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THE list of transport projects which Victoria urgently needs takes no guess work — it’s no secret.
We’ve had countless reports from state and national infrastructure bodies and reports from government bureaucracies tallying infrastructure projects to get the city moving again.
A train link connecting the CBD with Melbourne Airport is a perennial inclusion.
Melbourne, one of the 50 busiest airports in the world, is the only major capital on that list without a direct rail link or one which is formally slated to be built.
The Herald Sun revealed last week the May federal Budget includes $1 billion from the Commonwealth in partnership funding, part of which will help finally get that vital link between a growing city and its booming airport underway.
Tullamarine Freeway widening is now being constructed, but at best will provide only stopgap relief — not resolve the logjam that confronts motorists.
A 30-year blueprint from Infrastructure Victoria released last year again nominated an airport rail link as required — but promotes an expanded public bus service as an interim option. The recommended rail link should be rolled out in 15 to 30 years, the IV report states.
We cannot wait that long.
Melbourne currently has a population of 4.6 million people and is growing about 100,000 per annum.
In 2046 — 30 years from now — we are projected to have ballooned to a crushing 7.4 million people.
Victoria must move faster on an airport rail link.Politicians have decided to open the gates to huge levels of migration — professional, residential and student, on top of humanitarian and family unification intakes. While these runaway population increases have hit Melbourne, Victorians have sat angry and idle in traffic for too long as state and federal governments failed to get together to provide the necessary infrastructure to carry the load.
The Andrews Government needs to bury the funding hatchet (but continue valid GST arguments with Canberra) and take the infrastructure cash offered in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s budget.
The Turnbull Government knows it needs to respond to genuine complaints that Victoria has been missing out on its share of infrastructure money.
The $1 billion now on the table provides some resolution to the arm wrestle over asset recycling money for the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne.
While Premier Daniel Andrews has said the Melbourne Airport rail link would go ahead when the business case “stacks up”, we already know the economic benefit has been assessed as a $1.60 return for every dollar spent.
The $10.9 billion Melbourne Metro rail project, due for completion in 2026, is a key connector to feed into airport rail.
But we need to get going in five to 10 years with airport rail and build in tandem with Metro. No doubt there are engineering challenges but there is no reason why both projects should not open simultaneously.
During an extended period of low interest rates and about $2 trillion in infrastructure superannuation funds seeking projects, now is the time (in fact past time) to get ahead with major projects.
Premier Andrews gets a tick for $2.4 billion in level crossing removals, Melbourne Metro and the Western Distributor plan (despite the clanger decision on East West).
But Victoria must move faster.
The $10.9 billion Melbourne Metro rail project is a key connector to feed into airport rail. Picture: Eugene Hyland
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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