Airport train in USS’s hands

The UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme has taken full control of Sydney’s airport train, adding to its infrastructure holdings after buying Brisbane’s airport train earlier this year.

USS has been a joint shareholder in the Airport Link Company – which owns the train connecting Sydney to its airport – since 2007 with Westpac Essential Services Trust.

Source: Financial Review
Author: Jenny Wiggins

The two groups acquired the rail link out of receivership after its traffic forecasts failed to meet forecasts.

In 2005, the line, which opened ahead of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, carried an estimated 14,000 people a day, some 70 per cent less than originally forecast, according to the Tourism and Transport Forum.

USS has now acquired the Westpac trust’s 49.9 per cent interest, giving it majority ownership of the train. Local investment group CP2 also owns a small stake.

USS declined to specify the value of the acquisition.

Westpac, which is managed by ­Hastings Funds Management, is understood to have approached USS to sell its stake after improving the airport train’s performance.

Use of the rail line has improved in recent years due to better management and road traffic congestion near the airport.

The train now carries some 11 million passengers annually.

But the high price of tickets – which cost $15.90 to travel from the city to the airport – has deterred many travellers, leading the state government to consider ways of reducing fares, including getting rid of station access fees.

USS acquired Brisbane’s airport rail link, Airtrain, for $109.5 million a year ago. It is also the second-largest investor in Melbourne-based toll road group ConnectEast, which was sold to a consortium of foreign funds in late 2011.