Monorail technology that would cut CBD to airport travel time in half is ready to be formally tested.
Strategy, planning and development company Peter O’Brien Projects has been developing the air-shuttle project for three years, following similar systems that have successfully operated for a decade in countries such as Russia, China and, more recently, Italy.
Studies would be conducted over two and a half years and meetings with financial backers have already started. Once the project officially begins, it is predicted to be fully functional within four years.
The proposal presents a light rail system that would operate every two minutes, travelling at 100 kmh, getting commuters from the CBD to the airport in a guaranteed 15 minutes. The air-shuttle would also operate 24 hours a day.
The air-shuttle, or “Airport Express” as it has been dubbed, will also take locals economic and environmental impacts into consideration.
One of the project’s key criteria is that it must be completely sustainable, with very low emissions. Airport Express will use electric motors with power recuperation braking. Peter O’Brien Projects believe it will be the first truly environmentally-friendly public transport system in Australia.
Other criteria discuss the need for a minimum of 75 per cent local content throughout construction, including civil works.
The line will preferably operate from Southern Cross Station.
Airport Express is planning to operate on one-metre-wide concrete guide-ways, elevated in publicly-owned airspace and will be driverless, with systems operated from a control centre.
The Airport Express also says 750 people would be employed throughout the duration of the construction, which is estimated to cost $1.2 billion.
Company CEO Peter O’Brien believes a system like Airport Express is sorely needed.
“I’m doing this because I’m a Melburnian and have been asked by senior politicians from both major parties,” he said.
Earlier this year, Infrastructure Australia identified a CBD rail link as one of its preferred national projects.
After being approached by Peter O’Brien Projects about the Airport Express project, Melbourne Airport representatives seemed welcoming. However, the company says it was told to come back in two years when the airport’s next Ground Transportation Options Study is scheduled.
“The airport has no sense of urgency to come up with a solution, given it will take two years for government studies and four years to build and commission. So if we started next January, it wouldn’t be completed until 2023,” Mr O’Brien said.
The entrepreneur has travelled extensively for work, making about 5000 flights since the age of 16 and so has a vast understanding of airports and how the top models operate globally.
He is being advised pro bono by leading consultants such as Peddle Thorp, WSP Global Parsons Brinckerhoff, PWC Australia and Baker McKenzie.
He believes Melbourne Airport is not operating at a first world level during morning and afternoon peak periods.
Mr O’Brien also said the current transport system was unsustainable and it was obvious to any regular user that major innovation was needed.
Peter O’Brien Projects say the Airport Express project is at a stage where it is ready to be tested. Studies would be conducted over two years and meetings with financial backers have already started.