More on rail link to airportPosted: March 13, 2010
The Age is continuing its campaign for a new rail line to be built from the city centre to Melbourne Airport (I discussed this previously on March 2 – Possible rail link to Melbourne airport). There are also a couple of follow-up letters this morning supporting the idea of a rail link.
In a story yesterday, Airport ‘exploiting’ public on parking fees, The Age reported on a new analysis by the ACCC of airport performance in Australia, noting that parking charges account for 20% of Melbourne Airport’s revenue but just 8% of Sydney Airport’s.
The Age’s reporter, Ari Sharp, said the figures, “could add to calls for a rail link to Melbourne Airport to help overcome the growing problems – and costs – of getting there by car or bus”.
However contrary to The Ages’s apparent inference, the difference in the Sydney and Melbourne figures does not appear to be caused by a rapacious parking operator ripping off travellers who lack an alternative to driving.
What the story didn’t say was that Sydney Airport’s revenue from charges to airlines is $446 million, compared to Melbourne Airport’s comparatively modest $197 million. Parking revenues are much the same ($88m and $95m respectively), hence it’s not at all surprising that parking makes up a much larger proportion of total revenue in Melbourne than Sydney.
Melbourne’s slightly higher revenue from parking is much more likely to be because it has more parking spaces. Its parking charges are actually quite competitive with Sydney’s. For example, it costs the same to park for a day in both airports while seven days is $69 at Melbourne Airport’s long term car park, compared to $110 at Sydney Airport’s (in fact Melbourne offers the cheapest seven day parking of any of the airports monitored by the ACCC).
The ACCC says that Melbourne Airport’s parking charges reflect an element of monopoly rent. But I want to make two points about that. First, there’s a rationing issue here – every time I use the long term car park it’s close to full and I inevitably park at the remotest end. If charges were lower, I fear I’d have trouble getting a park.
Second, I reckon the real competition for car parking is taxis (public transport is not even in the game here because we’re talking about Melbourne residents who by definition have access to a car and in the great majority of cases live in the suburbs).
For me, $69 to park for seven days or $25 for one day is more than competitive with the $50 each way by taxi it costs from my Northern suburbs hovel to the airport. If I lived in the south east driving would be a no-brainer, even with petrol and tolls.
And even if parking were made harder, say by increasing (or lowering!) charges, taking a taxi offers no sustainability advantage over driving to the airport.
The solution to growing traffic congestion on the freeway isn’t a multibillion dollar new rail line from the CBD to the airport with poor prospects of financial viability. It would be far cheaper and more economically efficient to reduce the number of low value trips by tolling the freeway at peak times. Then there would be enough room for Skybus.