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OPPOSITION Leader Bill Shorten has heaped pressure on Premier Daniel Andrews to commit to building an airport rail link, describing the long-awaited project as a “no-brainer”.
The Labor leader has offered to work with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on developing a preferred route for the train to Tullamarine after the Herald Sun revealed funding for the project would be included in the upcoming federal Budget.
No agreement has been reached between the state and federal governments but Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan welcomed the money and said she wanted to get “work started right now” on a business case.
“We absolutely welcome the Commonwealth’s interest in this and want to work with them to advance the business case to get cracking on this,” Ms Allan said.
Mr Turnbull refused to reveal details of the Budget investment but said a train line to the airport would be “a very good thing” for Melbourne.
“It’s always been something that has been seen as an omission in Melbourne, not to have a rail line out to the airport,” he told 3AW.
Mr Shorten told the Herald Sun he wanted to work with Mr Turnbull to “look at possible paths” for the rail line which he said “we should be seriously looking at”.
The support of both federal leaders means the project appears to be finally on track, given the Federal Government will have to be involved in the rail line’s construction because it controls Melbourne Airport.
Melbourne airport has warned that without action the Tullamarine Freeway will be gridlocked within a decade. Picture: Nicole GarmstonThe Herald Sun understands the Federal Government believes the train link can be delivered in a minimum of five years, despite calls from Infrastructure Victoria to build the line within the next 15 to 30 years.
Ms Allan said it was time to investigate potential routes and costs but would not reveal the State Government’s preferred timeline for the project, saying it would take “many, many years ... even if it was started tomorrow”.
She said $10.9 billion Metro Tunnel needed to be built first to relieve the “significant bottleneck” in Melbourne’s train system and create the capacity to run more services.
Ms Allan and Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester have been meeting regularly in recent months to negotiate an agreement on infrastructure projects, funded by money owed to Victoria from the federal asset recycling fund for the sale of the Port of Melbourne.
The Herald Sun revealed yesterday that next month’s federal Budget would include a Victorian infrastructure package worth more than $1 billion, which will also include passenger rail upgrades in regional areas.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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