A huge rail project in Melbourne which will finally connect the city’s airport with its CBD and suburbs has begun.
The Victorian Government has announced that work is underway at Keilor East as part of the $8-13 billion SRL Airport Rail Link project.
Set to open in 2029 after a seven-year construction period, the link will deliver a direct connection between the airport and 30 suburban rail stations across Melbourne along with a singular change between the airport and most other stations.
It will run from a new premium station at Melbourne Airport via Keilor East, Sunshine and Footscray stations and into the heart of the CBD through the Metro Tunnel (see map).
New dedicated tracks will be constructed along the existing Albion-Jacana freight corridor between Sunshine and Airport West.
The tracks will divert off the freight corridor crossing the M80 Freeway and head towards the airport following Airport Drive before arriving at a premium station at Melbourne Airport.
Regional commuters will be able to access the airport via rail with a singular link at one of the city’s transport superhubs.
The project includes:
- New dedicated tracks for airport services along the existing Albion-Jacana freight corridor between Sunshine and Airport West.
- A new premium station at Melbourne Airport as well as a new station at Keilor East.
- A major upgrade of Sunshine Station including a new, accessible second pedestrian concourse with escalators and lifts for better passenger connections between regional, metropolitan and Melbourne Airport trains
- A rebuild of Albion station.
- New rail bridges to cross over the Maribyrnong River alongside the existing heritage bridge and across the Western Ring Road.
- Changes to existing road bridges, pedestrian connections and other rail infrastructure upgrades – such as new signalling and power systems – along the length of the route.
All up, the government expects the project to cost between $8 billion and $13 billion to build – a number that will be finalised once all major contracts are awarded.
A business case released last month revealed that the project on its own would deliver net benefits in present value terms of between $7.5 billion and $10.8 billion under the base case scenario over the first 50 years of its operation.
This would deliver a return of between $1.80 and $2.10 for every dollar invested.
However, the benefit to cost ratio would fall to between 1.1 and 1.3 to 1 ($1.10 and $1.30 per dollar invested) should the northern section (second stage) of the Suburban Rail Link be delivered by 2051 as is currently proposed.
Should it proceed, the northern and eastern sections of the SRL would provide commuters in Melbourne’s north and east (as well as regional commuters east of Melbourne) with an alternative rail link to the airport apart from the Airport Rail Link.
(Early works on the eastern section (first stage) of SRL began in June, however, the state Opposition says it will shelve this project if elected in the upcoming state election on November 26 and instead allocate more funding to healthcare.)
In addition, it should be noted that the above business case is based on a build cost of between $8.1 billion and $8.5 billion (along with operational, maintenance and upgrade costs of between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion).
This is at the lower end of the range in the government’s $8-13 billion estimated build cost referred to above.
Accordingly, the net benefits outlined in the business case could prove to be overly optimistic should the build cost instead run into the higher range of current estimates.
The first tranche of works involves the removal and relocation of six AusNet electricity transmission towers between the Western Ring Road (M80) and the existing Albion-Jacana freight corridor.
This will create space for a new rail bridge over the Western Ring Road.
The tower relocation is part a broader early works package that will move up to 250 key utilities – including powerlines, gas mains, communications equipment, and sewer and water supplies.
A construction consortium of FCC Construction Australia, Winslow Infrastructure and McConnell Dowell have been selected as the preferred contractor to deliver key parts of the project.
This includes 550 metre twin track rail bridge over the Maribyrnong River which will stand at more than 50 meters above the river valley at its highest point and will serve as Victoria’s second highest bridge behind the West Gate Bridge.
A second construction consortium of John Holland, CPB, KBR and AECOM have been selected as the preferred contractor to deliver the Sunshine Systems Alliance works package.
This includes the transformation of Sunshine Station, rebuilding of Albion Station and delivery of twin tracks between Sunshine and the Albion-Jacana corridor, including the elevated rail bridge.
Construction is expected to occur over seven years and the line is expected to open in 2029.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the commencement of works.
“The Suburban Rail Loop will change the way our whole state moves, connecting every major suburban and regional rail line to Melbourne Airport.” he said.
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