A private consortium has made a pitch to build the proposed $15 billion rail link between the Melbourne CBD and Tullamarine airport.
The group, called AirRail Melbourne, said on Sunday it would contribute $5 billion to building the airport rail link, matching the funding commitments of both the Victorian and federal governments towards the project.
The consortium comprises fund manager IFM Investors, Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains Australia (the operator of Melbourne’s metropolitan rail network) and Southern Cross Station, which is owned, operated and maintained by IFM under a public-private partnership with the Victorian government.
“With the operators of both Melbourne Airport and Southern Cross Station in the consortium, and experience in international airport rail links, AirRail Melbourne is uniquely placed to accelerate the delivery of this city-shaping project for the benefit of all Victorians and visitors to the state,” AirRail said in a statement.
The “Super Train” proposal features services departing Southern Cross Station in Melbourne’s CBD every 10 minutes during peak times and operating 24 hours a day. (Melbourne Airport does not have a curfew so flights depart and arrive at all hours.)
One-way tickets would be “less than $20 in today’s prices”.
Travel time from the proposed new underground rail station at the airport to the city would be 20 minutes.
VIDEO: A promotional video from the AirRail YouTube channel on its proposed rail link to Melbourne Tullamarine.
Metro Trains Australia acting managing director Leah Waymark said the Melbourne Airport rail link was an “essential part of an interconnected public transport service for our growing international city”.
IFM Investors chief executive Brett Himbury said the proposal “represents a significant opportunity for seven million Australians to invest in a nation-building project through their superannuation funds”.
“A partnership between the Victorian and Commonwealth governments demonstrates the universal support for this essential project which has transformed talk of a Melbourne Airport Rail Link into a viable project that drives productivity for the nation,” Himbury said.
Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said the rail link would ensure the surrounding infrastructure kept pace with Tullamarine’s projected growth over the next two decades.
“As we expand our runways and terminal facilities we also need world-class linkages between the airport, city and regional Victoria,” Strambi said in a statement.
“Our vision is for a seamless passenger experience at the airport, properly integrated between the train carriage and the terminal.”
In July, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said his government, if re-elected, would match Canberra’s commitment of $5 billion towards the construction of the rail link.
The State Government also at the time announced its preferred route was from Southern Cross Station to Tullamarine via a new rail hub in Sunshine, which would provide greater access to the airport for regional travellers.
This would connect regional and metropolitan train lines, including the city’s proposed Metro Tunnel project, to the new airport link.
In addition to new train tracks to support the airport rail link, the 27km route would also involve the use of tunnels to protect existing homes and businesses.
Further, Premier Andrews’ statement said Rail Projects Victoria was expected to complete a full business case in 2019.
The 2018/19 federal budget handed down in May noted the Commonwealth planned to fund the establishment of a train link between the Melbourne CBD and Tullamarine airport “up to $5 billion”.
However, there was no budget allocation committed for the next four years, with the budget papers noting “specific funding arrangements, including an option for equity investment, [would] be settled at a later date and with an equivalent contribution to be provided by the Victorian Government”.
The AirRail consortium said it would be ready to start work by 2020, two years earlier than currently planned.
Australian Airports Association (AAA) chief executive Caroline Wilkie welcomed the AirRail proposal.
“The AAA is delighted to see the private sector seeking to contribute to this transformational project,” Wilkie said in a statement.
VIDEO: A look at the rail route from the Melbourne CBD to Tullamarine airport from the Victorian government’s Rail Projects Victoria YouTube channel.