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Premier Daniel Andrews has defended a decision to ditch a multibillion-dollar dedicated Melbourne Airport rail tunnel, saying the option he has favoured will be cheaper, faster to build and take people where they want to go.
Train services to the airport will take half-an-hour or less and run every 10 minutes via a long-awaited route announced by the Premier and Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday.
Both the federal and state governments have committed $5 billion each to the project, estimated to cost $8-$13 billion.
Victorian governments have been promising for five decades to build an airport rail link. Premiers including Sir Henry Bolte in the '60s, Joan Kirner in the '90s and Denis Napthine as recently as six years ago acknowledged the need for airport trains but failed to deliver.
The Andrews government will also put $2 billion towards upgrading the Geelong line in preparation for fast, express train services to the city, matching $2 billion already promised by the federal government.
But the state government has abandoned plans for a dedicated six-kilometre rail tunnel between the city and West Footscray, proposed by a private consortium pledging $5 billion to build it.
The planned route will be no faster than the Skybus at peak hour. CREDIT:ROY CHU
Under the final route, airport trains will run along fresh tracks from the airport to Sunshine and continue beneath the city via the new $11 billion Metro Tunnel and onto the south-eastern suburbs via the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.
The Premier had previously said dedicated tracks, including a tunnel, could be needed between the city and Sunshine.
But on Saturday Mr Andrews said the chosen option would be cheaper to build, delivered faster and was backed by transport and financial experts.
"You've got to work through these things in a really painstaking way ... the fact of the matter is … what the PM and I have agreed to build will be less cost to the taxpayer, I think greater value, it will be done much faster and it allows us to take people where they want to go.
"Those five Metro stations, the busiest train line – you can be in Pakenham and get to the airport without having to change trains, that just makes sense.
"The difference in the cost to Australian and Victorian taxpayers is well more than $7 billion, so you can have more money on the table but if the overall project cost is indeed more than that then ... they're the fine judgements we've had to make."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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