CBD to air­port, di­rect

Air­port link to cre­ate cap­i­tal of the west

Herald Sun - - FRONT PAGE - EX­CLU­SIVE TOM MIN­EAR, KIERAN ROONEY AND ELLEN WHINNETT

MELBOURNE’S air­port rail link will take com­muters di­rectly to and from Tul­la­ma­rine to the CBD, re­gard­less of which de­sign is cho­sen for the long-awaited project.

The Her­ald Sun can re­veal the state gov­ern­ment’s pre­ferred op­tion — mov­ing air­port pas­sen­gers through the Metro Tun­nel — al­lows trav­ellers to avoid chang­ing trains on their jour­ney.

That op­tion will also en­able air­port trains ev­ery 10 min­utes.

Some air­port trains would stop only at the pro­posed new Sun­shine rail hub, while oth­ers would likely stop at in­ner west subur­ban sta­tions.

A de­ci­sion on the de­sign is im­mi­nent, with the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments also con­sid­er­ing a pri­vate sec­tor offer fea­tur­ing a new 6km tun­nel from West Footscray to South­ern Cross sta­tion.

This pro­posal — backed by a $7 bil­lion in­vest­ment from a con­sor­tium in­clud­ing Metro Trains and Melbourne Air­port — also of­fers di­rect ser­vices ev­ery 10 min­utes.

The Her­ald Sun can re­veal this op­tion has been costed at $11.5 bil­lion, in­clud­ing $6.5 bil­lion for the tun­nel and $1.2 bil­lion to re­de­velop Sun­shine sta­tion.

But the gov­ern­ment has put the cost at be­tween $14 bil­lion and $20 bil­lion.

Sources close to the de­lib­er­a­tions say some gov­ern­ment bureau­crats found the pri­vate sec­tor pro­posal was unique and rep­re­sented value for money — two key cri­te­ria for it to be ap­proved.

But the state gov­ern­ment has been con­cerned about the con­sor­tium — which is bankrolled by su­per fund gi­ant IFM In­vestors — own­ing the tun­nel and charg­ing ac­cess to other rail ser­vices.

The Her­ald Sun un­der­stands the con­sor­tium has re­jected over­tures to ditch the tun­nel and change its pro­posal.

Hav­ing spent $40 mil­lion on its bid, it main­tains the tun­nel is the most ef­fec­tive solution, and has of­fered to take on the risk of the un­der­ground build — an­other key is­sue given the prob­lems grip­ping con­struc­tion of the West Gate and Metro tun­nels.

Af­ter months of talks, the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments are close to lock­ing in the fi­nal de­sign of the project, to which each has com­mit­ted $5 bil­lion.

If the con­sor­tium’s offer is re­jected, a key stick­ing point will be how to cre­ate ex­tra track ca­pac­ity through Melbourne’s west to im­prove ser­vices to a growth cor­ri­dor and de­liver fast rail to Gee­long.

This could see a sec­ond Metro Tun­nel — tak­ing trains through Wer­ribee and then un­der the CBD via New­port, Fish­er­mans Bend and Clifton Hill — as a po­ten­tial solution.

T

HE air­port rail project is ex­pected to turn Sun­shine into “the cap­i­tal of Melbourne’s west”, creat­ing a ma­jor trans­port hub that sup­ports of thou­sands of new jobs.

All op­tions for the lon­gawaited link will run through Sun­shine, af­ter the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments de­cided in 2018 to re­ject routes run­ning through Maribyrnon­g, Flem­ing­ton and Craigiebur­n.

Last year, Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son and Premier Daniel An­drews signed an agree­ment that paved the way for con­struc­tion to be­gin in 2022, but the ex­act route is yet to be de­cided, with, it’s be­lieved, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pre­fer­ring a tun­nel from the CBD to Sun­shine and the state gov­ern­ment opt­ing for ex­ist­ing above-ground tracks.

Ei­ther way, it means Sun­shine sta­tion will be over­hauled to cater for com­muters trav­el­ling to and from the air­port and serve as a hub for regional ser­vices out to Gee­long, Bal­larat and Bendigo.

Gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments show Sun­shine — just 11km from the CBD — is seen to offer “sig­nif­i­cant value cap­ture and creation op­por­tu­ni­ties” for de­vel­op­ment around the sta­tion.

And Brim­bank Mayor Ge­orgina Pa­pafo­tiou told the Her­ald Sun there had al­ready been a “sig­nif­i­cant in­crease” in in­ter­est from de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors want­ing to build com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial tow­ers, ho­tels and en­ter­tain­ment com­plexes.

“Our vi­sion is that by 2050, Sun­shine will be recog­nised as the cap­i­tal of Melbourne’s west,” she said.

“This land­mark project will rein­vent Brim­bank as a thriv­ing eco­nomic cen­tre — un­lock­ing jobs now and for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, re-es­tab­lish­ing Brim­bank as an em­ploy­ment epi­cen­tre for Melbourne and Vic­to­ria’s west.”

The Metro Tun­nel, due to open in 2025, will put Sun­shine on a di­rect line all the way from Sun­bury to Cran­bourne and Pak­en­ham.

The state gov­ern­ment also wants to in­clude Sun­shine in the Subur­ban Rail Loop, pro­vid­ing an­other link to the north­ern and eastern suburbs.

Sun­shine has al­ready been des­ig­nated as a na­tional em­ploy­ment and in­no­va­tion clus­ter, with a fo­cus on pro­vid­ing healthcare, education and other gov­ern­ment ser­vices to the boom­ing growth cor­ri­dor around Mel­ton, Sun­bury and Wyndham.

The Her­ald Sun re­vealed last year that for­mer premier Steve Bracks was leading the West of Melbourne Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Al­liance’s ef­forts to in­vig­o­rate the area, with a vi­sion of creat­ing

50,000 jobs. The al­liance’s plan for Sun­shine in­cluded a new sports sta­dium, a sec­ond home for the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria and tram links to Footscray, Deer Park, Al­tona and Moonee Ponds.

Mr Bracks also called for gov­ern­ment ser­vices to be shifted from the CBD to a new courts and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion hub in Sun­shine, creat­ing 8000 jobs.

The al­liance’s plan fore­cast 15,000 jobs could be cre­ated in healthcare, in­clud­ing a new med­i­cal re­search precinct, and an­other 15,000 in man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion with training and skills fa­cil­i­ties.

Cr Pa­pafo­tiou said the council was call­ing for a new work­ing group to bring to­gether em­ploy­ers and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to plan for that em­ploy­ment growth.

“Council is ready, able and will­ing to help at­tract and se­cure more gov­ern­ment jobs.”

DANIEL AN­DREWS

SCOTT MOR­RI­SON

AIR­PORT TRAIN TER­MI­NAL

SUN­SHINE TRAIN STA­TION

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