MELBOURNE’s planned city centre - airport rail link will terminate at a surface-level station, following recommendations from an independent mediator. The Victorian state government, which wants a surface station, because it will be less expensive, had reached an impasse with the airport operator, which preferred an underground station.

Following arbitration by the independent mediator, the airport operator has now agreed to a surface-level station. Last month it was announced that opening of the $A 13bn ($US 8.6bn) rail link would be delayed by at least four years to 2033 due to state funding cuts.

“We will work with the Victorian government to deliver their preferred above-ground station at the airport so the rail line can become reality,” says Melbourne Airport CEO, Ms Lorie Argus. “With an estimated 45 million travellers a year predicted to be using our airport when the third runway opens, the rail link will support a massive increase in passenger numbers and billions of dollars in additional economic activity for Victoria.”

Despite resolution of the airport station issue it is unlikely that completion of the rail link by 2030, as suggested by the airport operator, is achievable, partly because Victoria has prioritised construction of Melbourne’s Suburban Rail Loop.

Separately, the Victorian state government has revealed the preferred bidder for the next phase of the 90km loop that is currently under construction. The Tunnels North contract, that will be awarded later this year, is expected to go the Terra Verde consortium, comprising WeBuild, GS Engineering and Construction Australia, and Bouygues Construction Australia. The likely value of the contract to build the 10km of twin tunnels between Glen Waverley and Box Hill has not been announced, but the first tunnelling contract, awarded at the end of last year to the Suburban Connect consortium, was worth $A 3.6bn for the first 16km of the 26km SRL East.

The next contract, the Linewide package to procure the fleet of SRL trains, fit out the tunnels, install signalling, and operate and maintain the network, will be awarded next year. Two further contracts, to build the six new underground stations, will be awarded from 2026.

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