Tullamarine's Master Plan goes for more growth

Australian Pacific Airports Corporation - owner of Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport  - has released its latest Master Plan draft for public viewing. The full document suite is available here.

The highlight of which, and mentioned in mainstream media toward the end of last year, is the announcement Melbourne's 3rd runway will be a shorter arrivals-focused runway to the south of the terminal precinct running parallel to the existing 9/27 (East-West) runway.

For years Melburnians have seen in their Melway street directories the proposed 3rd and 4th runways locations, and now we have less fluid and slightly more concrete dates on when the 3rd runway will be operational - 2022 at the latest. And it was somewhat amusing to watch a report on ABC News24 2 nights ago where locals living in Gladstone Park were overall quite supportive of the project and were happy to list the benefits of the expansion.

I've always believed that Tullamarine was one of those rare examples of good planning foresight from different levels of government at the time. Thereafter successive governments have maintained strict suburban development controls to the west and north of Tullamarine, minimising complaints and maximising the airport's usefulness through its 24 hour operation - a demonstrably genuine example of a good balance between the needs for housing and and the needs for connectivity expansion over time.

Contrast that with the decades-old biff which the powers that be in Sydney have had to contend with, it's not hard to sit back and just have a smug look on your face when you read about the latest cacophony taking up valuable air time on national TV when the country knows Sydney has an infrastructure paralysis problem and time would be better spent sorting the issue out in the domestic media rather than the NSW government smearing egg all over its own face infront of us all.  

I'm not alone by the looks of things, Chris Woodruff, head honcho at Tullamarine, has even publicly gloated about "taking the fight to Sydney and outgrowing them"As I've argued previously - Sydney and NSW need Melbourne's growth plans and demonstrated success so they can dig themselves out of their own complacency.  

The three runway configuration as outlined in Tullamarine's masterplan is expected to increase the maximum aircraft movements per year (currently hovering around the 240,000 mark).  Terminal 2 - International has yet more scope for expansion over the next 10-20 years as seen in this image taken directly from the master plan itself.

We've already seen the plans for the new dedicated Low-Coast Terminal - T4 thanks to forumer Fedsquared who provided renders via graphic artist Gareth Servant. Combining T3/T4 and T2 expansion together, the southward additions to the Terminal precinct and the new 3rd runway further illustrate Tullamarine's management mean business and the future is bright for attracting new international airlines as well as a domestic expansion to support a growing Melbourne.

Yet the biggest grey area in the masterplan and further confused by the recent Airport Rail Study is ground transportation access. Airport management claim via this Herald Sun article, they hope for 25% of all trips to/from the airport to occur via public transport and that 6 million passengers (15%) would use an airport rail service in 2022, should that link be built. Only attracting 15% of an eventual 40 million passengers to a rail service appears to be very conservative given Melbourne current receives approximately 15 million domestic visitors per annum (yet not all use the airport to get here) plus another 1.7 million international visitors.  Those figures will grow over the coming decade and so will residents using the airport to travel elsewhere.  I'd very much like to see the detail behind that prediction.

Even on the airport's own target of having 25% of all trips to/from the airport on a public transport mode, the gap (10%) between the goal (25%) and the rail-use prediction (15%) suggests it will be filled with a large bus network, presumably there to primarily serve airport employees who live direct easy, south and west of the airport.

I can't help feel my suspicions about the do-nothing Airport Rail Study was just that: a study to say do nothing - or at least make the case for a rail line dependent on a litany of other projects.  Here we have a private organisation happy to plan and put money where its mouth is and expand infrastructure to support more growth but the public sector refuses to see the wood for the trees and get rail access to the airport sooner by piggy-backing off the Regional Rail project.

The smug look on my face, as you can imagine, has by now disappeared - maybe we do have a NSW-like problem after all.

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