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That long-awaited rail link to Melbourne Airport is a massive step closer.
The fancied line is getting $5 billion in next month's federal budget from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
But like so many infrastructure projects in Victoria, a fight looms between Canberra and Spring Street about how and where to build the line.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is demanding Premier Daniel Andrews — who has previously said construction would be underway before 2025 — to match the Commonwealth's $5 billion commitment.
That request has not been met yet, but the Andrews Government have been quietly working with Canberra bureaucrats to develop a report on how much it may cost, what the best route may be and then how to build it.
That work is due in September.
So, the good news for Victorians is that finally, after initial talk in the 1960s, there should be an operational rail link to the airport sometime in the next decade.
Where should the train go?Last November Mr Andrews declared that construction on a rail link would be underway by the time Melbourne Metro was finished in 2025.
His speech to a business forum was light on detail but in it he outlined how his Government wanted to use the rail link project to better connect the metropolitan network with faster services to the bush.
A new major hub station in Melbourne's north-west and fast trains to Geelong were top of the list.
Of Mr Turnbull's four options released on Thursday morning, based on options discussed by Public Transport Victoria from 2012, only one gives scope for the fast trains to Geelong and the regions.
Those routes need to be updated and Mr Turnbull said he had no doubt there would be variations on those released.
But two of those do go through the old defence site at Maribyrnong in the inner west, where a new suburb has been mooted.
The Federal Government owns the land and has spruiked the opportunities there.
When asked on 3AW if the project would be killed if the governments failed to reach an agreement on a route, Mr Turnbull said:
"I'm sure we'll reach agreement. I mean … this sort of defeatism and negativity is what has stopped projects like this getting ahead."
Not Canberra's first interest in the rail lineThe $5 billion is not the Prime Minister's first crack at the airport rail link. His Government allocated $30 million in its last budget for planning and development.
Constant fighting over other infrastructure projects like the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and East West Link saw Victoria decide to "go it alone" and fund the Metro project itself, goading Mr Turnbull along the way for not stumping up money for the airport train despite being a self-declared lover of public transport.
The Prime Minister's major cash splash kicks the project along in a big way and will also go some way to putting to bed attacks that his Government has duded Victoria on federal infrastructure funding.
The calls have come loudest from the Andrews Government, who have highlighted the state receives less than 10 per cent of the federal infrastructure pie despite representing a quarter of the nation.
Victorian Liberals at a state and federal level have been privately and more recently publicly calling for more money, where the Labor Party have consistently held a two-party preferred lead over Mr Turnbull in published polls.
It is a state where the sledge "the Prime Minister for Sydney" was gaining traction.
When can I catch the train to my holiday?The mere mention of an airport rail link always stimulates talk of why it has not been built before, and for punters sitting in traffic panicked about missing a flight an opportunity to dream of a better way.
And despite the fresh round of enthusiasm from experts and voters alike, this project is a long way away.
Mr Turnbull will not be in office when it opens, neither will Mr Andrews — if they are, things really would have changed in politics.
After initial talk of construction starting in 2020, Mr Turnbull said that date was "ambitious" but it would begin not long after.
Victorian sources believe a more realistic timeline is sometime around the next state election in 2022.
This would give whoever wins November's vote a major project to oversee.
That timeline is based on just how long it takes to develop a comprehensive business case, get planning approvals, create a reference design and hold a competitive tender.
Victoria, and its visitors, is hoping the project will be worth the wait.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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