Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad has asked for “visionary thinking” from Victorian and federal politicians amid reports both sides are leaning toward a cheaper above-ground route for the future rail link to Melbourne Airport.
Both federal and state governments have committed $5 billion towards the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL), but the combined $10 billion is unlikely to be enough to fund a new tunnel between Sunshine and the airport without private sector involvement.
While more expensive, a tunnel would provide greater capacity, and could connect to the federal government’s planned Geelong fast rail. It would also provide a better foundation for the state’s plans to turn Sunshine into a transport super-hub, building off the MARL, the Geelong and Ballarat Lines, and the Western Rail Plan.
The federal government had been pressuring the state to commit to a tunnel option, but recent reports have suggested the state’s preferred ground-level option could win-out.
“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” a spokesperson for federal urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge was quoted by The Age.
“We want to see the MARL built as soon as possible.”
Responding to the news, ARA boss Danny Broad said it was important Victoria and the Commonwealth come to a unified agreement which fulfils long-term needs.
“With Melbourne forecast to become Australia’s biggest city by 2028, and also the expected increase in international and interstate travellers, it is crucial that the Airport rail link can manage frequent and fast journey times to deliver the level of service expected of an international city,” Broad said on December 13.
“Infrastructure Australia has long-ago already identified the corridor between Melbourne CBD and the Melbourne Airport as one of the most congested and one where the Tullamarine Freeway is already at capacity.
“We need visionary thinking from our elected leaders to ensure the infrastructure we build for the future meets customers’ expectations, is efficient and delivers adequate capacity for the population growth that Melbourne will undergo.
“If financing is an issue, then Governments should look to the private sector for additional investment.”