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The Morrison government is considering ditching an airport rail tunnel in favour of a state government plan for an above-ground track in order to get the multibillion-dollar project done.
Sources close to the project said the Morrison government still wants to build a tunnel to Sunshine as part of the city's new airport rail link but is open to the state government's plan for a cheaper option.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speak to media about the airport rail link at Sunshine train station. CREDIT:STEFAN POSTLES
Under the Andrews government's alternative proposal, airport trains would run along a new surface-level branch line between Tullamarine Airport and Sunshine, before moving onto existing tracks into the city, via the new Metro Tunnel.
The Rail Futures Institute has warned that without a new six-kilometre tunnel, airport trains would be jammed in with metro and regional trains on congested tracks and plans for high-speed regional services would be delayed.
But the sources say the Morrison government is considering abandoning a rail tunnel, even though Prime Minister Scott Morrison, federal Cities Minister Alan Tudge and Victorian senator Sarah Henderson have recently called for a dedicated tunnel to Tullamarine.
The federal government is softening its position to avoid delaying the major infrastructure project which is popular with voters, the sources said.
A spokesman for Mr Tudge said the federal government was "working constructively with the Victorian government on the design of the Melbourne airport rail link".
"Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers," the spokesman said.
"We want to see the Melbourne airport rail link built as soon as possible.”
A Victorian government spokeswoman said Premier Daniel Andrews had a "productive discussion" with Mr Morrison in Melbourne on Thursday, and would "continue to work closely with the federal government on the best design for airport rail".
Ditching a rail tunnel would effectively reject a market-led proposal to build the tunnel, put forward by the AirRail consortium led by super fund giant IFM Investors.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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