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Documents motion – Airport Rail link ownership concerns

Mar 5, 2020 | Parliament

I raised my concerns about the ownership of the Airport Rail Link during the debate relating to a Liberal Party documents motion asking for the release of “..the Melbourne Airport rail link strategic business case, or similar, commissioned by the federal and state governments and prepared by Advisian for Transport for Victoria and handed to the government in August 2018, together with supporting commissioned studies and examinations on options and routes for a rail link to Melbourne Airport.”

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (16:08): I rise to support Mr Davis’s motion, because I have some concerns. I have concerns over the consortium. I do feel like I am Robinson Crusoe; I do not think anyone else has raised these concerns. I have concerns that we are about to give Melbourne Airport, its major shareholders, its partners, access to run another monopoly? 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 really in the best interests of the travelling public?

https://youtu.be/DazgKMTqMB4

We have waited 50 years for a rail line to Melbourne Airport, and now that we have federal and state funding on the table for it we cannot pander to profit-motivated private sector interests. We must build the best option for the people of Victoria for the decades to come, and it needs to be an option that competes with Transurban’s stronghold on CityLink and the airport’s monopoly on airport parking. I really hope we have learned lessons from the past and find a way to fund this project without taking money from a private consortium.

The federal and state governments have ponied up $5 billion each for the city-to-airport service, with this private consortium that includes Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains and Southern Cross station recently upping their $5 billion bid to a $7 billion bid, but only if they get the tunnel between the CBD and Sunshine. Whether it is a new tunnel or whether it just runs on the existing tracks is of little interest to the travelling public. They just want to get on a train in the city that will take them to the airport quickly and cheaply—and cheaply is the key here. If a consortium can dictate what is built, you can bet they will be lined up with their hands out when it comes to setting fares

Unfortunately a monopoly will always behave like a monopoly. Every year the ACCC steps in and gives Melbourne Airport a slap after receiving complaint after complaint from the parking public, commercial passenger vehicle operators and other local parking service competitors that flood in. I can only think of one worse scenario in this airport rail ownership mix: if Transurban puts up its hand to become part of this consortium, or steps in when one or both of the state or federal governments decides to cash up and make the rail line private. This is an asset that must be owned by the public. So I urge our state and federal governments to very carefully consider the ownership of our new airport rail link and the consequences a private consortium involvement will have for the travelling public in the decades to come.

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