Melbourne Airport has confirmed it will flip its planned third runway from an east-west orientation to a north-south project it says will provide greater long-term benefits.
The decision comes after the airport management indicated earlier this year that it was considering the change to maximize landings and take-offs.
A north-south runway would run parallel to the airport’s existing main runway and would be available for operations for more days of the year.
Modeling predicts benefits include greater flight capacity based on airport operations and aircraft taxiing as well as minimal closures due to cross-winds that would plague an east-west runway.
But the decision means the project will be delayed as the airport spends the next 12 to 18 months preparing a Draft Major Development Plan for the Australian government.
Management hopes to have the document ready for public comment in 2021 with the idea of construction getting underway in early 2022 and operations starting in late 2025.
The airport argues the 3000m long runway, predicted at this point to cost $A1.5 billion, will be a critical piece of Victorian infrastructure that would deliver tourism and business benefits to the state.
But the most pressing need is to enable the airport to meet growing demand as it heads towards peak capacity.
“A third runway is essential for Melbourne Airport to cater for forecast passenger growth over the next two decades, which will see us grow from welcoming more than 37 million people a year to almost 70 million per year by 2038,” said airport chief executive Lyell Strambi.
“The third runway will ensure Melbourne Airport can keep pace with Melbourne’s increasing popularity as an international tourism destination, in addition to supporting the nation’s fastest-growing population.
“It would also create new opportunities for travelers, such as additional international destinations to visit and more frequent flights. Ultimately, our goal is to secure more airlines flying to more destinations, more often.
“Importantly, the additional runway will reduce delays for travelers both locally and across the nation’s entire aviation network.
“The runway will drive a new wave of economic activity for Victoria, as much as an additional $16.8 billion per annum to gross state product by 2043.”
Strambi acknowledged that residents in suburbs surrounding the airport would be affected by the decision but promised management would “continue to communicate and listen to the community throughout the life of the runway project”.