A CONSORTIUM bidding to build the Melbourne Airport rail link has promised to shave up to one hour off the train trip from Bendigo to the airport for the same price for passengers.
AirRail Melbourne consortium released its plans this week and promised to add another $5 billion to the $10 billion from the state and federal governments in order to create improved connections to the regions and Melbourne’s west.
The plan involves a “super hub” at Sunshine station and twin rail tunnels between Sunshine and Southern Cross, potentially removing the bottleneck that regional trains encounter in Melbourne.
The consortium is backed by the superannuation fund IFM Investors, Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains and Southern Cross Station.
Project leader Danny Elia said they had modelled the travel time for Bendigo and believed it would be significantly faster than current times.
“We’re bringing $5 billion and saying that it shouldn’t just be savings, but go and spend it on connecting the regions to the west,” he said.
“For Bendigo, compared with other public transport at the moment, for no more cost, it will get to the airport at least 40 minutes faster.
“If you’re coming in a peak time, you’ll save an hour.”
The plan includes lifting the capacity of the line to 22 trains per hour, with six to travel to the airport. That leaves 16 other trains per hour, which Mr Elia said should remove the bottleneck issue and allow for faster regional trains to travel to Melbourne.
“The most exciting part for regional users is the 27-kilometre rail corridor. Airport trains will only use one-third of that,” he said.
“With 16 train paths available, if the government does anything down the track to improve the speed of regional trains, we’ve already removed that bottleneck for them.”
There is also future capacity to link the airport line to the north.
The AirRail consortium promised $20 one-way tickets, but was open to different pricing strategies, particularly given regional passengers will only travel on the line from Sunshine to the airport.
It was the first private sector proposal to be announced just days after the government started its registration of interest process last week.
The state government will now analyse the plan, and more proposals are expected to come forward.
Premier Daniel Andrew said it would be considered “line by line”, but the government was keen to ensure the Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong lines would benefit from the airport rail link.
“This is not just building a link between Southern Cross and Melbourne Airport, this is also about further electrification into the western part of our city and that means that you can properly separate regional and metropolitan services,” he said.
Rail group calls for more detail and to avoid airport ‘terminus’
The Rail Revival Alliance says more detail is needed about where the extra tracks would be built, but it was concerned about plans to use Melbourne Airport as a terminus rather than part of a link.
Group spokesperson Scott Ramsay said having a dedicated line from Southern Cross to the airport was not the most effective option.
“To invest in trains that are just for the link that cannot head to other destinations is a waste of resources and that people cannot complete their journey on one train that they have to change trains to get on the airport link,” he said.
“The airport link must be integrated into the existing system for it to be effective.
“A standalone airport link is designed purely for the private investors and consortium who want to construct the airport rail link and again the commuters and general public are the least considered with the airport plan.”
The consortium promised to have the link complete by 2028, with construction to start in 2020.
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