Melbourne airport gives go ahead for train link

Melbourne Airport has agreed to a compromise, abandoning its demand for an underground railway train station in hopes of advancing the project’s completion date to 2030. However, Premier Jacinta Allan expressed skepticism about meeting this timeline, noting that the station couldn’t be built in six years after her government delayed the project by four years.

On Monday, the airport’s CEO, Lorie Argus, announced the airport would support the state government’s preferred above-ground station proposal, ending a prolonged deadlock. Argus emphasized the urgency of providing more transport options for the growing number of passengers and the airport precinct’s expanding workforce, despite previously advocating for an underground station.

Argus expressed optimism on ABC Radio National that the state government could finish the station to coincide with the opening of the airport’s third runway, expected to handle 45 million travelers annually. This comes despite the government’s announcement in May that the project would be delayed to 2033 due to the standoff with the airport operator. Argus stated a desire to see the project completed by 2030 but acknowledged this might not be realistic and committed to cooperating with the government.

Allan welcomed the airport’s concession but reiterated that meeting the 2030 timeline was unrealistic. She pointed out that the four-year delay was due to the airport’s previous insistence on an underground station, which added time and costs. Further negotiations between the federal government and Melbourne Airport regarding land compensation are anticipated.

In 2020, both the state and federal governments committed $5 billion each to the Melbourne airport rail project. However, the project stalled over the state’s refusal to finance the more expensive underground option. The federal government appointed a mediator to resolve the dispute, who ultimately recommended against pursuing the underground option at this time and suggested initial construction works proceed.

Argus indicated that developing another business case for the underground option would take up to two years, which the airport cannot afford to wait for. The mayor of Moonee Valley Council, where the rail line will be located, welcomed the airport’s change of stance, urging quick action. Opposition transport infrastructure spokesperson David Southwick echoed this sentiment, calling for an end to excuses and delays.

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