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Offline ozbob

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From News.com.au click here!

Cars, trains, buses ... and planes are on Melbourne Airport chief Chris Woodruff's agenda

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Cars, trains, buses ... and planes are on Melbourne Airport chief Chris Woodruff's agenda

FOR someone at the centre of Victoria's aviation industry, Chris Woodruff spends a lot of time answering questions about cars and trains.

The Melbourne Airport chief is preparing to deliver the airport's masterplan for the next 20 years, outlining his plan to transform it into the nation's foremost aviation hub.

Mandated by the Federal Government, the report will lift the veil on plans for everything from a third runway to internal road systems.

But most Victorians, Mr Woodruff concedes, will likely flick straight to the section about car parking and a rail line.

Fifty-five years after a rail link was mooted, he is adamant: the airport is not to blame for the fact the link still does not exist.

In an interview with BusinessDaily, Mr Woodruff sheets it home to Spring St.

"The responsibility for developing and operating a rail link falls with the State Government," he says.

He bristles at the suggestion that the airport has resisted the project because of the revenue it makes from parking and that it is "sitting on a goldmine".

According to industry rumours, the airport expects to rake in almost $130 million this financial year from parking - about 20 per cent of its total revenue.

Mr Woodruff says: "If you compare our prices to anywhere else, we ain't ripping people off."

He notes there are 17 other car park venues near the airport and says it is not in the airport's interest to price itself out of the market.

Among those who have fiercely criticised the fact Melbourne airport still has no rail link is Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

In an opinion piece published in the Sunday Herald Sun earlier this year, Cr Doyle noted that "everybody - government, airport management, travelling public, tourists - supports it".

"And we've been talking about it since 1958," he wrote. "But are we building it? No."

Mr Woodruff acknowledges the clock is ticking for the project, particularly given international experience that suggests about 15 per cent of airport customers typically catch a train.

On that basis, he says, Melbourne airport will be able to sustain a rail link by the time it handles 40 million air passengers a year.

The airport's patronage is now 28 million. It is forecast to hit 40 million by the end of this decade - providing about six million people a year for the proposed train service.

"That is quite a large revenue stream and would support the operations of a rail link," Mr Woodruff says.

The Public Transport Users Association says it could take a decade to build the link - a suggestion the airport does not dispute.

Accordingly, even if the project were funded today, Melbourne airport would be working at a 40-million passenger level for three years before the rail link was running.

The Government last month unveiled its preferred route for a rail link - a 28km route via Albion, in the city's west - after a $6.5 million study. But it has not provided a firm commitment to funding or a timeline, and industry experts say Spring St may "kick the can down the road".

"One would hope not," Mr Woodruff says.

He says that in the interim, work must be done on the Tullamarine Freeway to create a third lane in each direction between Mickleham Rd and the airport, to allow an increase in bus services.

Mr Woodruff says he wants to increase the frequency of the Skybus service from every 10 minutes to five minutes, and this should be funded in the forthcoming State Budget.

"Whatever happens with the rail link, we have to do something with the Tullamarine Freeway."

After five years in the job, Mr Woodruff, who was born in Sussex, believes he has a good story to tell about the airport Victorians love to criticise.

For much of his tenure at Melbourne Airport, Mr Woodruff has set about capturing the growth Sydney is losing due to its planning woes.

Melbourne airport recorded passenger growth of 4.9 per cent last year. Sydney airport grew at 3.6 per cent and growth in the broader Australian airport market was 3.7 per cent.

"Outstripping the general market in Australia has been the biggest achievement, for sure," Mr Woodruff says when asked to nominate his best moment at the helm in Melbourne.

"I'm proud of taking the fight to Sydney and outgrowing them."

He is convinced that Melbourne will grow to become the nation's biggest aviation hub - and if Sydney fails to resolve its planning problems, he may well be right.

Sydney's venue, known as Kingsford Smith Airport, is losing ground due to restrictions on night flights - a problem Melbourne doesn't have - and the city is stuck in an argument about where to put its second airport.

Commonwealth Bank aviation analysts Andre Fromhyr and Matt Crowe have suggested Sydney might reach capacity by 2025 - "much earlier than management's expectation of 2045".

