Melbourne Airport’s rail link will miss its planned opening date, with Victoria Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan pointing the finger at the airport itself for “slow and frustrating” negotiations.
Originally slated to open in 2029, the rail link – which will connect Melbourne Airport to Sunshine Station via a new stop at Keilor East at a cost of up to $13 billion – will not meet that completion date, the Deputy Premier confirmed in an interview with ABC Radio.
“It has been challenging to negotiate with the airport about how the project will be delivered on the land that they lease from the federal government to run the airport. It’s been slower than I would have liked,” Ms Allan said, adding that state and federal budgets will also affect the outcome.
“We are in conversations right now with the federal government. The feds have got theirs in three weeks. Ours is five weeks away. I just can’t confirm anything ahead of those final decisions that are taken by either level of government. I appreciate that’s frustrating.”
In a statement, a Melbourne Airport spokesperson told the ABC that, while the airport is a “strong supporter” of the project, it is seeking changes to some aspects.
“We note that the airport rail station needs to work for all people who come to the precinct, not just those who will come by train,” the spokesperson said.
“Melbourne Airport has been working constructively with Rail Projects Victoria to progress the project and achieve a rail link that is fit for Victoria’s international gateway.”
When contacted for comment, a Victorian Government spokesperson told Australian Aviation that works on the rail link – which began last year – are continuing.
“The former Turnbull Liberal Government announced funding for a rail line to the airport in 2018. Since then, the Victorian Government has worked closely with the Commonwealth to develop the project including commencing early engineering works,” the spokesperson said.
“Any decisions about Federal Government funding of infrastructure projects in Victoria is a matter for them. Just as all Victorians are facing cost of living challenges with rising interest rates and inflation, the Victorian Budget will also take into account current economic conditions.”
The rail link last year came under fire from Infrastructure Australia (IA), the independent statutory body responsible for advising the government on decisions relating to infrastructure, which recommended it be delayed until passenger demand can justify the cost.
“The strategic need for Melbourne Airport Rail is strong, and there will be long-term benefits,” said IA in an assessment released in late 2022.
“However … we recommend further work is undertaken to improve certainty of the cost estimates, cost escalation risk, and outcomes of stakeholder engagement, particularly with Melbourne Airport.”