House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020


Melbourne Airport Rail Link

11:52 am

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Melbourne Airport rail link project, which is currently on the books and currently has $5 billion worth of federal government money, has the potential to become a fantastic generational project. This project could ensure that the Melbourne rail system keeps pace with the incredible growth of Melbourne's west. By 2036, the City of Wyndham will be over 450,000 people, Melton will be over 330,000 people, and Sunbury will also be over 300,000. If this Melbourne Airport rail link project is built properly, it will also have incredible benefits for Shepparton and Wangaratta, on the north-east line, and Albury-Wodonga through the Shepparton line. They will be incredible beneficiaries of this project. Not only will these cities have a direct access into Melbourne; they'll also be directly linked to the airport, which is going to have incredible tourism benefits for the greater part of northern Victoria.

The state Labor government in Victoria have a responsibility to build this project for the whole state. Premier Andrews is on record as saying that this project will not just be about getting people to and from the airport; it'll be a project for the whole state. Jacinta Allan has also spoken about the benefits that this project will bring to the whole state. However, right now, they're going to turn their backs on the people in the west and the people in northern Victoria, right through to Albury-Wodonga and beyond. These people are being left behind by the state Labor government.

Right now, if you want to catch a train out of Bendigo, you have one out of 23 chances to get into Melbourne every day. Out of Ballarat there are 24 services per day, Geelong has 56 and Shepparton and the greater region around Shepparton, which services about the same population as Bendigo, has five services per day. It is an absolute disgrace that the state Labor government has simply forgotten about the people in the north. The north-east line, going through Benalla, Wangaratta and Albury-Wodonga, is commonly referred to as the worst line in Victoria.

The state government have an opportunity to build this project, using federal government money—to make it a generational project—but they are claiming that they can't do this properly because of the cost blow-out. Recently I have been talking about this with some experts that work day in, day out in major tunneling projects, train development projects—there are a lot of these projects going on around Australia right now—and they have said that they cannot see how the Melbourne Airport rail link project, which has six to seven kilometres of tunnel, two station upgrades, one new station, and 21 kilometres of at-grade, could possibly go past $12 billion. There's currently $17 billion on the table, because an Australian super fund also wants to invest along with the federal and state government's money.

When you compare the MARL project with the Sydney Metro West project, we see that the Sydney Metro West project is $20 billion and there is four times the amount of tunneling. The Victorian government is claiming that a project that has four times the amount of tunneling and eight new stations is going to cost the same as the Melbourne project. The Sydney Metro City and Southwest Sydney project, at $16.8 billion, has 15 kilometres of tunneling and seven new stations—and they are claiming this is going to come in cheaper than their project.

It is incredible that the Victorian government are so brazen as to not only hurt the people in the north of the state—which they have made an Olympic sport out of—but also, in this case, burn the people of the west. They're going to burn the people of Ballarat, Melton, Sunbury, Werribee and all through the western suburbs. These are areas of incredible growth. When the Melbourne Metro 1 is completed in 2026, it's going to be at capacity. What they are going to do when all of those services are at capacity in 2026 is run six services per hour out to the airport and say, 'We have now delivered Melbourne Airport rail.' It's going to be an absolute shemozzle for the people in the west who have already got their services running at capacity. So they will take away six to eight services per hour and say, 'We have delivered Melbourne Airport rail'. It will probably cost around $4 billion to build this Melbourne Airport rail without a tunnel. So they're going to use $10 billion, supposedly, to do a $4 billion project.