• A projected increase in movements is behind the push for a third runway at Melbourne International. (Melbourne Airport)
    A projected increase in movements is behind the push for a third runway at Melbourne International. (Melbourne Airport)

Melbourne Airport's third runway will be built in a north-south direction rather than east-west, which may spell reprieve for operations on Essendon's runway 17/35, it was announced yesterday.

Essendon Airport's 2019 draft master plan flagged a forced change in operations at Essendon caused by the preference for MEL's third runway to be oriented east-west. Essendon Airport P/L (EAPL) estimated that runway 08/26 would take 90% of traffic, whilst runway 17 would effectively become a take-off direction only and 35 a landing direction only.

Melbourne Airport's decision to prioritise a north-south runway may now delay that scenario for at least another 20 years until a second east-west runway at MEL is needed.

A north-south orientation was chosen because it offered greater flight capacity based on airport operations, minimal closures expected based on crosswind modelling and the ability to delay a second east-west runway.

Melbourne Airport Chief Executive Officer Lyell Strambi explained Australia’s busiest non-curfew airport needed a third runway to meet expected demand.

“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,” Strambi said.

“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."

Melbourne Airport will now spend the next 12-18 months undertaking extensive modelling, assessment and development of approval documentation, with the intent of releasing the Preliminary Draft Major Development Plan (MDP) for public comment in early 2021.

If the 3000-metre runway is approved, construction could start as early as 2022 with the first operations in late 2025.

EAPL's preliminary draft master plan assumed that the new runway at MEL was going to be east-west. EAPL has been contacted to comment on the switch.

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