Money: How will our airport cope with double the passengers in 20 years? - - PressFrom - Australia
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MoneyHow will our airport cope with double the passengers in 20 years?

06:55  24 may  2019
06:55  24 may  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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Our airport is set for a massive makeover as passenger numbers double in the next 20 years . That will be the reality in the not-too-distant future with Melbourne tipped to overtake Sydney as Australia's largest city and its population rises from 5 million to more than 7 million over the next 20 years .

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How will our airport cope with double the passengers in 20 years?© Melbourne Airport An overview of the new-look airport with its streamlined drop-off ramp.

If you've ever found it painful getting through Melbourne Airport, imagine if you were travelling alongside almost twice as many passengers as today.

That will be the reality in the not-too-distant future with Melbourne tipped to overtake Sydney as Australia's largest city and its population rises from 5 million to more than 7 million over the next 20 years.

How will our airport cope with double the passengers in 20 years?© Melbourne Airport An artist's impression of the airport rail link station.

The population boom will increase the number of people flying and international visitors will grow at an even faster rate as more efficient aeroplanes and airline competition makes airfares cheaper.

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Melbourne Airport expects passenger numbers, which have already grown 60 per cent over the past decade, to balloon from 36.5 million a year now to more than 69 million a year by 2038.

Meanwhile, aircraft movements (take-offs and landings) are expected to grow from about 670 every day to more than a thousand. (That's 244,476 movements a year versus 384,000.)

The airport says it already has regular delays because it can't move aircraft fast enough on its two runways.

It expects to hit maximum capacity next year and, by 2023, expects to be plagued by delays throughout the day if it doesn't build a third runway.

The privately owned airport has plans in place to accommodate its growth and, according to it, keep us moving around the world and home again smoothly.

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According to the group's 20 - year Air Passenger Forecast report released overnight, IATA expects 7.2 billion passengers to travel by air in 2035, a near doubling of the 3.8 billion level of today. It is expected to be the source of more than half the new passengers over the next 20 years ," IATA says.

So how will the airport have to change? And what may a trip from Tullamarine look like in a couple of decades?

The notorious drop-off ramp

One of the biggest pain points today for passengers is the last few hundred metres of their journey up the notoriously congested drop-off ramp.

The airport has started directing traffic into different zones in pick-up and drop-off areas depending on the time of day to ease congestion.

But for a long-term fix, it plans to move private vehicle drop-offs and pick-ups to levels two and three of the multi-storey car park opposite the main terminal.

The new drop-off area will be connected by elevated link roads off the T4 entry ramp, from a new dedicated freeway exit and then feeding directly back onto the Tullamarine Freeway via Melbourne Drive – allowing the public to drop-off of collect loved ones without encountering an intersection.

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That will also allow the terminal to expand forward into part of what is currently the forecourt pick-up zone.

In the long term, the airport plans to move taxis and other commercial vehicles onto the multi-storey carpark too.

From the carpark, passengers will walk to the terminals via elevated pedestrian bridges.

Car trips to the airport on busy days will almost double to 240,000 per day in 20 years if there's no investment in public transport or other new ways to get out to Tullamarine, the airport says.  This appears to be finally happening.

A rail link, at last?

After being on the drawing board for 60 years, the long-awaited $11 billion airport rail link seems to be gaining speed.

The state government wants the link to be completed by 2031. The train’s exact route hasn’t been decided but the government has indicated it would travel through a “super hub” at Sunshine Station.

The airport has put aside space for a rail link into the terminals, between T3 and T4, and is part of a private consortium including Metro Trains and IFM Investors that wants to build the link.

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The group says it can start building next year and has offered $5 billion for the project, matching pledges of $5 billion each from state and federal coffers.

And, hedging its bets, the airport says its train station could also be the base for a high-speed rail station in the future.

Inside the terminals

Melbourne is looking to keep pace with global trends and that includes installing new self check-in and bag-drop facilities across all terminals, self-service outbound immigration checkpoints and more departure lounges and retail and dining options. With international traffic growing the fastest, Melbourne's T2 will get a major overhaul over the next five years.

