The Melbourne Airport Rail Link Debate

Propaganda for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link at Southern Cross Station

Whether to build a Melbourne Airport rail service is the longest running discussion in transport policy in Victoria.  

“In terms of public transport and the future of the city, it’s imperative, but it’s politics”, says Cr. Nicolas Frances Gilley, who chairs the Transport Portfolio in the City of Melbourne.

The Age said that “Melbourne Airport believes a rail link is needed within 10 to 15 years.”

The airport predicts Tullamarine will have “64 million visitors a year by the early 2030s and says the freeway will fail to cope with peak demand by then.”  

The Federal Government is considering going at it alone, keen to kick-start this project with or without the Victorian funding. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said a train to Tullamarine was “long overdue”

However, the State said more planning needs to be done first.

Premier Danial Andrews argues that while “it is not an unworthy project…there are higher priorities at this time, like the Melbourne Metro and level crossing removals”.

Cr. Frances Gilley responds to these arguments surrounding this rail link, saying there are “politics” and “lobbying against” this infrastructure.

The airport carpark is now the “size of a suburb”, and “it makes a lot of money for the airport, so they obviously like cars…taxis really like it, it’s the major way taxis maintain their income, by having that run: one good run out to the airport of two good runs a day from the airport, make the day okay for them. Without that it can be a really difficult day”, he says.

However, Cr. Frances Gilley is in favour of a city to airport train service and states, “in terms of public transport and the future of the city, it’s imperative”.

“If we want to remain a great commercial centre in Australia we really need to do that.

“It would be great for tourism, but actually for people to work, and to be able to come down here to Melbourne and do a meeting and get here within 10-15 minutes and get back.

“You can do that in Sydney now, you can do that in Brisbane now, you can’t do that here,” concludes Cr. Frances Gilley.

The Melbourne airport-rail link has been a popular piece of infrastructure and has been captivating people’s interest now for some time.

But who would this rail-link actually serve?

Dr. Crystal Legacy from the University of Melbourne believes that only “business travellers” and “tourists” are likely to use this train service, arguing that this “does not serve everyone”.

“If these pieces of infrastructure are incredibly expensive, and so if we need to prioritise where we invest our money, I’m not so sure if that’s where we should put all of our money and all of our attention, I mean there’s other parts of Melbourne which need to be served as well.

“Having said that, there’s an allure and a seduction attached to a project like that because certainly we can then be able to say that we are one of those cities around the world, we’re one of the globally competitive cities that have a link to the airport,” she says.

Currently, SkyBus is a shuttle bus service to and from Melbourne Southern Cross Station and St Kilda offering links to Tullamarine and Avalon airports.

As mentioned in Crikey, “the key issue is when demand will exceed the ability to expand the capacity of SkyBus.”

What do some Melbournian’s have to say about a train service from the city to the Tullamarine Airport?


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