MELBOURNE Airport is set to expand, with plans to build a $300 million passenger terminal and improve freeway access.
Just days after Sydney Airport announced plans to shuffle airlines between existing terminals by 2019, Melbourne is gearing up to have a new interconnected domestic terminal running by mid-2014.
Melbourne's new Terminal Four building will be built to the south of the existing T3 building used by Virgin Australia.
The development is designed to maintain a key advantage over Sydney Airport by having all terminals connected under one roof, allowing easy movement between airlines for domestic and international flights. The Melbourne redevelopment will include a new multi-level car park, widened roads, new baggage facilities and several extra plane gates.
Melbourne Airport's chief executive, Chris Woodruff, said consultation with airlines, freight and transport companies and the Commonwealth government would start early next year, and was expected to take about nine months.
''We can't say which airline or airlines will be using the new terminal, as those discussions are still to be had with the airlines,'' he said.
The new terminal would focus on the potential growth in the low-cost carrier market. Jetstar and Tiger would seem the likely candidates. This would see Qantas expand into the whole of T1, international airlines in T2, Virgin Australia in T3 and Jetstar and Tiger Airways in T4.
The existing T4, a rudimentary and separate shelter used by Tiger Airways, will simply be bulldozed.
The areas now used for freight services and aircraft parking will have to move further south to make way for the new passenger terminal.
The new terminal's connection to the main building will also allow for the physical expansion and revamp of T3.
''The expansion will take into account the anticipated growth of Virgin Australia as their business grows,'' Mr Woodruff said.
Facilities in T3 will be updated to suit Virgin's new image.
The redevelopment of T3 in turn allows for the internal expansion of T2 to cater for expected growth in international services.
Mr Woodruff said the airport was keen to see another hotel built near the new T4, although it was not specifically part of the scope of the 2014 redevelopment.
The new terminal will be built to handle 10 million passengers a year, almost the same number using Perth Airport, and twice the number passing through the Gold Coast.
''We're spending $1 billion on infrastructure to cater for our growth,'' Mr Woodruff said.
Also by 2014, the new terminal will be supported by extension of APAC Drive, which now ends in a cul-de-sac, for better access to the front of the terminal.
Mercer Drive, now the access road for the business park from the Tullamarine Freeway, will be widened to become the main entrance road to the airport grounds.
Work is progressing on an elevated two-lane overpass exit of the freeway for traffic heading to the city, to ease the bottlenecks and congestion of Centre Road, Terminal Drive and Melrose Drive in the airport precinct.
The $26 million exit ramp, soaring over the long-term car park and all lanes of the freeway, merging before Mickelham Road, is expected to be completed by June.
The airport's master plan, developed in 2008 and revised last year, shows provision for an airport train that enters via Airport Drive and delivers passengers directly to the international terminal, T2.
Mr Woodruff is an enthusiastic proponent of the rail link.
The masterplan also shows the location of two more runways crisscrossing the far side of the air traffic services precinct, to cater for expected increases in aircraft traffic over the next two decades.