Rail link potential

April 13, 2018

All opportunities possible from a Melbourne CBD to airport rail link should be considered, including the potential for it to improve regional rail lines like Shepparton, local stakeholders say.

After decades of discussion, a Melbourne airport rail link seems to be a step closer.

And depending on the route chosen, it could deliver faster rail to the regions.

Shepparton’s State MP Suzanna Sheed said if fully funded, the project could create a less congested route in and out of Melbourne for Shepparton trains.

She said she would be lobbying government to choose a route that facilitated a regional rail route into the city from the north of the state.

The Committee for Greater Shepparton meanwhile welcomed a Federal Government pledge to fund $5billion of a Melbourne CBD to airport rail connection, but urged all parties to look at all the opportunities the project offered.

The Federal Government will pay up to $5billion for a Melbourne airport train line and wants the Victorian Government to get on board with a 50-50 funding split.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the investment on Thursday, and flagged that construction could start after 2020.

Premier Daniel Andrews last November announced works on an Airport Rail Link would be under way before the completion of the Metro Tunnel and would deliver high speed rail to the regions.

In the most recent budget the Victorian Government funded the current business case.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said Victoria had already committed to an airport rail link and was happy to work with any Commonwealth government on the project.

‘‘Our plan for airport rail also includes fast rail to the regions, so it’s concerning that only one of the routes proposed by the Commonwealth would even allow for that.’’

Mr Turnbull does not have a preferred route for the line, but four options are understood to have been considered.

Ms Sheed said Shepparton trains sharing a ‘‘heavily utilised metro train line’’ posed an issue for the service.

‘‘This will give us more hope we might achieve a faster route into Melbourne,’’ she said.

‘‘The opportunity to improve our rail access would be most welcome ... (providing) a different route that bypassed many of those stations, would have the objective of speeding up our connection.’’

Ms Sheed suggested the decision of route would likely need to balance the benefit of a fast service between Melbourne airport and the city with it being utilised by other services.

A Rail Futures Institute report from 2016 flagged an airport link as having the potential to better link cities such as Bendigo and Shepparton with the Melbourne CBD.

‘‘The fact there is no rail link from the airport to the CBD holds Melbourne back in its aspiration to be one of the world’s great cities, so the project is essential,’’ C4GS chief Sam Birrell said.

‘‘Such a project should be part of an overall Victorian rail strategy that links the northern growth centres, Shepparton and Bendigo, with Melbourne, alleviating the population pressure on the city.

‘‘The Rail Futures Institute has set out how a plan could work, and if implemented it would be transformational for the state,’’ he said.

— With AAP

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