Back On The Tracks
Our promised Melbourne Airport Rail link is back on the agenda…maybe.
After almost 50 years of promises, plans and postponements, Malcolm Turnbull and Matthew Guy have little patience for the indecision of Labor governments who prefer to pontificate rather than raise Melbourne Airport’s accessibility to the standard of other Australian major cities and the rest of the modern world.
Malcolm’s dangled a $5 billion carrot and Daniel Andrews has (almost) committed to getting back on track and proceeding with the rail link, despite his ever-vacillating election promises.
Malcolm Turnbull seeks to provide a 5 Billion injection into Melbourne’s Airport Rail.
For over 50 years, Liberal government initiatives have been thwarted by political moves and ‘past use by date’ feasibility studies costing taxpayers many millions of dollars. In 1965, long before Sydney, Brisbane or Perth had any of their plans on the drawing board, the concept of a Melbourne Airport Rail Link was initiated by the Liberal Bolte Government. Known as The Glenroy Tullamarine Railway Construction Bill, it planned to reserve land for the construction of a future rail link to Tullamarine.
With unique foresight, the Minister of Transport, Edward Meagher stated, “it is generally accepted that the biggest problem of the air age is the contrast between the time spent in the air and the time spent on the ground travelling between the airport and the city centre. Melbourne is fortunate in that its new airport, although 14 miles from the city centre, is so located that it can be conveniently linked with the suburban railway network, thus providing fast, cheap and convenient access to the city and suburbs for air passengers, visitors and airport workers who do not desire to use their cars”. “Although no immediate return will be received it must be regarded as a wise investment for the future.” 
In contrast, the Labor party opposed the bill, stating that it would not eventuate as a practical service.
In keeping with this attitude despite touting the promise of a Melbourne rail link in the election of 1999, the Bracks government used Sydney’s overpriced Airport Link’s teething problems as a reason to backtrack on their pledge, causing the Public Transport Users Association to announce their concern that ‘the Government would consider widening the airport freeway but not build a train line’. (2)
Subsequently, the ALP Premier, John Brumby also failed to make good on the commitment, relying on SkyBus to impress Melbourne’s tourists and prompting the Lord Mayor to warn that we would lag behind other international cities unless plans proceeded for the rail link, stating it ‘has been on and off the city’s agenda since first put forward by Sir Robert Menzies in 1963’. (3)
When the Liberals took government in 2010, they began finally moving the project forward, allocating $6.5 million for a study to identify route options to link the CBD to the airport. (4) The 2013 Melbourne Airport Rail Link study identified four potential routes and in 2014 the Coalition announced it would go ahead with the project. “It is time that this rail link was built and it will be built by a Coalition Government here in Victoria.”(5) However the Coalition’s plans for Melbourne’s rail link never became a reality. When Daniel Andrews’ Labor government climbed into the driver’s seat – he put on the brakes.
Daniel Andrews has said that the Airport Link is not a priority.
In 2016 Andrews said the Airport Link was not on his list of priorities and in 2017 his Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan stated their focus would be on finishing the Metro Rail project first. Within months, Andrews had changed his tune and announced $10 million towards another feasibility assessment, hopefully one that won’t gather dust this time. (6) David Hodgett, Matthew Guy’s Deputy Leader strongly encouraged Andrews to “take advantage” of the promised $5 billion Federal funding saying, “. we have again the Federal Government bailing out Victoria by saying ‘here we’ll give you some money to build the airport rail link’. “We’d be urging Daniel Andrews to take advantage of this and build the airport rail link.” (7)
i.e. Only a Liberal government will ensure the $5 billion Federal funding is spent to finally build an air rail link and create a world-class connection that will take this state into the future.
- (2018-05-13) Melbourne Airport rail link
- Lucas (2010) ‘Doyle plea for rail link to airport’, The Age, 28 June.
- (2010-11-14) Baillieu revives airport rail link
- (2014-04-13) Napthine commits to building Melbourne airport rail link
- (2017-05-01) ABC News: How soon could we have a train line to Melbourne Airport
- (2017-04-07) Lack of Melbourne airport rail link an ‘omission’, PM says