Ballarat commuters are set to be among the biggest winners from a state government public transport spend-up which will result in a regionally-connected airport rail link.
During a speech to be delivered to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to announce that construction of an airport rail link will begin before the completion of the Metro Tunnel project in 2026.
The link is expected to use Sunshine Station as a major interchange, linking Metro services with V/Line trains from Ballarat and Geelong.
“In our view, the airport rail link has the potential to unlock western and northern Victoria,” Mr Andrews will say. “Ultimately, that means we can deliver real, high-speed rail to regional Victoria.”
Also among the priorities to be detailed in the speech will be separating regional and metropolitan networks on the Ballarat and Geelong lines heading into Southern Cross Station, paving the way for faster, express trains to solely service regional Victoria.
By separating metro lines from regional ones and using the airport link to create capacity on the rest of the network, (fast regional rail) dream becomes a reality.Premier Daniel Andrews
A commitment to getting Melbourne’s booming western suburbs onto a dedicated electrified Metro line is also expected to be made.
“Right now, the idea of high-speed regional rail is nothing more than a pipe dream,” Mr Andrews will say. “But by separating metro lines from regional ones and using the airport link to create capacity on the rest of the network, that dream becomes a reality.”
The announcement follows months of lobbying from the Committee for Ballarat for an upgraded V/Line service through its 59minuteBallarat campaign.
Committee for Ballarat chairman Janet Dore said she was “delighted with the commitment and recognition that regional Victoria is in desperate need for faster and more frequent services”.
The option first mooted bythe Rail Ftures institute earlier this and revealed by the Courier in September promotes the long awaited Airport Link but with the all important integration into a regional rail system
The Victorian and federal governments have agreed to spend $30 million on a business case for the link from the airport to the CBD.
Victorian Public Transport Jacinta Allan says the study will consider sending the airport rail link through Sunshine to connect it to suburban and regional rail systems.
"We know from experience ... a point-to-point airport link funnel, if you like, does not provide the best service for passengers," Ms Allan told ABC radio on Thursday.
"Many regional trains already come in through a place like Sunshine... it gives people in the west a connection to the airport."
Ms Allan says she expects to see construction on the airport link well underway by the time the Metro tunnel project is finished in the CBD in 2026.
Federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher says Melbourne has been missing a key rail link.
"A city of the scale and importance of Melbourne deserves such a connection and that's why the Turnbull government is getting this important process underway," he said.
But Victorian opposition public transport spokesman David Davis says the government's 10-year time frame is too slow and Melbourne is growing too fast to delay the project.