Airport rail stuck in its tracks

Proposed image of the above ground station. (supplied)

By Gerald Lynch

Premier Jacinta Allan has de-railed hopes of a Melbourne Airport rail by the end of the decade, despite the airport agreeing to an above ground station.

Ms Allan said the four-year delay that was initially flagged during the state government’s budget announcement in May would stand, with completion of the project not to be until at least 2033.

“With delay does come cost and so this will be something that the Commonwealth government will need to work through with its project partners,” she said.

“Our appetite was there some years ago to get this project done by 2029. And that was based on the best advice from our experts and engineers on how we could get this project delivered as quickly as possible.

“That was always our stated aim. But that was back in 2019 and since then we have seen … ongoing, frustrating delays brought about by the airport’s refusal to acknowledge that an above-ground station is a fantastic outcome.”

On Monday, Melbourne Airport chief executive Lorie Argus said the airport recognised the need to get on with the rail link in the interests of travellers, the city, Victoria and the airport’s third runway expansion.

“Victorians have waited long enough for an airport rail line,” she said. “We will work with the Victorian government to deliver their preferred above-ground station at the airport so the rail line can become reality.

“With an estimated 45 million travellers a year predicted to be using our airport when the third runway opens, the rail link will support a massive increase in passenger numbers and billions of dollars in additional economic activity for Victoria.

“While Melbourne Airport has consistently advocated for an underground station, we are prepared to compromise on our position to ensure we have more transport options in place for the millions of new passengers that will visit Victoria and the airport precinct’s expanding workforce.

Melbourne Airport will spend about $3 billion building another north-south runway by 2042.

The development plan for the third runway is currently waiting on the federal government for approval.

Brimbank mayor Ranka Rasic was pleased by the airport’s decision, and hoped to see works begin as soon as possible.

“The next step recommended by the mediator is to start ‘no regrets’ work on the Sunshine Precinct. Not only is this a critical part of the Melbourne Airport Rail, but it’s also going to start to deliver benefits for residents, bringing people and jobs to the west,” she said.

“This year the Victorian Government set ambitious targets for housing in each Local Government Area. It’s hard to see how we can achieve those targets without critical government investment in the development of the Sunshine Precinct and the nearby Albion Quarter. We can’t afford any more delays.”