Melbourne’s long-awaited airport rail route locked in
EXCLUSIVE: The route for Melbourne's long-awaited airport rail link has been locked in by the Morrison Government, paving the way for construction to start as soon as 2020.
The Herald Sun can reveal the federal government has backed Victoria's preferred option for a rail line from the city to the airport via a new super-station in Sunshine, which would also allow for major regional rail upgrades.
The agreement means the project can move quickly towards construction once this weekend's state election is decided, with both major parties in Victoria broadly supportive of the Sunshine route.
Federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge wrote to the Victorian government before it went into caretaker mode to agree on the route, with sources saying the decision was made to urge Victoria to "get on with the job" of building the link.
Premier Daniel Andrews locked into the Sunshine option earlier this year and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has described it as "the only sensible route".
A private consortium - including Melbourne Airport, Southern Cross station and Metro Trains - has put $5 billion on the table to help build the project, with its version including a massive new tunnel from the CBD to Sunshine.
The Andrews Government is considering the tunnel as part of its "Western Rail Plan" to enhance train services to Geelong and Ballarat.
It is understood the state Opposition also prefers the Sunshine route to tie in with its planned regional rail overhaul, and has a favourable view of the consortium's proposal.
The federal government has offered $5 billion for the project but Mr Tudge, in his letter, raised concerns that Mr Andrews's equivalent commitment was not detailed in the state Budget.
The state Opposition has not confirmed its airport rail spending pledge and it is unclear if both major parties will account for the project in election costings released on Thursday.
The election winner will review the full business case - due to be completed next year - to determine the project's final cost, and what Victoria needs to commit in partnership with the Commonwealth and the private sector.
The Sunshine option, costing between $8 and $13 billion, has been chosen over other routes including a line through Maribyrnong, or using the Craigieburn line with a spur between Essendon and Tullamarine.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also backed airport rail but has not made concrete funding commitments if he wins the next election.