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Accessibility to current and future airports

From the standpoint of the demand for transport generated by airport catchment areas, the order of priority for airport ground access is:

  • connections with the major local city, which accounts for most transport demand (in this case, the city of Milan);
  • connections with the metropolitan area surrounding the major local city or the “narrow” catchment area (within 60 minutes from the airport). In the case of Milan airports, this area corresponds to greater Milan, the region to the south-west of Milan that extends to Piacenza, the most developed portion of the foothills (stretching from the Province of Varese to the Province of Bergamo), the provinces of Eastern Piedmont (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Novara and Vercelli) and Canton Ticino;
  • connections with other medium and large cities located at larger distances but served by modes of transport (particularly high-speed rail) that offer travel times of less than two hours. In the case of Malpensa, such cities include above all Turin and lower Piedmont (Alessandria and Astia), as well as Genoa, Emilia (from Piacenza to Bologna), Florence, Eastern Lombardy (Brescia) and western Veneto (Verona).

Modes of passenger ground transport to Milan airports

The airports are connected to their catchment area by various modes of transport.

There is no single optimal model for all situations, but rather various models that are suited, case by case, to the characteristics of the infrastructure network, the network of existing services and the airport itself.

No study or analysis has shown any solid correlation between any characteristics of rail service to the airport and market share in airport ground transport. In fact, an airport's user base is so varied in terms of travel preferences and needs that it is impossible to develop a single optimal model to be replicated and scaled to suit all contexts.

Some correlations may be identified between the type of trip and traveler and a preference for rail as the mode of ground transport, with the preference for public transport increasing the longer the trip and in cases where the travelers are non-residents. However, it is not possible to establish unequivocal, solid correlations between availability of service, travel time, cost, frequency, comfort and reliability of service and the success of the mode of transport, although these factors are undoubtedly crucial to the choice of mode.

Mode of ground transport used by passengers to reach Milan airports (%)

 Airport systemMalpensa T1Malpensa T2Linate
TRANSPORT MODE 2017 2016 2017 2016 2017 2016 2017 2016
Public road transport  20 24 -4 13 11 +2 16 20 -4 32 48 -16
Private road transport  68 64 +4 68 70 -2 69 67 +2 67 52 +13
Public rail transport  11 12 -1 18 18 = 14 13 +1 - - -
Other 1 - +1 1 1 = 1 - +1 1 - +1
Sample 4,981 4,487   2,423 2,321   1,124 1,010   1,434 1,156  

Source: Prepared using Doxa data - 2017 SEA passenger profile

In 2017 the use of public transport options by passengers to reach our airports declined for both road (down four points systemwide, with a peak of -16 for Linate, whereas Malpensa Terminal 1 ran counter to the trend, showing an increase of two points) and rail (down one-point systemwide). Private road transport increased by four points systemwide, by 13 points for Linate and by two for Malpensa Terminal 2.

Current and future accessibility of Linate airport

Linate airport is currently accessible solely via road, from both the city center and outlying areas, through the Milan ring road system – the foundation for all major road infrastructure serving the local area and connecting to the national motorway system.

Public transport options serving the airport include both a bus line and a shuttle bus service from the Central Station. The user base for Linate airport primarily consists of the entire central portion of the region of Lombardy.

This area is characterized by significant road congestion due to the central role played by Milan in the regional economic system. Accordingly, various efforts to develop and enhance the existing infrastructure system have been planned. The key characteristic of both the road and rail ground transport systems that emerges from a review of the projects is that Milan is no longer the main center of attraction, through which all flows to and from any other destination must inevitably be routed.

Linate Airport can also benefit from this network scheme because a significant quota of "passing" traffic, currently concentrated in Milan, would use these new routes, thereby reducing the congestion that Milan’s road system suffers from now. Additional capacity would be released on the current road system, improving the level of service on the access routes to the city center in addition to access to the immediate and surrounding areas (particularly Linate).

Developments envisaged for road accessibility for Milan Linate

SP14 Rivoltana & SP415 Paullese Developments & upgrades.
SP160 & SP15b link road  Developments & upgrades.
San Bovio-Longhignana section Development of SP15b & SP160.
Pedemontana Lombarda Motorway Piedmont completion.
IPB Pedemontana- BreBeMi inter-connection.
Cassanese Bis Completion Direction Cassanese Bis. In the absence of an adequate connection between the Cassanese Bis and the SP14 Rivoltana, this action shall have little impact in improving Linate’s accessibility.

