Country airport link firms as Airport unveils bold five-year vision

The case for an airport rail link connecting Ballarat and Geelong to Tullamarine has been strengthened by a new Master Plan, detailing a $3.5 billion boost to the state’s premier transport facility. 

Next week Melbourne Airport will release a draft of its five-year plan, detailing how it intends to cope with up to 68 million passengers per annum by 2038. 

The draft Master Plan makes a provision for a rail link, including reserving land on-airport for a rail alignment, which is consistent with the Albion East route endorsed by the state government. 

The link would use Sunshine Station as a base, providing a direct link for regional Victorian passengers.   

The document reveals just 17 per cent of passengers currently use SkyBus in order to get to the airport. 

Committee for Ballarat connectivity chairman Nick Beale said he was pleased to see the draft plan supported a rail link through Sunshine.

“To know Ballarat will be linked to the airport with an under an hour service allows both local and international companies to invest in Ballarat and surrounds,” Mr Beale said. 

To know Ballarat will be linked to the airport...allows both local and international companies to invest in Ballarat and surrounds.

Nick Beale - Committee for Ballarat connectivity chairman

“Committee for Ballarat has always felt the best option was via Sunshine and we’re pleased to see the draft plan supports our view.” 

In 2017 the state and federal governments announced they would work together to deliver a $10 billion airport rail link, outlining four potential routes. 

A decision on the preferred route is expected to be made in September, ahead of the upcoming state election on November 24. 

Last month Airport executive Lorie Argus threw her support behind the Albion East route, telling Fairfax Media  “it looks like Sunshine would make sense to be the front running route because it has access to regional, it has access to the west where the major growth is”. 

Premier Daniel Andrews has also been vocal in his support for an airport link which connects with the state’s biggest regional cities. 

He has indicated this would be at the heart of any Labor plans to electrify the line out to Melton.  

“Airport rail is a chance to be part of a bigger agenda of true fast rail that will fundamentally change the way big regional cities in our state - Geelong and Ballarat - work and function,” he told The Courier in April.  

The draft plan suggests Tullamarine Airport could act as a hub for Melbourne’s north as part of a future high-speed rail connection between the city and the state’s regional capitals.  

It also sets out the potential for a new internal rail line to provide access to a new runway.  Currently 35 million passengers use the airport each year.   

The 2018 Master Plan will be available for public exhibition on Monday 16 July.