Airport rail link survives


Gerald Lynch

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is readying for takeoff after $5 billion of federal funding was reconfirmed last week.

However, exactly when the long-awaited link to the airport will be constructed remains unclear.

The federal government released its national infrastructure review on November 16, which looked at all infrastructure projects across the country proposed over the next decade.

Fifty projects lost funding, however none of those were in Hume or Whittlesea. Federal funding that survived the cull included $109.54 million for the Mickleham Road Upgrade, $50 million for the Hume Freeway – O’Herns Road Interchange Upgrade, and $250,000 for a Wollert Rail Feasibility Study.

Despite welcoming the federal commitment to funding the airport rail link, Premier Jacinta Allan wasn’t able to say when the project would start citing “incredibly frustrating” negotiations with Melbourne Airport as the reason for ongoing delays.

“The negotiations with the airport in terms of delivering the rail line and the station on airport land that is leased by the airport from the Commonwealth government, those negotiations have been frustrating,” she said.

“For three years we have been attempting to negotiate with the airport on how we can best deliver the rail line and the station in that airport footprint, and those negotiations have been incredibly frustrating.

“In welcoming the federal government’s commitment to the project, we also welcome the airport to see how we can best deliver this project on behalf of the Victorian community.”

A Melbourne Airport spokesperson said “Melbourne Airport Rail link is an important project, and important to get right”.

“Our preference has always been, and remains, for an underground station,” the spokesperson said.

“The airport station must be fit for purpose and future proof, to ensure that passengers are well served and so that neither the airport precinct or rail line are constrained as Melbourne continues to grow.

“Melbourne Airport remains ready to work with the state and federal governments to develop and deliver this project for Victoria.”

Hume mayor Naim Kurt said the link was vital to easy congestion and support employment.

“Hume City Council is pleased the Commonwealth government has re-committed to funding for the Airport Rail Link as we see it as crucial project for our local community, in terms of easing congestion and supporting employment,” he said.