CONNECTING Melbourne Airport directly to regional cities must be a priority of any future rail link says the Rail Future Institute.
The Federal Government yesterday announced it would provide $5 billion in the upcoming budget for a long mooted link to be built.
It has asked the State Government to also contribute $5 billion to the project, proposing four options which closely follow those outlined in a 2013 report compiled by Public Transport Victoria.
One of the options includes a link to Sunshine which, according to the institute, would open up the airport to regional cities.
“It’s very critical that the selected route is via Sunshine,” Secretary Bill Russell said.
“It’s not enough for the link to be for Melbourne, it needs to be for the whole of Victoria.”
Mr Russell said the Rail Futures Institute would like to see the line continue north of the airport to Clarkefield which would open up the route to Bendigo and also to Wallen which would allow a connection to Albury-Wodonga.
The other three options on the table include a route through Maribyrnong, one through Craigieburn and another direct tunnel route.
Chair of the Connectivity Group from the Committee of Ballarat Nick Beale said an airport link through Sunshine would enable that region to become a major transport hub which would provide for more services to regional areas.
“Rail Futures have presented its idea and we support it 100 per cent,” he said.
The route encompassing Sunshine is also the preferred option of the State Government as it would be cheaper to construct and could utilise existing lines.
Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allen said the State Government’s own plan provides a connection for regional Victorians to be able to access the airport.
“It is concerning to see this morning that the Prime Minister spent a lot of time talking about Melbourne and the benefits to Melbourne about an airport rail link,” Ms Allen said.
“We want to make sure an investment in an airport rail link also maximises the investment and opportunity to improve the rail link into regional Victoria and that is a matter we will talk to the Commonwealth about.”
While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he had no personal route preference, it is believed the Federal Government would prefer a route through the former Maribyrnong Defence Site which it is trying to sell for development.