Monday, 18 May 2020

MILESTONE: The Airport Line turns 20 (2000)

Source: Airport Link. 2000. "Fly by Train" (Advertisement). The Sunday Telegraph, May 14: 51. 

On Thursday (May 21), Sydney's Airport Railway Line will celebrate twenty years of service. The $900 million line was built as part of extensions to Sydney's rail network in the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games.

The line was significant as:

  • Sydney became the first city in Australia to have a railway line to serve its airport.
  • It was the first (and only) railway line to be built in Sydney under a public private partnership. 
  • Excluding the Olympic Park Loop (1998), this was the first new railway line constructed in Sydney since the Eastern Suburbs Railway Line (1979).
  • Commuters had to pay a station access fee in addition to their rail fare to cover the cost of construction. This was abolished in 2011 for those accessing Green Square and Mascot Stations.
Five new stations were built - Green Square, Mascot, Domestic Terminal, International Terminal and Wolli Creek. 

Wolli Creek also acted as an interchange station for commuters on the Illawarra and South Coast Railway Lines wishing to access Sydney Airport.

What was it like on day one back in 2000?

The public were invited to inspect the new stations and experience the line before normal operations commenced at 7pm.

Source: Airport Link. 2000. "The New Airport Line Grand Opening Sunday" (Advertisement). The Sydney Morning Herald. May 19: 3. 

The first full day of operation was May 22. The Daily Telegraph (Final or 2nd Afternoon Edition) reported that while activity was quiet along the new line, there were no problems with services. Feedback from commuters was positive.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on May 23 (Page 8) that while services ran smoothly, overcrowding of trains was a concern with airport travellers struggling to fit their luggage. NSW Premier Bob Carr even advised luggage laden travellers to travel to central Sydney by bus or train. Taxi Drivers also believed that the line would ruin their business. Two decades later, it is ride-share services e.g. Uber that have impacted their business and not the train.

The need for luggage racks on the trains servicing the airport was considered but was dismissed. Two decades later - no change.

Source: Bissett, K. 2000. "Need for baggage carriages rejected". The Daily Telegraph, May 23: 11. 

A Courier Service was explored as well with no success.

Source. Wainwright, R. 2000. "Airport Link takes the bag at $8 a pop". The Sydney Morning Herald, May 24: 2. 

A new rail line also resulted in changes to timetables across the rail network, especially the East Hills and Illawarra/Eastern Suburbs Lines. Some stations on the East Hills line saw a reduction in services while stations between Glenfield and Campbelltown experienced increase services. However Travel times for East Hills Line commuters increased as services were now rerouted via the Airport Line, and those wishing to travel between Wolli Creek and Redfern had to change at Wolli Creek. Many Illawarra line services also stopped at Wolli Creek.

Source: Bissett, K. 2000. "Airport line changes all timetables". The Daily Telegraph, May 18: 9.

Next week, I will share some additional material relating to the Airport Line

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