AUSTRALIA: Development of the long-planned rail link to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport is set to move forward following the signing of Heads of Agreement between the federal government and the state of Victoria on March 13.
Announced jointly by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, the agreement sets out strategic objectives for the project, along with the governance arrangements and information sharing processes.
Pointing out that ‘Melbourne is truly a global city that deserves world-class infrastructure’, Morrison said the people of Melbourne and Victoria ‘had been waiting far too long for the rail link to become a reality’. He reiterated that the government had committed its A$5bn share of the investment as part of the last federal budget. This has been matched by a similar commitment from the state.
The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is provisionally costed at between A$8bn and A$13bn. Construction is expected to start in 2022 and take around nine years. The new line would run southwest from the airport to join the existing suburban network near Sunshine, where interchange will be provided with regional services to Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The Airport line would then continue via Footscray to enter the city from the northwest, connecting with the cross-city Metro Tunnel now under construction. It would also be linked to the planned orbital Suburban Rail Loop, providing access to the city’s northern, eastern and southeastern suburbs.
Detailed planning and development is currently underway, and a project team is to be established to develop the business case, which is due to be finalised next year. Rail Projects Victoria has already engaged technical and commercial advisors and commissioned geotechnical investigations.
According to Victoria’s Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan, early market engagement attracted more than 100 submissions, and further market sounding will be undertaken to assess the potential for private-sector involvement, including equity partners and other financing arrangements.
With Melbourne’s population growing rapidly, traffic through the airport is projected to increase from 35 million passengers in 2016-17 to more than 67 million by 2038. Construction of MARL would help to relieve the Tullamarine Freeway and increase transport capacity for the northwestern suburbs, explained federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure & Population Alan Tudge.