Source: Pwc, 2017

Works are currently underway to connect Linate with Milan’s metro system (the M4 line) and include the construction of a station directly linked to the passenger Terminal.

This work will further improve the quality of the services offered by the airport, whilst at the same time improving the integration of the airport structure into the urban fabric.

Such features of Milan’s urban transport system (an efficient Metro line, a loop metro-style rail system linked both to the high-speed network and the regional railway networks, an efficient and broad overground public transport system) will ensure, and are, indeed, the prerequisites for an objectively successful airport rail link service.

Developments envisaged for rail accessibility for Milan Linate

SectionDescription of the works
Start-up in 2022 forecast for Milan metro line 4 (San Cristoforo FS-Linate) or “Blue Line” The line will extend across the city for approx. 15 KM from west to east, optimizing not only the airport connection but, more generally, also that with the entire metro and urban rail system. 

Source: Pwc, 2017

Current and future accessibility of Malpensa airport

Malpensa is indeed 50 km from the center of Milan. All the main European airports are located at an average distance of between 10 to 20 km from their city center of reference, with rare exceptions such as Munich (36 km), Oslo (50 km) and Rome Fiumicino (23 Km).  Road access is currently the most prominent system for access to Malpensa Airport. Private vehicles use two existing motorways (the A8 and A4, the latter connected through the Malpensa-Boffalora motorway segment) with another under construction (Pedemontana). Other private transport systems include hotel shuttles or tourist coaches. The road system is used by a plethora of both collective public transport systems as well as individual transport systems: airport bus services, taxis, NCC (chauffeured car-hire), and car-sharing options (e-Vai).

In the coming years extensive infrastructural investments are scheduled for the Lombardy rail network, whose conclusion should have a positive impact on the quality of connections with the Milan airports, both in terms of journey time reduction and ease of access.

Developments envisaged for road accessibility for Milan Malpensa

Road segmentDescription of the works
A4 A southward extension of the SS 336 section, beyond the Magenta link road to the A4 Milan-Turin motorway, towards the Tangenziale Ovest (West Ring Road) with branching to Vigevano.

The final plan for this link was recently approved and involves 17.6 KM of road works, which come under the overall improvement and development plans for road links to Malpensa Airport.
A8 A link road at Gallarate between the A8 motorway and the national SS 336.

By-pass to the Sempione SS 33 between Rho and Gallarate.

Inversion of the Lainate toll booth.

Full upgrade of the motorway entry slip roads with subsequent closure of the current Lainate and Arese entry slip roads.

Construction of an underpass at the junction between the A8 and A9, North of Lainate.
A1 Creation of a fourth laneway on the A1 Motorway on the road segment between Milano Sud (South Milan) (at the interconnection with the A50 Tangenziale Ovest) (West Ring-Road) and the Lodi slip road.
Milan-Rho-Monza North Ring Road Motorway Development of the existing Rho-Monza road link at the A8 (Baranzate)-A52 (Paderno, Dugnano) segment, with the construction of a two-lane roadway in both directions, plus emergency hard shoulders and a parallel road for local traffic.
SS 341 By-pass to the SS 341 from the A8 to Vanzaghello.
Bridge over the Ticino A bridge over the river Ticino, currently under construction;
Lambrate slip road These works are the closest to the city of Milan itself and serve to connect the BreBeMi motorway with it.

Source: PWC, 2017

With regard to the quality and quantity of rail links, the “fire power” solution expressed by Trenord in its proposal to connect central Milan and Malpensa airport is undoubtedly significant. This would entail 129 daily trips delivering, on an average hourly service over a 20-hour period, a train service every 18 to 19 minutes in both directions. The minimum journey time (29 minutes) is wholly adequate and competitive in terms of international standards (the center of Munich has two different airport link services respectively taking 43 and 53 minutes). All the routes will operate with new rolling stock designed specifically for an airport service, with good services and high levels of comfort. With the introduction in 2016 of the Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 link, rail access to Malpensa drastically improved, thus significantly increasing the potential user base, resulting in rail services becoming more cost-effective than any other means of transport to access T2, despite an extensive amount of negative externalities, and it now transports over 6 million passengers per annum.

Road access to Malpensa was compared with a selection of comparable European airports: Eleftherios (Athens), Stansted (London), Arlanda (Stockholm), Gardermoen (Oslo), Franz Josef Strauss (Munich) and Leonardo da Vinci (Rome Fiumicino).

These airports are comparable in terms of:

  • volume of passenger traffic
  • distance between the airport and its reference city.

