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Airtrain turns financial corner
Steve Creedy
April 22, 2005

BRISBANE Airports Corporation yesterday welcomed the news that the troubled 8.5km Airtrain rail link to the city centre was turning the financial corner and had secured its long-term future.

The $223 million project has suffered financial losses since opening in July, 2001, after optimistic predictions of passenger numbers went unrealised.

But rising passenger numbers and a deal to give half of the company's equity to bondholders in return for payment concessions means it should be in the black next month.

Airtrain chairman Mark Gray said the capital base restructure would enable the company to sustain a viable ongoing business and make an immediate profit in the short term.

Airtrain was launched just before a string of major events - including the Ansett collapse, the September 11 terrorism attacks and SARS - crippled the aviation industry.

The industry recovery has produced international and domestic passenger growth at Brisbane of 17.4 per cent in the past 12 months, putting it ahead of competitors Melbourne and Sydney. It also expects the double-digit growth to continue over the next two years.

Airtrain's passenger numbers are up 28 per cent this year, after rising 40 per cent last year.

BAC spokesman Jim Carden said Airtrain's original patronage numbers might have been optimistic but the link's passenger growth now reflected increases at the airport.

"The aviation industry, and the airports in particular, are now pumping out some pretty big numbers and some of the ground transport suppliers are now reaping some of those benefits as well," he said.

Airtrain is also expected to benefit from job growth at the airport which is expected to rise from the current 9000 to 42,500 by 2023.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Airport released figures showing passenger numbers in the March quarter were 6 per cent ahead of last year. International passenger numbers for the quarter were up 14 per cent while domestic passengers rose 4 per cent. Passenger numbers for the first nine months were up 10 per cent on the previous period.

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Fantastic. Now let's hope they'll bring the price down. Shows that Airport connections via train can be viable. Just waiting for Sydney's now.

But another reason why people would want to take the train instead would be because of the increasing congestion in the inner north-eastern suburbs. It will be interesting to see how passenger numbers will be affected when the NSBT stages 2 and 3 open.
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