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A coalition of community leaders are making a last-ditch effort to persuade the state and federal governments that Melbourne’s long-awaited airport rail link needs a tunnel for fast and easy travel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Daniel Andrews have received a letter signed by 19 groups — including councils, regional bodies and tourism associations — urging them to make 2020 “the year of action on an airport rail link that benefits all Victorians”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Daniel Andrews’ governments have each pledged $5 billion to the project. Picture: Mark StewartBoth governments have $5 billion on the table for the project, while a consortium including Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains and Southern Cross station is offering another $5 billion for a link featuring a tunnel between the CBD and Sunshine.
But the Herald Sun understands the federal government is leaning towards accepting the state government’s preferred option, which would see the link use existing above-ground tracks to Sunshine.
Commuters would then have to change trains to reach the airport, as the Victoria wants to include airport rail in its ambitious Suburban Rail Loop, which will use its own fleet of trains.
Mr Andrews and Mr Morrison held talks about the project in December but the bushfire crisis delayed a final decision on the design.
The letter, obtained by the Herald Sun, says the groups represent 3600 organisations across the tourism, transport, business, education and community sectors.
It argues the project requires a tunnel to Sunshine to relieve congestion on metro tracks and enable improved regional rail services, while giving travellers a 20-minute route to Tullamarine.
The airport rail link project is expected to transform the way travellers get to and from Tullamarine. Picture: Tony Gough“Should the Victorian or federal governments be considering an alternate solution that delivers the key elements of the project … we are keen to hear about them as soon as possible,” the letter said.
A state government spokeswoman said every option on the table would stop at Sunshine and provide “connections to Victoria’s major regional rail lines — Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo”.
“We continue to work closely with the federal government on the best design for airport rail — that will get people to and from the airport quickly with minimal interchanges,” she said.
The coalition — including the committees for Melbourne, Shepparton, Ballarat and Wyndham, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council and six local councils — argue a public-private partnership is the best way to deliver the project.
But it is understood some in the state government have been concerned about the cost of the tunnel, and giving the private consortium the right to charge for access to the new tracks.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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