It seems Melbourne has always been ahead of its time.
First there was the ill-fated Outer Circle Railway which today, if nothing else provides drivers with a bridge over the Yarra at Alphington.
There has been the promise of a rail line to Doncaster as far back as 1889 to link up with Australia’s First Electric Tram but that never got off the ground.
Then there is the train to Tullamarine which was first proposed as far back as 1958 writes Arun Chandu..
Wait for train to Tullamarine now 60 years
Recently I had the task of dropping a relative off at Melbourne Airport. It was a wellworn journey through Keilor Park, which is more scenic and quicker than the Tullamarine Freeway. As we droveI noted the history of the area. At the corner of Link Road (previously known as Conders Lane) and Melrose Drive was the site of the Tullamarine Primary School. The only evidence of the school, three or four tall gum trees, had recently been cleared away. Melrose Drive deviates left on approach to the airport. This was once known as Grants Lane– some of that road still exists.
Landing fields have existed at Tullamarine since the 1920s. During World War II, there was a satellite aerodrome of Essendon Airport on the east side of Melrose Drive. On the west, was a farm called Gowrie Park, which was owned by the Donovan family and was also used for aviation, with facilities for Associated Airlines.
Gowrie Park extended to Grants Lane and these two airfields were located in the same place as the majority of the terminal facilities and runways of Tullamarine today.
My dreamy nostalgia came to an abrupt end on Centre Road. We hit the Tullamarine ‘‘ car park’’ , otherwise known as the freeway off ramp and Departure Drive. Crumbs.
Access for any airport is critical and Tullamarine has considerable problems. Any advantage Tullamarine has over other airport sites will quickly evaporate if access isn’t addressed, and it is only going to get worse. The number of passengers is set to increase from nearly 29 million per year to 64 million by 2033.
Traffic chaos and expensive parking enrage airport users. To its credit, Melbourne Airport management, as part of a new master plan, has developed an alternative road link south via the Western Ring Road and is promoting a rail link using the Albion-Jacana line.
‘Road access to the airport… is becoming increasingly problematic.’ Photo: Paul Rovere
The state government supports the new road but appears cautious on the rail link, waiting fora feasibility study. This is reasonable as sucha rail link has to be affordable, however it does seem that an Avalon rail link is higher on the wish list than Tullamarine.
The idea of an airport rail link is not new and has been championed by previous conservative governments and business organisations. Bernard Dowd of the City Development Association first suggested an airport rail link in May 1958. Yes, 1958.
A year later the plan to build Melbourne’s international airport at Tullamarine was announced anda number of different concepts were discussed . The manager of Trans-Australian Airlines, John Rylands, proposed ahighspeed underground railway connecting the CBD to the airport . Other suggestions included an elevated highspeed monorail.
Reg Ansett opposed the use of rail, being more interested in freeways and helicopters to transport the flying public.
In 1962, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into Tullamarine quashed the idea of a rail link because of decreased rail patronage, however premier Henry Bolte reinvigorated the debate the following year as runway construction began. He fully supported the idea ofa highspeed rail link using an express track along the Broadmeadows line witha spur at Jacana. By 1965, Bolte failed in his bid because of opposition in the upper house.
As one of the first international airports planned with a rail link, Tullamarine was ahead of its time. But this plan languished until 1998, when a large study was made. Three routes were evaluated, including one via Broadmeadows utilising the easterly runway approach through Attwood, another using the Albion-Jacana spur line and an underground route underneath Essendon Airport. The Albion route is in the current airport master plan.
Road access to the airport, particularly during peak times, is becoming increasingly problematic . Residents in Keilor complain about increased road congestion. Reliance by airport owners on car park revenues is becoming unsustainable in regards to traffic congestion and cost. Car parking costs are justified by the airport as comparable to the city– but this is Tullamarine, not the CBD. Apples aren’t being compared with apples.
Existing public transport to the airport is also poorly advertised. There are buses from Broadmeadows station to the airport, as well as a bus service from Moonee Ponds. These routes are difficult to find using the Public Transport Victoria website, which tends to prefer Skybus routes, particularly from the CBD.
Skybus is an important alternative to cars and taxis but it still relies on roads and delays are becoming increasingly common. Airport staff can access car parking and the Skybus at discount rates, but the majority of workers live locally. Thus, local bus routes should also be used to increase airport access.
Tullamarine is Victoria’s gateway and similar airports in Sydney and Brisbane have rail links. The airport should be commended for recognising the need for a rail link, but any railway is the state government’s responsibility.
It is up to the Baillieu government to champion a cause no other conservative government has been able to achieve. We have been waiting 60 years for this.
Once feasibility studies are complete, the rail link to Tullamarine should be prioritised, funded and built.
Dr Arun Chandu is completing a PhD assessing the planning history of the Tullamarine Airport at the University of Melbourne.
Source: The Age
I do love a good rumour… Ghost Train!
Ghost Train tells us that underneath Melbourne airport is a fully functional railway station, built when they built the airport in the 1960’s.