Diverting Bendigo line via Melbourne Airport to be considered in airport rail link plan

A DIRECT connection to Melbourne Airport on the Bendigo line will be considered as part of the state government’s plan to provide a long-awaited rail connection to Tullamarine.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands that diverting the Bendigo line to the airport would be among the options considered as part of the plan.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday that construction of a rail link between Southern Cross Station and Tullamarine would begin by the completion of the Metro Tunnel in 2026. The state and federal governments committed $30 million to a planning study for the airport connection.

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said it would not just be a connection for suburban travellers, but would incorporate regional lines.

“We believe the airport rail link has the potential to unlock western and northern Victoria - and we will look at all options to achieve this,” she said.

The state government will investigate how the airport connection can be used to “dramatically boost” the speed and frequency of regional train lines, and increase services in the western suburbs.

The planning will include detailed technical, urban planning and environmental studies as well as community and stakeholder engagement.

The government expects the airport rail link will be complete in stages over the next 15 to 20 years.

Rail Futures Institute secretary Bill Russell said the best way for the Bendigo line to operate would be to divert it from Clarkefield to the airport, meaning it avoids the busy suburban line to Sunbury.

It could then connect to a tunnel to Southern Cross, he said.

In March, Mr Russell called on the state government to divert the Bendigo line via the Melbourne Airport as the next major project after the completion of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.

At the time he predicted the project could begin in eight to 10 years.

Mr Russell said the time frame was necessary given the scale of the project.

“I think the time frame mentioned by the Premier is appropriate, this isn’t something that can be done overnight,” he said.

“Segregation between suburban and regional trains is essential.

“I believe a very important element is a new tunnel from Southern Cross so these lines get uninterrupted runs with a connection around Clarkefield. Later, in the 2030s perhaps, we’d see a similar sweep across to Wallan.”

Shadow minister for public transport David Davis described the announcement as a “media stunt”.