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The state government may alter its election promise to build a $250 million train line to Avalon Airport, and instead create a cheaper ''light rail'' link from Melbourne's south-west.
The Coalition went to the 2010 state election pledging to build a direct train line linking Avalon to Melbourne and Geelong, and committed $50 million in the first term for design, planning, land acquisition, and preliminary construction.
But department documents show the government is now considering other options to meet interim demand, such as light rail, buses, or ''driverless transport options which are used at many airports around the world''.
Avalon chief executive Justin Giddings said he had discussed the light rail option with Transport Minister Terry Mulder.
His proposal would involve building a new station on the existing Melbourne-Geelong train line, between Lara and Little River, called Avalon Airport, and a new light rail that would take passengers to the terminal.
''People would jump on that train, get off at Avalon Airport, and the airport experience would actually begin there,'' Mr Giddings said. ''They'd check in, drop their bags off, have a coffee or whatever, and get their boarding pass. Then when they're ready, they'd get on to a light rail to the airport.''
The idea is modelled on international airports such as Changi in Singapore. But with transport shaping up as a key battleground in next year's Victorian election, any major policy shift could prove contentious for the Napthine government.
Before the 2010 election, then leader Ted Baillieu promised a ''direct'' rail link, which he said would ''allow passengers to travel from Melbourne, Geelong or even Warrnambool by train direct to Avalon Airport and will support the Coalition's plan for Avalon as Victoria's second international airport''.
Asked if the government stood by its original pledge for a direct heavy rail link to Avalon, Mr Mulder's spokeswoman Larissa Garvin said: ''Three preliminary route options have been identified and further work is now under way to understand the opportunities and constraints of each option. This work needs to be completed to inform future development - and costing - of the project.''
Opposition action transport spokesman Richard Wynne said the government ought to come clean on its plans.
However, Mr Giddings said he would not mind if the government reneged on its original promise because a light rail option would be cheaper, easier and quicker.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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