Hong Kong Airport Express, Wikipedia Commons
Hong Kong Airport Express, Wikipedia Commons

There are clear signs in today’s media that Melbourne is getting closer to playing its airport-rail corridor cards.

The advantage are obvious. Sydney has wilfully crippled its chances of remaining Australia’s gateway city by mismanaging not just its airport capacity, but its general rail, road and port infrastructures.

But Melbourne can do so much more than just link its airports at Tullamarine and Avalon to a metropolitan train and tram hub at Southern Cross Station, and thus, to each other.

It can built fast public transport corridors between both airports and the CBD that will attract and serve more residential and business developments.

Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey

Choose what you pay, from $99.

Sign up now
Easy access between Hong Kong's metro and airport express trains
Easy access between Hong Kong's metro and airport express trains

The contemporary templates for well served growth corridors between cities and airports include those in Japan and China in general, and in particular at Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

None of the conventional rail links used in these examples are high speed, except by comparison to Australian urban rail services. The three stop express from Hong Kong Airport to Central does a top speed of around 130 kmh, and would only save a few minutes of its 24 minutes maximum length journey through Ting Yi and Kowloon to Hong Kong Island if it were to briefly exceed 200 kmh, but it is smooth, fast and incredibly useful, and connects easily with the MTR metro lines serving greater Hong Kong as well as some trains into the nearer PRC.

The Bandar Tasik Selatan station on the Kuala Lumpur express line
The Bandar Tasik Selatan station on the Kuala Lumpur express line

Melbourne can achieve similar results without having to drill tunnels through Sydney sandstone, where awkward topography meets an impenetrable bureaucratic and political resistance to any transport infrastructure projects that don’t divert 80 per cent of total costs into special dividends or fees for private banking interests.

To achieve fast non-stop to Southern Cross airport services, yet provide for future exploitation by multi-stop services along development corridors, Victoria needs to reserve more space than required for only two tracks.

The minimum requirement is to leave enough room so that intermediate stations (or the reconstruction of existing stations the lines may serve) will have two through tracks, sealed off by wind blast walls, and space for outboard tracks that will stop at platforms also protected by a barrier with aligned doors, as is now normal in 99 per cent of new rail stations world wide, whether heavy rail or metro in nature.

There would also be a case for optimal designing of the airport platforms below the main level at Southern Cross to provide the easiest possible access to the other rail services and trams.

Even if the state cannot afford to built the Avalon-Southern Cross-Tullamarine lines in other than stages, the lesson from abroad is to ensure that the alignments and easements for the entire project are recognised or set aside in everything that is built from day one.

Having two competing and well connected airports can deliver Melbourne and Victoria benefits from economic expansion that Sydney and NSW have probably already lost for good.

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.


Join us and save up to 50%

Subscribe before June 30 and choose what you pay for a year of Crikey. Save up to 50% or, chip in extra and get one of our limited edition Crikey merch packs.

Join Now