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"In 10 years time Melbourne Airport will be handling 46 million passengers a year from the current 32 million," he said. "There is no other airport in the world at that level that doesn't have a rail link."
While welcoming the planned widening of the Tullamarine Freeway, locked in after CityLink owner Transurban struck a deal with the state government, Mr Woodruff said roads alone would not cope with airport-related traffic.
"If you can, imagine the road congestion that would be created from that sort of traffic, even though the government – or I should say Transurban more than the government – has committed to building an upgrade. So for productivity, for ease, for maintaining our status as a liveable city, we do need that rail link to the airport," he said.
The former Napthine government pledged to build a rail extension to Melbourne Airport by 2026, attaching the promise to its reworked version of the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, via Fishermans Bend.
In response, then opposition leader Daniel Andrews said airport rail was not a priority, because most Melburnians would only use it once or twice a year.
"No one for a moment says that an airport rail link is not a worthy project," he said in April.
"But be very clear: the services that people use every single day are my priority."
The government this week put the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel back on the agenda in its original form, from South Kensington to South Yarra via Parkville and the CBD, announcing $40 million funding to establish a new authority.
Construction of the $9 billion-$11 billion project is due to start in 2018, with a possible completion date of 2026, the government said.
The discussion panel also included Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris and Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton.
Mr Harris warned that while airport rail services in Australia have proven popular, they have also been economic failures in both Sydney and Brisbane.
Dr Morton said a rail link to Melbourne Airport regularly topped the wishlist when Melburnians were polled about the city's transport needs.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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