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THERE are 23,000 car parking spaces at Melbourne Airport - and one public bus stop.
The bus stop is in a remote, unsheltered location near the Tiger Airways terminal - the airport's quietest - and is an 800-metre walk from Qantas' domestic terminal.
Attempts to boost bus services to Melbourne Airport are being strangled by the airport's reluctance to provide extra space for bus parking.
Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws reveal transport planners have been negotiating with airport management since 2010 for a better bus stop, which would be outside the main terminals and big enough to park two buses.
Advertisement They show that while the airport recently yielded to the Department of Transport and agreed to let public buses into the main forecourt from early next year, it is yet to agree to provide a second bus parking bay.
The department considers a second bus stop essential for drivers to meet the timetable, but the airport says the buses do not carry enough passengers.
A March internal Transport Department memorandum advises 'that unless these operational requirements can be met, then the bus services will need to be removed from the airport'. It concludes that airport management has 'expressed a willingness … to find a solution acceptable'.
Several smaller regional bus companies use the forecourt under commercial arrangements with the airport.
Buses on four routes use the remote public bus stop, including the route 901 SmartBus, which orbits the city on a 115-kilometre run from Tullamarine to Frankston, with 15-minute frequencies.
The airport is privately owned and on Commonwealth land, so the state government cannot demand a second bus space.
A recent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report found Melbourne Airport makes $87 million profit a year from car parking - $5115 on each spot.
A growing, if modest, number of travellers catch the SmartBus to the airport, mostly from Broadmeadows. A count in June found on a typical weekday 310 passengers use the bus to get to or from the airport.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder has pushed behind the scenes. In January 2011, he wrote to Transport Department secretary Jim Betts: 'The existing bus stop on Service Road is grossly inconvenient for passengers, necessitating a long walk … without weather protection for much of the way.
'SmartBus services are an important component of the government's public transport services and should not be relegated to a remote corner of the airport, unseen by … staff and patrons who are considering transport options.'