Surface accessibility – definition of the benchmark panel for Milan Malpensa

AirportCityDistance from city [km]Passengers year (2016)
Milan Malpensa Milan 52 19,311,600
Eleftherios Athens 41 20,016,998
Stansted London 57 24,317,100
Arlanda Stockholm 41 24,700,000
Gardermoen Oslo 50 25,800,000
Franz Josef Strauss Munich 36 42,278,000
Rome Fiumicino Rome 23 41,575,280

Surce: Pwc, 2017


Surface accessibility – Benchmark between Malpensa and selected European airports

AirportRegional trainSuburban trainExpress trainScheduled busBus TPLMetroCar
Milan Malpensa (Milan) Trenord (Malpensa Express)
Every day
Cost of 13 €
-   Air coach Motorway
All 8 €
S.A.C.O. (from Gallarate & Somma Lombardo) - 45’/55’
Eleftherios (Athens) - Suburban rail service - hourly
Cost of 10 €
- - Bus (X95S line),
Every 15’. Cost of 6 €
Metro Line 3
Every 30’
Cost di 10 €
Stansted (London) - - Stansted Express
Every 15’
Cost of 18.9 €
National Express
Every 20’-30’
Cost of € 11.4-12.5
- - 55’-70’
Arlanda (Stockholm) - Pendeltag SL,
every 30’
Cost of 17 €
Arlanda Express
Every 19-20’
Cost of 30 €
- - - 35’-50’
Gardermoen (Oslo) NSB - Norwegian State Railways with 2 trains per hour Mon-Sat. and 1 hourly train Sundays
Cost of 10 €
- AV Flytoget Airport Express Train System
Every 10’ -20’
Cost of 19 €
SAS Flybussen Flybussekspressen
Every 30’
Cost of 17 €

OSL Ekspressen
Cost of 24 €
- - 40’-50’
Franz Josef Strauss Airport (Munich)   S1 and S8 S-Bahn Lines
connecting the airport with the center of Munich,
every 10’
Cost of € 5

Lufthansa (Munich central station) Journey time 45’
Frequency: 15’
Rome Fiumicino (Rome) Regional train connecting the airport with the Stations of Trastevere, Ostiense, Tuscolana and Tiburtina
Frequency: 15’
Cost of 8 €
  Direct Leonardo Express train
(frequency: 30’ Cost of € 14 )

Terravision and Atral from Rome Termini

Schiaffini Travel, SIT Bus Shuttle from the Vatican and Rome Termini

Cotral from Rome Termini, Rome Tiburtina, Cornelia and Magliana

T.A.M. Bus from Rome Ostiense and Termini

Source: Pwc, 2017

The only other case in Europe with a highly successful rail-to-airport transport system approximately 50 km from the city center is Oslo, with its high-speed express service (up to 210 km/h, at times 250 km/h), and high-frequency trains (a train every 10 minutes, with trip times of 19 to 22 minutes).

The development of rail access to Malpensa is considered a priority both from a planning point of view, as shown in the Connecting Europe Facility programme and detailed in the EU regulation No. 1315 of 2013, where the priority of including core airports such as Malpensa into the system of priority transport corridors is highlighted, as well as from a national planning point of view, where the Malpensa Airports in the National Plan are indicated as strategic intercontinental gateways.

Even at a regional level, both the Regional Development Programme (PRS) of the 2013 10th Legislature and the 2016 Regional Mobility and Transport Programme (PRMT) identified the development of the railway infrastructures as well as the development of Malpensa as two priority goals.

When implemented, the target is to capture a 30% market share of the rail services across all the transport systems accessing the terminal, thereby doubling the current quota and promoting the extension of the Malpensa catchment area. This is based on a clear perception of Malpensa as the access gate to an extensive geographic area, which for intercontinental travelers includes the whole of the north of Italy.

Developments envisaged for rail accessibility for Milan Malpensa

SectionDescription of the works
Saronno-Seregno Line Electrification of a section of the FNM line between Saronno and Seregno.
RHO-Gallarate Line Quadrupling of the Rho-Parabiago section and tripling until Gallarate. The works will directly connect two of the Lombardy economic system’s most significant points: the new Rho-Pero Events center and Milan Malpensa airport. Development of the section between Parabiago and Gallarate, with the quadrupling of the line, will follow.
Milan Malpensa Terminal 2-Gallarate connection Double track connection between Milan Malpensa and RFI’s Gallarate-Varese Line. The definitive project will be completed and delivered to the Lombardy Region at the beginning of 2018.

Source: Pwc, 2017