Downer proposes $500 million Adelaide Airport light rail link
The builder of Adelaide’s East End tram extension, the Downer group, has lodged an unsolicited bid with the State Government to build, fund and operate an airport link. A privately funded 6km light-rail line linking Adelaide Airport to the city, could cost up to $500 million.
In a move calculated to pre-empt campaign promises for the state election next March, Sydney-based Downer’s submission argues a dedicated airport light-rail service would boost tourism by better connecting travellers to the city, and enhance suburban public transport.
The light-rail route would connect North Tce, West Tce, Henley Beach Rd and Airport Rd, becoming the biggest addition to Adelaide’s tram network since suburban lines other than Glenelg were ripped up by 1958.
Battery-powered trams, which recharge while at stations and through excess energy as hybrid cars do, are considered an option to avoid the need for poles and wires along the route.
Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said the proposal would be assessed but would “need to offer something unique and innovative to progress”, while Adelaide Airport declared it was “supportive of an affordable light-rail service between the airport and Adelaide’s CBD”.
The State Government in 2015 proposed a tram-led revival for Adelaide through an unfunded AdeLINK project, with six routes including a WestLINK line along Henley Beach Rd with a spur to the airport.
Downer’s proposed route would kickstart WestLINK and terminate outside the airport’s $50 million hotel, now being built on the old carpark to the terminal’s north and expected to open late next year.
From the hotel terminus, the route would run along Airport Rd without stops until Henley Beach Rd, where about three stops are likely before another express stretch along Glover Ave and West Tce.
The line would connect with the existing tram route at North Tce, near the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
A Downer proposal document, says the Airport WestLINK service would deliver benefits including a fast and modern airport transport link, reduced traffic on busy major roads, increased public transport use and reduced carbon emissions.
It is understood Downer, Australia’s largest light-rail operator, in a joint venture with French firm Keolis, hopes to make a financial return by operating the line as part of the Adelaide Metro network under a 30-year contract with the State Government.
Should talks with the Government be successful, Downer is proposing to start work after early next year finishing construction of the $80 million East End tram extension, which is being built in a joint venture with South Australian firm York Civil.
Downer spokesman Michael Sharp said: “Continuation of the AdeLINK North Tce extension with a new service to the airport will provide greener light-rail public transport to better connect the communities of West Torrens and the West End with the CBD and the City of Adelaide with the airport.”
Mr Mullighan highlighted previous tram extensions to Adelaide Railway Station and the Entertainment Centre, saying the East End and Festival Plaza extensions were the first stages of lines to Norwood and North Adelaide, along with a City Loop.
He cast doubt over the Downer proposal’s viability, saying strict government policy was to preserve public ownership of trams and trains, because Liberal-led bus privatisation in the 1990s had caused lower patronage, service levels and reliability.
“The proposal would also mean separate tram operators, workforces, a separate tram fleet, all of which adds complexity, inefficiency and cost as opposed to all being centrally run and managed by the public,” he said.
“It is also unclear whether part of the funding model requires a new tax to be imposed on land owners along Henley Beach Rd, which the government would be opposed to.”
An Adelaide Airport spokesman said provision had been made in the airport’s master plan for a potential light-rail spur along Sir Richard Williams Ave to the Airport Business District, a planned 100ha cluster of private and government enterprise, including the 165-room Atura hotel.
“It (an affordable CBD light rail link) would provide an attractive long-term transport solution for our customers, while supporting continued growth of the airport,” he said.
Opposition transport spokesman David Pisoni said the SA Liberals supported expanding the public transport system but wanted projects to be well-managed, declaring people were sick of foolish decisions such as the failure to have trams turning right on to North Tce as part of the East End extension.
Source: The Advertiser