Melbourne Airport rail link is a transit service proposed to be developed between Australia’s second busiest airport Tullamarine Airport (also known as Melbourne Airport) and the Melbourne central business district (CBD).

The project aims to link Melbourne Airport to all metropolitan and regional rail lines through Sunshine route, which runs along Footscray and Sunshine stations.

Tullamarine Airport witnessed more than 35 million passenger movements in 2016-17, which is expected to reach more than 67 million by 2038. The population of Melbourne is also growing rapidly and the city is expected to be home to approximately eight million people by 2051.

The project will be developed by AirRail Melbourne, a consortium of IFM Investors, Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains Australia, and Southern Cross Station.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2022 and is scheduled for completion in 2030.

Melbourne Airport rail link route details

Four routes were proposed for the Melbourne Airport rail link. The four alternatives included Albion East, a direct tunnel link, Craigieburn link, and Flemington link.

The Albion East alignment was redesigned, following a review study of the project, to include Sunshine station. The redesigned alignment, called Albion East base case, was compared with the other three alternatives.

The Sunshine route (previously Albion East alignment base case) was confirmed as the preferred alignment for the rail link project by the Victorian Government in November 2018.

Development and financing

The Victorian Government reserved land for the rail link to Melbourne Airport in 2005. It allocated A$10m ($7.2m) for the development of a new airport rail plan in partnership with the private sector in April 2017.

The Australian Government committed A$30m ($21.7m) towards the development of a detailed business case of the project and A$5bn ($3.6bn) for the construction of the airport rail link project in July 2018.

In September 2018, AirRail Melbourne unveiled a blueprint for the rail link development along with the Victorian and Australian governments. It also proposed the use of funds for rebuilding Southern Cross and constructing dedicated tracks along the entire route.

Melbourne Airport rail link design details

The world-class airport rail link will provide a fast and reliable transport option for Victorian citizens. It will have a dedicated track, which establishes new public transport connections across the region.

Melbourne Airport rail link will be a 27km-long dedicated track that will connect the city’s central business district to the airport through the Sunshine route. It will also involve the revitalisation of the Sunshine route to reduce congestion on the Tullamarine Freeway, which carries up to 210,000 vehicles a day.

“The airport rail link is expected to remove approximately 15,000 vehicles a day from Melbourne’s north and west road corridors.”

The airport rail link will offer a 20-minute journey from the city to the airport. It will operate 24 hours a day and will support the operation of a turn-up-and-go service with ten-minute headway during peak hours.

The Sunshine interchange will serve as a connection to regional services, metropolitan services and metro tunnel. The new link will also provide connections to the airport through Sunshine for Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo.

A new airport station will be built and integrated with the terminals as part of the project. The Southern Cross and Sunshine stations will also be transformed as transport super hubs.

Southern Cross station will allow users to commute easily through city loop, tram, taxi, and bus services.

Rolling stock details

Trains operating on the airport rail link will be customised for airport travellers and feature spacious interiors to enhance the passenger experience.

The vehicles will feature luggage racks for storage and offer accessibility options for people with limited mobility.

The trains will be equipped with charging points for laptops and mobiles, offer free Wi-Fi, and will be installed with display units presenting information in multiple languages.

Benefits of Melbourne airport rail link

The airport rail link is expected to remove approximately 15,000 vehicles a day from Melbourne’s north and west road corridors. It will also reduce 100,000t of carbon emissions and overcrowding on the Werribee line by 2,000 passengers during peak hours.

The new connection is expected to create 13,000 jobs and attract 12,000 more residents. Capacity on the Wyndham Vale line will be increased by 10,000 extra peak hour trips.