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A decision on the final design of Melbourne’s airport rail link is not expected to be made until next year as Daniel Andrews and Scott Morrison remain at odds over whether a tunnel is needed.
The Premier and the Prime Minister held what insiders said were productive and positive discussions about the long-awaited project in Melbourne on Thursday afternoon, in an effort to lock in the exact alignment through Sunshine.
The Herald Sun understands the federal government still wants to see a tunnel running from the CBD to Sunshine, while the state government would rather use existing above-ground tracks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews meet earlier this year. Picture: Mark StewartBut the tunnel would be at the more expensive end of the project’s anticipated $8-13 billion price-tag, and the Commonwealth is willing to consider further details on the state government’s preference.
The Herald Sun has been told the federal government ultimately wants to get the project moving and is open to adopting the state government’s proposed design if it makes financial and practical sense.
Sources close to the project also say it is increasingly likely that a $5 billion private sector offer to help build the project — using the tunnel option — will not be accepted.
The market-led proposal is bankrolled by super fund giant IFM Investors and includes Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains and Southern Cross station.
While no decision has been made and the offer is still on the table, some state government figures have been concerned about the cost of the tunnel, and that the consortium would then be able to charge for access to the new tracks.
If the project were to proceed without the underground option, airport commuters would likely have to catch a train to Sunshine and then change to another service that would travel via existing tracks, which will feed into the new Metro Tunnel under the CBD.
Both governments have already promised $5 billion to make the project happen.
While senior figures in both governments had hoped an announcement would be made by Christmas, a decision is now expected to be pushed into next year.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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