Melbourne is finally going to get a rail link to the airport

Melbourne. Photo: Paul Jeffers/Getty Images.

Melbourne’s expensive taxi rides from the CBD to Tullamarine could finally be over by 2030 with Victorian premier Daniel Andrews saying work on a rail link to the airport will be underway within a decade.

Speaking to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Geelong today, Andrews said he also wants to build a high-speed rail link that would reduce the commute between Melbourne and Geelong to less than 40 minutes.

With work on the $11 billion Metro rail tunnel, which Andrews labelled “Australia’s biggest-ever transport project” currently underway and due for completion in 2026, the premier said “construction work will be well underway on an airport rail link” when the Metro project opens.

The announcement will end a 70-year wait since the idea was first floated, with the federal government pledging $30 million towards planning and the state $10 million. The analysis will also look at electrifying the existing V/Line diesel trains in the area to Wyndham Vale and Melton as part of the broader Metro rail network.

“It can’t just funnel tourists and business people between the CBD and the airport,” Andrews told the VCCI gathering.

“It needs to be much more – and it can be. It can transform the way people live, work, and travel right across Victoria. In our view, the airport rail link has the potential to unlock Western and Northern Victoria.

“It can create the extra capacity that we need in the congested rail corridor between Melbourne and Sunshine.”

Andrews also announced plans to “untangle the regional and metropolitan network on the Geelong and Ballarat lines” with high-speed rail.

“Right now, the idea of high speed rail is nothing more than a pipe dream. The jumbled network of regional and metropolitan train lines in Melbourne’s west mean it just can’t be done,” he said.

But by separating metro lines from regional ones and using the airport rail link to create capacity on the rest of the network, that dream becomes a reality.

“Beginning with Geelong, and then Ballarat our plan will look at how to deliver real, high-speed rail to connect Victoria.

“Imagine travelling from Geelong to Melbourne in under 40 minutes. It would change the way people work and live. And it would change the face of our state forever.

The premier offered no time frame for the idea, or a deadline for when the airport line’s completion, but with the government facing an election next year, an answer to the long-running complaint about an airport link will be a popular promise with voters. Andrews will announce more details on the project next year.

The former Liberal government of Dennis Napthine previously pledged to build the airport link before losing to Andrews in 2014.

But the other challenge for the government will be price. Sydney’s privately built airport rail link, currently costs passengers $18 each and children $14.50, making a train ride to the city nearly twice the cost of a taxi for a family of four.

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