Much of winning that war for patronage with Sydney is about attracting passengers from the growing Asian middle class.

According to research by US think tank the Brookings Institute, by 2030 the ranks of the world's middle classes will more than double, from two billion now to 4.9 billion. By 2030, Asia will host 64 per cent of the global middle class.

One of Mr Woodruff's key tasks will be selling Melbourne as a destination.

When he sits down with heads of Asian airlines who don't yet fly to the city, he knows the first question to expect. He says that inevitably, they ask: "Where is Melbourne?"

Many of our northern neighbours are unable to point out if the city is in the nation's south, east or in the Pilbara, Mr Woodruff says.

"If you're going abroad and convincing an airline to come here, if they don't have an understanding of Australia, they have (at least) heard of Sydney. That is what we have to overcome - by telling the great story that is Melbourne."

Melbourne airport is happy to spend to close the gap on the harbour city.

Under Mr Woodruff's tenure, the airport has spent $330 million redeveloping the international terminal. Among other projects, the airport has spent $26 million on a new freeway on-ramp that opened in July. He says the first-stage renovation of the international departures area hints at the airport's ambitions -- and the new domestic terminal will "wow" the public.

Another place the airport is stealing the momentum from Sydney is the export of meat, fruit and vegies.

"Victoria is the food bowl of Asia and the Middle East," Mr Woodruff says. "Planes leave here last thing every night and they are full of fresh produce ready to hit the market the next day."

Melbourne airport is now the leading airport for air freight exports with more than 100,000 tonnes exported last year - 36 per cent of the nation's total.For all its competitive advantages, however, the airport is restricted in one key area compared with some major airports in the region, Mr Woodruff says.

"Some of our great Asian airports that we know and love are typically government-owned and, typically, governments want to make a great statement out there and the (financial) return is not necessarily that important," he says.

But he says Melbourne can, nonetheless, reap the rewards of the Asia boom.

He wants to secure direct services to Japan, Taiwan and Korea - "Sydney's got one from each country; we should do the same."

Another key market is India. There are no direct flights to India from here, although Mr Woodruff has locked in a deal with Air India and is waiting for the airline to finalise its logistics.

For all his power at the airport's helm, however, Mr Woodruff acknowledges that if Melbourne is to truly become the nation's foremost aviation hub, he must rely on the State Government to act on "roads and rail".

After all, nobody will be laughing at Sydney much longer if it does manage to broker a deal to build a second airport, while in Melbourne the airport soldiers on without a rail link.
 
Chris Woodruff in profile

Born: Lancing, UK, 1959 Lives: Melbourne Educated: In Surrey, UK

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/cars-trains-buses-and-planes-are-on-melbourne-airport-chief-chris-woodruffs-agenda/story-e6frfkp9-1226611241716
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somebody

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6mpa on the train for an airport that will serve 40mpa. Seems a bit high based on experience elsewhere, however if you are trying to get the bus frequency from 10min to 5min if thats not evidence you need a rail line I don't know what is.

6mpa, x $15/head = $90m pa in revenue, thats quite a reasonable rate of a return for a govt still subsidised railway that will I assume cost between $1B and $1.5B (guessing) to build. Other revenue to other stations as well as shops etc will only bolster the returns.
That's a roughly equivalent market share to Sydney and about the same fare for a much greater distance.  I actually think this is pessimistic.

Sydney Int entries: 2080/weekday
Sydney Dom entries: 5160/weekday

= 4054400 trips per year (280 days/yr, 2 trips per entry).
SYD airport = 33m pax/yr.

Share = 12.3%

Offline SurfRail

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Airtrain market share is higher I believe, isn't it?

Which is interesting given both Brisbane and Sydney have a situation where it is about as easy to drive to the CBD from the airport, albeit a shorter distance in Sydney and I think slightly cheaper tolls comparing the most direct options in both places.

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somebody

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Airtrain market share is higher I believe, isn't it?
Weekend/holiday use might be higher than the assumed 30 weekday equivalents.  There's over 110 of them.

 

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