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A tunnel between the city and Sunshine could be built as part of the Andrews government's plan for an airport rail link.
Among a suite of massive upgrades to regional rail services, Labor has revealed it is considering building a tunnel between Southern Cross and an upgraded station in Sunshine, as part of the multi-billion dollar airport rail link.
Sunshine station could become a "super hub" that would link to the CBD via a tunnel, according to documents released by the government on Tuesday morning.
"Work is needed to identify options to increase rail capacity between a future Airport Rail Link and Sunshine Super Hub and the city, including a possible new rail tunnel from Sunshine to the CBD," the document states.
It's part of the government's new Western Rail Plan - a major regional rail overhaul pitched five weeks ahead of the state election.
Train trips from Geelong could take only 35 minutes to Melbourne and less than an hour from Ballarat under the plan that would see V/Line trains travel as fast as 250km/h - up from 160km/h.
Premier Daniel Andrews on board a new VLocity train in Dandenong on Monday.CREDIT:SIMON SCHLUTER
Construction of the fast rail would start by 2022 and take about a decade to complete.
A new train fleet may be required to deliver the project with diesel trains unable to run through tunnels.
Premier Daniel Andrews said $150 million would be spent to plan the separation of V/Line and Metro tracks by building an electrified line from the city to Wyndham Vale and Melton.
The government is aiming to untangle the regional and metropolitan rail lines in Melbourne’s west, following calls from transport planners and public transport advocates.
It would mean that instead of V/Line trains sharing track with city trains and being slowed down as a result, the services would run from the city to Wyndham Vale and Melton, along separate Metro tracks.
The government is also considering electrifying the entire stretch of existing V/Line track from the city to Geelong and Ballarat, enabling fast, express services.
New electric regional trains would replace V/Line's diesel trains along these routes.
New track would also be built between Sunshine and the CBD to run extra services, most likely through a new rail tunnel, the government documents show.
This would be used for metro, regional and airport-bound trains, and would be built as part of the $8-$13 billion airport rail link.
The Premier has previously said airport rail would not require forcible acquisitions of homes or businesses, because it would use existing rail corridors.
This was one of the reasons why a route to Sunshine was favoured, he said.
A "potential" new rail link between Wyndham Vale and Werribee is also being considered as part of the Labor plan.
This would potentially form the western section of the $50 billion suburban rail loop – a 90-kilometre rail link through Melbourne's middle suburbs.
Previous plans for the suburban loop showed the western section linking Sunshine and Werribee.
It's expected that the whole project would be built in stages, over the course of a decade.
Work on the full business case would start next year and is expected to finish by 2019 or 2020.
Mr Andrews said the growth of Melbourne’s western suburbs meant the network needed an overhaul.
“This plan will deliver the transformation that our state needs – electrification of rail lines out to the west, and fast rail to Geelong and Ballarat, returning country rail to country communities," he said.
“Only Labor can be trusted to build the regional public transport we need for the future – taking cars off the road, reducing travel times and getting you home safer and sooner.”
Regional commuters will get more seating on the new and revamped V/Line trains, but the extra seats will replace a toilet, and space to park your bicycle and stow luggage. The first new regional train will be on the network by November 1 under the $313 million program that will see 13 trains progressively rolled out on the busiest lines.
It adds to other major rail announcements under Labor, which include a $50 billion suburban rail loop and the $8-$13 billion airport rail link.
It follows a $19 billion regional rail plan announced by the Coalition that would see nearly all of V/Line's track rebuilt to enable 200km/h services, including express runs to Geelong.
Patronage has increased on the regional network almost two-fold over the past decade, the government's document state.
Similar growth is forecast over the next 10 years.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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