200 more services a week for T2 Airport rail link following huge jump in patronage

Train patronage to the airport has surged by 32 per cent over the past two years. Photo: Steven Siewert
Train patronage to the airport has surged by 32 per cent over the past two years. Photo: Steven Siewert

An extra 1 million people catching trains to Sydney Airport last year has spurred the state government to put on an additional 200 services a week in an attempt to cope with the unprecedented demand.

Underscoring the pressure on Sydney's transport network, train patronage to and from the airport has risen by 32 per cent over the past two years to 8.2 million passengers in 2016.

The surge in demand has been greatest at weekends – rising by 42 per cent since 2014 to 1.8 million passengers last year.

Road congestion to the airport's terminals can be greatest at weekends. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Road congestion to the airport's terminals can be greatest at weekends. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The growth comes despite the cost of a one-way journey between Sydney's CBD and the domestic and international terminals costing an adult passenger more than $17 during peak hours, making it Sydney's most expensive stretch of rail track.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government needed to act fast to cater for the growth in demand for train services to Australia's busiest airport.

"We're hoping the service boost acts as another incentive to leave the car behind," he said.

The government has been eager for more people to catch trains because of congestion on roads in and around the airport, which can lead to traffic queues extending from the international to the domestic terminals at weekends.

The extra 200 train services on the T2 Airport Line will begin this year, resulting in a doubling from four to eight services per hour during the day on weekends when demand for travel to the airport is often greatest.

Trains will also run every 15 minutes late at night on weekdays, instead of every 20 to 30 minutes at present.

Last year, almost 42 million passengers caught flights to and from Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport.

And in a a sign of the looming stresses on road and public transport links to the airport, a joint study on Sydney's aviation capacity has forecast the number of passengers at Kingsford Smith to reach almost 77 million by 2035.

With demand for trains surging, the government shows no willingness to remove a station access fee of $13.40 imposed on passengers when they pass through gates at the airport's terminals.

The state government is now the major beneficiary of the access fee, instead of the private operator of the four stations on the Airport Line.

Under a revenue-sharing agreement, the Airport Link Company paid the government $68.6 million in a "train service fee" last financial year, up from $54 million in 2014-15.

The net boost to the government's coffers is offset by it having to "compensate" the private operator for passengers using Green Square and Mascot stations. That compensation has been estimated at $22 million last year.

The government has subsided the access fees for passengers using the two non-airport stations on the rail line since 2011.

Mr Constance said it was important to note that the station access fee for the airport stations was capped at $25 a week for Opal card holders who travelled by train to the airport more than once a week.

"Compare the cost of being able to get to the airport affordably from places such as the city relative to catching a cab and being stuck in traffic," he said.

"The access charges won't be there forever – they will come off at the end of the concession period."

Under the public-private partnership, the Airport Link Company's rights to operate the four stations on the line ends in 2030.

Extra buses to the airport also remain unlikely after Mr Constance said he would not "give any commitment" to new services.

"I do not want to continue to clog the streets with more buses if I can avoid it – that's the reality. But we will keep an eye on the services, and we will look at ways in which we can improve those services," he said.

The 400 service between Bondi Junction and Burwood remains the only public service that stops at the airport's domestic and international terminals.

Extra million catching trains to Sydney Airport prompts need for more services appeared originally in The Sydney Morning Herald.


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