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Federal Nationals MP Damian Drum is pushing the Morrison government to force Victoria to build a rail tunnel into the Melbourne CBD as part of an airport link, saying it would be "short sighted" not to build a tunnel as proposed by a superannuation consortium.
The Victorian and federal governments are likely to reject the multibillion-dollar proposal to build the link using a tunnel between Sunshine and the city in favour of a cheaper option using existing rail lines. The proposal from the AirRail consortium is being led by IFM Investors, which offered $7 billion as part of its proposal. The federal and state governments are funding $5 billion each for the airport rail project.
Nationals MP Damian Drum.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
"I think it's ideology on [the Victorian government's] behalf," Mr Drum said, referring to the choice not to favour a tunnel built by the private consortium.
"I am still working as hard as I can to get the federal government to force the Victorian government into building a designated rail tunnel into the CBD," he said.
After discussions with IFM Investors and rail think-tank Rail Futures Institute, the member for Nicholls said he believed turning away from the tunnel would disadvantage those in Shepparton, Wangaratta and Albury/Wodonga and limit growth in Ballarat and Bendigo.
He criticised options without a tunnel as "short sighted" and said they were likely to "seriously damage" the services available for those in the west.
While Victorian government sources said the state wanted greater control of an airport link that involved the suburban rail network connecting up with the existing Metro Tunnel, IFM claims it has written to the Victorian government to provide a guarantee state authorities would have control.
Mr Drum is particularly concerned servicing the lines across Sunbury, Melton, Dandenong and Cranbourne/Pakenham would already use the full capacity of the Metro Tunnel when construction completes and, if this first stage of tunnels was used as part of the airport link, services to the western suburbs would be significantly affected. A decision is yet to be announced by the state and federal governments.
A Victorian government spokeswoman said the state was working well with the federal government in reaching a solution on airport rail.
"We continue to work collaboratively with the Commonwealth government on airport rail options - and we have no announcements to make."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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