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The long-demanded rail link to Melbourne airport will be included in an expanded Metro rail tunnel plan that Premier Denis Napthine has promised will begin this decade.
Speaking at a Property Council lunch in Melbourne on Wednesday, Dr Napthine said: ''Let me absolutely assure you, our government is committed to a rail capacity project, to enhance rail capacity through the centre of Melbourne, to boost rail capacity on the Dandenong line and the Gippsland line. We need it, it is essential.
''We are committed by the end of this decade to be building a rail capacity project and include in that a link to the airport.
''We will deliver that because it is absolutely essential, so don't let anybody have a misunderstanding about our commitment to that as a key project.''
It is believed the much-discussed airport link plan will be ramped up as part of the ''realigned'' Metro rail project, following internal research showing the idea remains highly popular.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder has confirmed the preferred route will run from the airport boundary via new tracks through a reserved land and freight corridor, before using the existing rail tracks from Sunbury to connect with the Metro tunnel.
Mr Mulder has said it would allow people to use the planned Dandenong-Sunshine rail corridor to travel to the airport.
His spokeswoman confirmed that the airport route, known as the Albion East option, remains the preferred alignment for the rail link, although the final alignment of the Metro project could result in its connection into the city changing. But problems could arise because the existing freight line relies on diesel trains, without electrification.
It is believed Melbourne Airport chief executive Chris Woodruff expressed concern about the possibility of diesel trains being used at the airport at a meeting with Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Andrew Tongue.
Asked about the possibility of diesel trains servicing the route, Melbourne Airport spokeswoman Anna Gillett said the priority was for a rail link that ''best serves the needs of Victorians and visitors'', saying it was needed ''sooner rather than later''.
''By 2033 we expect more than 60 million passengers a year and we need all forms of ground transport - taxis, private vehicles, buses, Skybus, and a train - to work well for people to get to and from their flights."
The Premier also told the Property Council lunch that extending the planned east-west tollway to the Port of Melbourne and across to the Western Ring Road was ''on the agenda''.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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