Treasurer Scott Morrison says a $5 billion contribution to the Melbourne Airport rail link will be the largest chunk of infrastructure spending included in the upcoming Federal Budget, as the Coalition looks to encourage the Victorian Government to match its contribution.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday elaborated on earlier reports the Coalition was willing to invest as much as $5 billion into a 50:50 venture with the State Government, to get a rail line built between Melbourne’s CBD and the city’s major airport.
The airport is currently connected to the city by the Tullamarine Freeway. A privately-operated bus service, Skybus, is currently the only major public transport option for flyers.
Morrison, Turnbull, infrastructure minister Michael McCormack and revenue minister Kelly O’Dwyer met with the media on April 12 to encourage the cooperation of the Andrews Government in Victoria.
O’Dwyer, who represents the Melbourne division of Higgins, said she and her fellow Victorian MPs knew how much Melbournians want an airport railway.
“It is an issue that affects them as they go to work. It’s an issue that affects them when they come home,” she said. “We wand Daniel Andrews, the Premier, to come on board with this 50:50 project to make sure that this project is built because it will be to the benefit of every single Victorian.”
Morrison said the Coalition was prepared to make the airport funding the largest single component of the 2018 Budget’s infrastructure spend.
“All our railways are important, but this is a railway of national significance,” the treasurer said. “This $5 billion investment in this nationally important project, the Tulla Rail, will be the single largest infrastructure commitment in this year’s budget.”
McCormack, leader of the Nationals, said the airport rail line would help facilitate the sort of growth Melbourne Airport should be capable of.
“This particular land space that Tullamarine [i.e. Melbourne Airport] is on is twice as big as Heathrow,” McCormack said, referencing London’s largest airport. “We need a vision for the future to make sure that the 34 million passengers using the airport this year, which is going to expand to 60 million and perhaps double in the next 20 years, have a link to the CBD that they so desperately need.”
Morrison said the Government is expecting the first information from a feasibility study by around September-October, after the Coalition provided $30 million for the study in last year’s Budget.
“That will provide a lot more detail,” he said, “particularly the issue of assessment of routes and there are a range of options, but the options that, you know, you need to consider in this is what’s really going to change the city for the better.”
Turnbull, who announced the planned spending to Melbourne paper The Herald Sun before telling the State Government, said it was important the public was behind the project.
“It’s important that we make sure that Melbournians are enthused and engaged,” the PM said. “We want everyone in Melbourne to have their say on this. We want this to be a project that enlivens and excites the whole city, indeed the whole state – and it will.
“We are not talking about cutting a cheque to the State Government and walking away, we’re talking about working together; building this as partners.
“Doesn’t everyone say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if governments to work together?’ Well, that’s what we’re proposing to do. 50:50, and we’ve put our money on the table.”