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  • Liam

Brisbane Airtrain

Updated: Apr 14

Continuing my tour of Australia’s east coast, I flew up to Brisbane. Brisbane’s Domestic and International airports are served by the airtrain which is a stub from the main rail network for the city. I used the service in the off-peak when trains leave every 30 mins.

Domestic Airport

Landing at the Domestic Airport, it was ironic that one of the first signs I saw when I entered the common airside area was an advert for Sydney’s Airport Link.

There’s no mention of the local railway or the Brisbane Airtrain service. I followed the signs down to baggage collection where the bright blue branding of the airtrain became quite easy to spot. This made up for the patchy terminal signage that mentions ground transport.

The train departure board in the terminal said the next train was in 2 minutes, with the subsequent one in 32 minutes. Not yet knowing where the train was I had that horrible dilemma of whether to run outside or sit back and relax in the terminal.

Curious as I am, I had a look around where I saw only seconds later that the train was right outside – should have run..

Outside, it was easy to work out where to go as the bright yellow portals had the effect of drawing you into the ramps up to station level. The countdown sign was more use here as you could see how far it was to the train; therefore, you may well be able to run to catch it (I’m sure airtrain would rather you walked calmly through the station).

In all, it was quite a painless interchange but the common issue of consistency of terminal signage would be the thing to fix. Brisbane Airport has the advantage of having the train up in the air so the line of sight makes up for any gaps in signs, unlike Sydney where it’s hidden in a tunnel.

The two journey information posters I picked up on were the SE Queensland network map and the colourful maps showing the location of city centre and Gold Coast stations. I thought the focus on through journeys to the Gold Coast was promoting a key attraction of the service, which will be reinforced when the G:link is extended to meet the railway.

 International Airport

At the International Airport the airtrain is less visible across from the terminal building as there are some level changes, this makes getting there more reliant upon on finding the consistent signed walking route out of the correct exit and up across the road.


The beautiful weather followed me to Brisbane so it rained heavily the day I used the airtrain. Unfortunately, like many networks I’ve visited, the stations have been built to tease passengers with weather protection but the shelter doesn’t actually cover the bit where a passenger has to board a train.

I think the compromise of using trains for the long distance route to the Gold Coast means that there is traditional bay seating which results in passengers piling up their luggage in the wheelchair space as they can’t take it with them into the seating area.

Returning to the Airport

One of the advantages of the airtrain is that is calls at all the city centre stations. I used Roma Street station. The departure board shows the next 10 departures but due to the low frequency of the airtrain, it didn’t show up on the screen. A visitor is expected to just wait, or more likely have to ask someone. When it is there, you can just scan for the aeroplane symbol.


Though the train is prominent at the airport, the frequency is not very attractive. A 30 minute wait during the day was quite unexpected. I understand trains operate every 15 minutes during peak times but I wonder whether any passengers see a 30 min wait on the screen in the airport and decide to just get a taxi. Perhaps that’s why airtrain focusses on trips to the Gold Coast, where a taxi would not be a sensible option.

It may seem like a minor issue but the mixture of branding does dilute the identity of the system. The infrastructure was built with a corporate style ‘Airtrain’ logo but the more recent branding is the more jolly airtrain style. I thought there was an opportunity for further confusion as the new style white and blue colour scheme seems to use the same blue as Sydney’s Airport Link so if you’re focussing on the older branding you may not pick up on messaging in the new format.


My thanks to Chris Basche, CEO airtrain, for answering some of my questions following my independent visits. He responded to this piece with the following updates:

we recognise that 30 minute frequency is undesirable in a time-poor environment. We optimised the timetable in late 2016 to have more trains when patronage is busier and are in discussions with our supplier, Queensland Rail, to achieve our ambition of 15 minute frequency between 7.00am and 7.00pm.”

The green stations are scheduled for repainting on the new few months. We are also limiting the “jolly / playful” font for future signs and adverts.

Author: Liam Henderson

More reviews from Australia:

  1. Brisbane’s Central Stations

  2. Getting Around with Sydney Trains

  3. Sydney Airport Link

  4. Sydney Light Rail

  5. Melbourne Trams

  6. Gold Coast’s G:link

  7. Transperth’s Rail Services

  8. Transperth’s Hubs

  9. TransWA’s Australind

#PassengerExperience #AirRail #Airport #Australia #Train #Railway #HeavyRail #Station #Interchange

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