Clash over Melbourne Airport rail design

·3-min read

Melbourne Airport and the Victorian government are at odds over the design of the city's proposed rail link connecting Tullamarine to the city.

The Andrews government is planning to build an elevated station at the airport but its operators favour an underground station at the facility.

A new train station will also be constructed at Keilor East and a sky rail bridge built over the M80 Freeway as part of the project.

Airport officials said on Wednesday they were still to come to an agreement with the government on the location and design of the connection.

"Melbourne Airport's preference has been, and remains, an underground station," ground transport chief Jai McDermott said.

"(It) provides a superior passenger experience, safeguards for future connectivity and is appropriate for Victoria's international gateway.

"It is important that the new rail station works for all airport users, not just those who arrive by train."

The business case, released on Wednesday, found the project will cost between $8 billion and $13 billion and have a benefit-cost ratio of up to $2.10 for every $1 spent.

It said building an elevated station at the site would be quicker and less expensive to build, while there would be less impact on passengers during construction.

The Victorian and Australian governments are each contributing $5 billion towards the project.

Victoria's Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the project, which is expected to be completed in 2029, would connect hundreds of thousands of people to Melbourne's train network for the first time.

The state government said trains would run every 10 minutes and the journey would take about 30 minutes.

It would also include 12 kilometres of extra track and an upgrade to Sunshine Station and fares would be finalised closer to completion.

In response to Melbourne Airport's push for an underground station instead of above ground, Premier Daniel Andrews said he'd sought advice from expert engineers.

"I know the airport's got a different view. I don't necessarily know that they're paying for the project, so they may have all sorts of views," he said.

In 2018, Melbourne Airport was part of a consortium offering $5 billion towards the project with the aim of a tunnel.

Meanwhile, in two separate reports tabled on Wednesday, state Auditor-General Andrew Greaves slammed the state government's handling of major projects.

An audit of business cases for the airport rail and suburban rail loop found they lacked sufficient analysis of alternative project options.

It also found the builds had lower a return on investment when calculated in-line with Department of Treasury and Finance guidelines.

The suburban rail loop's business case calculates its cost-benefit ratio as between 1 and 1.7 but the audit found when calculated using normal guidelines it was in fact 0.51 - meaning for every $1 spent, the return is only 51c.

For Melbourne airport rail, the cost-benefit ratio dropped to 0.48 when the DTF guidelines were used.

Shadow Treasurer David Davis accused the government of misleading Victorians.

"This is the King Daddy of risky projects. It is the biggest project in the state's history," he told reporters.

"It has been shonky and poor from the start ... tax payers end up suffering by paying more to fund this project."