A third runway at Melbourne Airport would create a Tullamarine traffic nightmare if no rail link was built to go with it, according to the operator of rival Avalon Airport.
Chief executive of Avalon Airport Justin Giddings says he believes the new runway has state government support and is "a bit of a fait accompli", despite the infrastructure and noise problems it could create.
Speaking on ABC radio on Wednesday, Mr Giddings also said a new rail link to Avalan would cost $150 million, compared to the "billions" to put one through to Melbourne Airport.
He said Tullamarine's third runway would ultimately be a federal government decision even though it was the Victorian government that had to pay for upgraded transport links to the expanded airport.
"In my recent discussions with state bureaucrats, it is a little bit of a fait accompli. I think they are in favour of it," he said. "It would be a very brave federal government that would put in a new runway over the people of northern Melbourne while the state government's objecting."
Mr Giddings said Avalon airport, by contrast, was "ripe for expansion".
"There's heaps of capacity at Avalon at the moment. There's a sea at one end of the runway, the other end has paddocks, there's no interference with residents whatsoever.
"This year I don't think we've had one noise complaint. We've got plans for new runways as well but they don't go over residential areas. All the new runway is going to do at Tullamarine is just put pressure on the non-curfew status."
Extra runways have been the subject of public debate for years, and a new discussion paper reveals Melbourne Airport's preference for a third runway running east-west.
It is part of the airport's draft plan for the next 20 years, to be released for public consultation early next year and submitted to the federal government for approval. A previous plan, released in 2008, also included plans for a third runway.
The third runway would cost $500 million and be located south of the existing east-west runway. It would be three kilometres long, 60 metres wide and take between two and four years to build. Large passenger aircraft such as the A380 airbus would be able to use it.
Broadmeadows, Jacana, Gladstone Park and Westmeadows are the suburbs expected to be directly under its flight paths.
Thirty million passengers are expected to pass through Melbourne Airport this year. The state's Department of Transport calculates that a rail link to the airport will be essential if the airport is to function efficiently once it reaches 40 million passengers a year.
The Baillieu government is currently studying the feasibility of a rail link to Tullamarine. It also plans to build a rail link to Avalon, at a cost of $250 million, and is seeking federal funds to help pay for it.
Melbourne Airport chief executive Chris Woodruff said the proposed east-west runway would provide additional capacity for the forecast growth in aircraft movements at Melbourne Airport by the end of this decade.
"The Melbourne Airport draft master plan envisages that a new runway will be needed around 2018-2022 to meet the demand from domestic and international airlines as the number of passengers travelling through Melbourne continues to grow," he said.
"Passenger numbers are forecast to reach 40 million by the end of the decade, and more than 60 million by 2033."