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…
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