30-35 minute trip each way. VFT is the way to go built to come out next to departure floor. Easy walk for passenger for check in and on board connections. Good Luck.

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