The Victorian government’s preferred route for Melbourne Airport’s rail link through the city’s western suburbs has been approved by the federal government.
The so-called Sunshine alignment (previously called the Albion East alignment) will connect the airport and Melbourne CBD via new “Sunshine Super Hub” linking with Geelong and Ballarat regional lines and metro train lines, including the new Metro Tunnel project.
It has long been the Andrews government’s preferred route for the project, which it estimates would cost between $8 billion and $13 billion.
The project will also feature twin tunnels between Southern Cross and Sunshine and a new underground rail station at the airport.
“There will need to be a significant redevelopment of the Sunshine area,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.
“It will, if you like, become another Southern Cross station where regional and metropolitan trains come together and can connect in to Melbourne’s airport.”
Federal cities and urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge reportedly wrote to the state government several weeks ago to confirm his support of the route.
In the past, the federal government had favoured a direct tunnel route between the CBD and the airport via Highpoint – which would, according to the state government, cost approximately double the Sunshine alignment, at $20-22 billion – as it would incorporate 127-hectares of Commonwealth land at Maribyrnong which is planned for development.
Allan said she welcomed the federal government’s backing of the Sunshine route.
“The Andrews Labor Government has always backed the Sunshine route as the preferred route and we now welcome the Morrison Government coming onboard and confirming its support for this project and for this route,” she said.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced in July that a re-elected Labor government would match a $5 billion commitment by the Commonwealth government for the rail link to with construction to begin by 2022.
The federal Coalition government, in its 2018-19 Budget, said it would provide $5 billion to the project, potentially via an off-budget equity financing model.
AirRail, a consortium of fund manager IFM Investors, Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains Australia, and Southern Cross Station, has pitched a $15 billion PPP to the state and federal governments, aiming to start work on a rail line to the airport by 2020. AirRail said it would provide $5 billion to match the $5 billion already committed by the federal Government and the $5 billion committed by the Victorian Government.