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Concerns about Airport Rail Link ownership

Feb 19, 2020 | News

Am I Robinson Crusoe? Am I the only one on this island who has concerns that we are about to give a monopoly (Melbourne Airport) and its major shareholders and partners access to run another monopoly? I can only think of one worse scenario, when Transurban puts up its hand to become part of this consortium.

If we allow this consortium ownership of the airport rail link it will control every access point into Melbourne Airport – road, rail and air – and could set prices as it likes. Is this in the best interests of the travelling public?

Adjournment – Ownership of Airport Rail

If we allow a consortium ownership of the airport rail link it will control every access point into Melbourne Airport – road, rail and air – and could set pr…

Melbourne’s travelling public have waited fifty years for a rail line to Melbourne Airport. Now that we have funding on the table for it we can’t look for the cheapest option or pander to profit motivated private sector interests.

We must build the best option for the decades to come.

As the State and Fed’s come back to the table in the coming weeks, I hope they have learnt lessons of the past and find a way to fund this project without taking funds from a private consortium, which has a massively vested interest in maintaining a monopoly on transport to Melbourne airport.

We build it. We own it. We run it!

The business case and planning for Melbourne’s airport rail link is reaching the end stages, and there has been much comment from politicians, business leaders, local councils, and the public about the preferred options for the proposed city to Melbourne Airport rail link.

Organisations across the tourism, transport, business, education and community sectors preferred option is a direct tunnel exiting the city to Sunshine. This more direct option would avoid exacerbating congestion on existing rail services in the west and make the city to airport (and return) the fastest option.

However it is being reported that Andrews State Government and Morrison’s Federal Government preferred option is the “cheapest” option, but is this the best option for the state. Government are keen for the airport link to mirror existing tracks to Sunshine, which would mean passengers have better access to the line and regional services can connect without coming into the city.

Many critics suggest the suburban rail loop may never be completed if a tunnel and direct service to the airport goes ahead. I doubt it would mean death for the rail loop, multiple airport services can only be a positive thing for Melbourne.

The Federal and State Governments have ponied up $5 billion each for the city to airport service, with a private consortium that includes Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains and Southern Cross station recently upping their $5 billion bid to $7 billion for the project, but only if it includes the tunnel between the CBD and Sunshine.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims spoke out against privatisation of assets back in 2016, criticising the way both State and Federal Governments had blatantly structured public asset sales to maximise proceeds at the expense of competition.

Sims was once an advocate for privatisation, because done well it should mean a private company was motivated to provide better services more efficiently, but the reality has been that more often than not privatisation has proven to simply raise prices.

These inflated asset sales are just another way of covertly gathering taxes, with private owners able to push prices through the roof with no competition to keep them in check – case point, parking at Melbourne Airport.

Late last year the Federal Government backed a Productivity Commission report that went against the recommendations of the ACCC, finding that the nation’s airports were not gouging enough to warrant greater oversight. Really?

I would suggest that international airlines paying ever increasing landing fees in Melbourne have a different view. Anyone parking at the airport would have a very different opinion – Melbourne’s public parking fees are some of the highest in the country and the world.

Taxi operators who line up in queues for hours and are charged premium fees to enter the ranks would disagree.

Hire car operators, who are forced to trudge with customers through car parks because preferential deals have been struck with savvy ride share companies for new and premium landslide access would disagree too.

The ACCC steps in and gives Melbourne Airport a slap each year after complaints from the parking public, commercial passenger vehicle operators, and other parking “competitors” flood in. But unfortunately, a monopoly will always behave like a monopoly!

This week I urged the Minister for Infrastructure to do her best and consider carefully the ownership of our new airport rail link and the consequences this will have for the travelling public for decades to come.

 

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