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Uber to trial air travel app in Melbourne

A 10-minute flight from a Melbourne CBD rooftop to the airport 19 kilometres away for less than $90 could be a reality sooner than the long-awaited train line.

Melbourne will be the third city in the world to trial a new app-hailed Uber service, joining Dallas and Los Angeles in a pilot of Uber Air flights from 2020, before commercial operations start in 2023.

Uber's regional manager for Australia and New Zealand, Jodie Auster, said Melbourne was selected after an 18-month process because of its population, climate and economic viability.

"Melbourne's congestion levels are on par with New York," she said.

"This and the fact that the population is expected to double to more than eight million people by 2050 made Melbourne a viable test city."

The plan is for electric aircraft, accredited by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, to fly within a network of landing and take-off pads dubbed "skyports".

CASA has been talking to Uber about the project for some time and will work with the company to ensure the service is safe before the trial starts, including approving the aircraft, airspace controls and pilot training.

"It's building on things we already do, it's not starting from scratch," CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told AAP.

"Uber's job is to identify issues, come up with solutions and then when they need the regulatory approvals, we'll review it."

Uber is also working with Scentre Group, owner of Westfield shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand, to help deliver its service.

"Initially we'll be exploring how our seven Westfield centres in Victoria could play a role in delivering an on-demand Urban Air mobility service, potentially through the hosting of skyports and charging stations," Scentre chief strategy and business development officer, Cynthia Whelan, said.

In the longer term, the electric aircraft will be able to fly people across cities for the same price as Uber's car rideshare service UberX.

The aircraft will have four passenger seats and room for a personal bag per rider.

Treasurer Tim Pallas said the state government will support the venture, but not financially.

"(It's) a testament to this city's capacity to innovate, embrace new ideas, adopt early, and we've got a track record of doing it," Mr Pallas told reporters.

Mr Pallas said Uber Air was on track to beat rail in the race to get people to the airport quickly.

He said it's expected there will be a capacity to take Uber Air to the airport long before Melbourne airport rail is up and running, if all the regulations are met.

"But of course Melbourne airport rail is still a vitally important option that we need to be able to provide to all Victorians, because one is about getting there quick, the other one is about getting there in large numbers and consistent frequency," he said.

Other Australian companies involved in helping to provide infrastructure for the pilot include Macquarie Capital, Telstra and Melbourne Airport.

© AAP 2019