Video: take a tour of the new-look international terminal

That includes installing three "swing gates" that can be used for both international flights and domestic flights at Qantas' T1.

It plans to start expanding T2's retail precinct later this year, adding about two soccer grounds worth of new space across four floors. That will be used for shops and eateries, five new airlines lounges, and a "rooftop piazza", including a bar and restaurant with views across the runways.

The international pier will also be expanded to add a further five aircraft gates.

By 2038, the airport expects T2's footprint to be double the size it is today, expanding to make room for even more airline lounges, shops, eateries and boarding gates.

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The international arrival area, meanwhile – the cramped space that passengers walk out to after clearing immigration, security and customs – will be significantly expanded into the forecourt area where taxis currently pick-up and drop-off passengers.

In domestic, Virgin's terminal is undergoing a major facelift at the moment, with self-service kiosks and bag-drops being installed.

A walkway between Virgin's terminal and T4, used by Jetstar and Tigerair, has already opened, and another hotel is being built near T4 to open next year.

In the long-term, the airport intends to keep expanding south into what could eventually become a fifth terminal below T4.

With the airport stretching out, it is considering building a large-scale travelator or an automated train – or “people mover” – to scoot passengers between terminals.

More runways

Making room for more people is one thing – making room for more aeroplanes is quite another.

Melbourne Airport currently has two runways. One runs from north to south and is long enough and wide enough to handle super-jumbo jets flying on long-haul international routes while the busy east-west runway handles most of the heavy traffic.

The airport says its current runways will hit maximum capacity next year and it wants to start building a third runway, running east-west, by 2023.

The project needs government approval, and will open to public consultation within the next 12 months, with hopes to start construction in 2020.

The airport says the east-west orientation is the best option because planes won’t have to cross another runway to reach their take-off strip from the terminals.

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The demand for air travel will likely double by 2035, according to PwC's annual report on the state of the worldwide airline industry. Those limitations are particularly noticeable in China, Latin America and India, where the increase in passengers is supposed to be most explosive.

It will also extend the existing east-west runway to accommodate larger aircraft. After that a fourth runway running north-south is pencilled in, to be built some time after 2038.

But some local residents are unhappy with the airport's plans. They say the third runway's east-west alignment will put many more houses under flight paths compared to a north-south runway.

The Hume Residents Airport Action Group says that if the east-west runways go ahead, the airport should pay for noise insulation in the affected homes and impose a curfew between 11pm and 6am.

They also ask, should a city the size of Melbourne have just one airport?

London, for example, with its 8 million people today, is serviced by Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City airports.

Slide to see airport noise for 2019 compared with 2038

Is one airport enough?

Avalon Airport, near Geelong, says Tullamarine shouldn't handle the load alone. The small airport is trying to become a bigger competitor and says it is already there to operate as a "third runway" for Melbourne.

Avalon has just seven departing domestic flights each day, all operated by Jetstar.

And it recently became an international airport, with budget carrier AirAsia operating a twice-daily return service to Kuala Lumpur, and it is itching to secure more flights, eyeing other Asian carriers which might be lured across by its lower runway fees. Avalon also has long-term plans to build a second runway as traffic grows.

However, some in the aviation industry believe Avalon is too close to Melbourne's main airport, and that the city's outer south-east is where a second airport is really needed.

Victoria's long-term state planning scheme has earmarked land between Koo Wee Rup and Lang Lang for another airport, which would be more easily accessed by residents in the south-eastern suburbs and by Gippsland farmers who want to ship their produce to Asia overnight.

But moves to actually build the Koo Wee Rup airport have not taken off.

Meanwhile, there are major developments afoot in the world of aviation technology that could change how we fly, with everyone from Boeing and Airbus through to Uber trying to develop small and efficient flying people-movers.

That could open up suburban airports such as Essendon and Moorabbin to quick and easy flights up to Sydney or to regional centres.

Something else that could clip Melbourne Airport's wings is if a high-speed rail network is ever built between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

However, after decades of talk but no firm plans, get used to the airport at Tullamarine being our portal to the world for the time being.

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