Regional benefits unclear for airport rail link

IT’S a piece of rail infrastructure Premier Denis Napthine says has been 40 years in the making, but opinions are  mixed on whether Ballarat will benefit from an airport rail link.

On Sunday, the state government pledged to deliver a 25-minute rail link between central Melbourne  and Melbourne Airport, with plans to be outlined in next month’s state budget.

The state government has not revealed much detail, however it did say the train would travel from Southern Cross through Footscray to Albion before running on dedicated tracks to the airport.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Terry Mulder, Jess Maguire, said there would be interchange points at Footscray and Sunshine stations for Ballarat users to join the service.

“This will be a major benefit for regional travellers seeking to easily access Melbourne Airport,” she said.

Public Transport Users Association regional spokesperson Paul Westcott said it was still too early to tell how the project would help Ballarat travellers, if at all. 

“You have to be a bit cynical about plans for major rail infrastructure, given the sorry history of the last 60 years,” he said.

“With the exception of the Regional Rail Link and the City Loop, there have been no new projects undertaken in that time.”

Even if V/Line travellers were able to join the airport service before Southern Cross, Mr Westcott said the cost and time benefits would be negligible. 

The Sydney airport train costs $16.40 one way from the city. A V/Line ticket to Sunshine costs $6.86 and takes about an hour. 

A shuttle bus service between Ballarat Railway Station and the airport costs $32 one way and takes roughly an hour and a half to get to its destination.

Mr Westcott said although the Public Transport Users Association supported an airport link, there were many other issues that were more urgent.

“It’s a shame that more worthwhile projects have been apparently ignored so far,” he said.

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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