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Edward Meagher was transport minister in 1965 when he made a radical prediction about the new jet plane era.
Long travel times between the city and the soon-to-be-built airport in the northwestern suburb of Tullamarine would pose the "biggest problem for the air age", the member for Mentone told State Parliament.
Melbourne Airport just after it was built, July 13, 1970.CREDIT:COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
The Liberal MP understood earlier than most that without a rail line, traffic congestion would hinder access to the airport. A rail line would provide "fast, cheap and convenient access", he said, five years before the airport was built.
Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the opening of Melbourne Airport and while lanes on the Tullamarine Freeway have jumped from four to 11 at its widest – making it one of Australia’s busiest freeways – Melbourne is still without an airport rail link.
Broken election promises, fruitless feasibility studies and vested interests have stalled the project, making it a common gripe for many Melburnians. Sydney and Brisbane have one, the complaint goes, so why don’t we?
The answer to this question should soon change. After months of negotiations, lobbying and the odd disagreement, the state and federal governments are on the cusp of announcing their preferred design for airport rail. Each are offering to spend $5 billion on the project.
Sources familiar with negotiations expect the governments to back a new, above-ground line between the airport and Sunshine, 12km west of the CBD. Trains would then run along existing tracks to the city via the new Metro Tunnel. This option would kill off a proposal from superannuation giant IFM Investors to build, fund and operate a $7 billion tunnel between the city and Sunshine, allowing fast express airport services on dedicated tracks.
The politicians might be opting for a cheaper build, but they’re coming closer than their predecessors to sending a train to Tulla.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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