Melbourne Airport has confirmed a change of preference for a planned third runway, which it now wants to run in parallel to the existing north-south runway.
The move away from the previous east-west orientation was flagged in June, when the airport first announced it was having technical consultations with government, airlines and regulatory bodies about a change of direction.
On Thursday, the airport said in a statement on its website it would “move forward with plans to build a third runway in a north-south orientation” following an extensive planning review and months of consultations.
“The new runway will increase capacity to keep up with Victoria’s growth demands, provide economic benefits to the state and improve traveller experience by creating opportunities to add more destinations and frequent flights,” it said.
The change of direction comes six years after Melbourne Airport stated its preferred orientation for the third runway to run east-west in its 2013 Master Plan. Those plans were reaffirmed in the 2018 Master Plan.
However, the airport now believed a north-south runway would have minimal closures based on crosswind modelling and offer greater capacity based on airport operations and aircraft taxiing.
In terms of next steps, Melbourne Airport said it would spend the next 12 to 18 months “undertaking extensive modelling, assessment and development of approval documentation”, with a Preliminary Draft Major Development Plan (MDP) to be released for public comment in early 2021.
Should the plans be approved, construction would start in 2022 and the new runway would be operational in 2025. This would be two years later than the airport’s 2018 Master Plan, which said the third runway was expected to be built and in use by 2023.
Meanwhile, the long-term outlook for the airport was to eventually have four runways.
“To keep growing, and to keep up with our growing population, tourism and business needs, a third runway must be built,” Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said in a video posted on the Melbourne Airport YouTube channel.
“For travellers, this means opening up more international destinations to visit, more frequent flights and of course lower air airfares.
“And perhaps the most important thing, reduced delays, saving time for passengers.”
Strambi said a third runway would also support additional freight capacity at Melbourne Airport.
Currently, Tullamarine operates with two runways. The longer Runway 16/34 measures 3.7km, while a shorter Runway 09/27 is 2.3km long.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani backed the proposed new north-south runway at Tullamarine, noting it was expected to be operational for almost the whole year, in contract to an east-west runway that would be operational 70-80 per cent of the time due to the prevailing winds.
“With more than 37 million people arriving last financial year, it’s clear there needs to be a plan to manage anticipated growth efficiently,” Mariani said in a statement on Thursday.
“We applaud Melbourne Airport for investing in this future growth and committing to a third runway.”
VIDEO: Chief executive Lyell Strambi talks about the proposed new third runway in a video posted on the airport’s YouTube channel.