Early works on the first stage of a $50 billion project which will reshape transport in Melbourne are set to commence early next year, the Victorian Government has announced.

In a joint statement, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Suburban Rail Loop Jacinta Allan announced that early works for Stage One of the Suburban Rail Loop would begin next year after the state allocated $2.2 billion in funding for the works to proceed.

Set to form one of the city’s biggest ever rail projects, Suburban Rail Loop will link Melbourne’s southern, eastern northern and western suburbs via a 90 kilometre line which begins at Cheltenham in the south-east  and ends at Werribee in the west.

All up, the project will generate 20,000 jobs during construction including 2,000 positions for apprentices, trainees and cadets.

The first section will link Cheltenham in the south-east to Box Hill in the east over a 26-kilometre route which will constructed as a twin tunnel.

Works will start in 2022, creating up to 800 direct jobs in initial and early works and enabling launch sites to be established for tunnel boring machines.

A prequalification scheme will now go to the market.

Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the Stage One initial and early works package are expected to be released by the end of the year.

The $2.2 billion in budget funding will purchase land, upgrade roads and power supply, build new sub-stations, relocate and protect gas, water and other utilities, and deliver other works to prepare for major construction.

The government has also announced proposed locations for the six new stations which will be delivered at part of this stage.

The proposed locations are underneath Sir William Fry Reserve near Southland Shopping Centre, next to Monash and Deakin Universities, north of Carinish Road in Clayton (where a transport super-hub will connect regional passengers to the loop) and central to the Box Hill and Glen Waverley activity centres.

Several of these stations will link with existing stations from which passengers will be able to transfer to lines connecting with the Melbourne city centre and inner suburbs.

The locations for the station – along with a refined alignment for the rail corridor between Cheltenham and Box Hill, have been determined following 18 months of project development and design, site investigations and engineering assessments as well as consultation with local stakeholders and the community.

Almost 300 boreholes have already been drilled as part of geotechnical investigations, and the proposed station sites will now be subject to a concentrated ground testing program to determine the precise underground station footprints and entrances.

Whilst the project will deliver benefits to Melbourne’s construction sector, however, up to 300 households and businesses have been notified that their homes or business premises may need to be acquired in order to enable the project to proceed.

Moreover, the early works will be happening despite the business case for the overall project being yet to be finalised.

This raises questions about what would happen should the business case not prove to be sufficiently strong.

Nevertheless, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the latest announcement.

“This is the biggest infrastructure project in Victoria’s history, and it will play a big role in getting our state back on track.  Delivering a world-class public transport system – and creating tens of thousands of jobs for Victorians,” Andrews said.

“This investment will pave the way for major construction on the Suburban Rail Loop. We promised to deliver this project and we’re delivering on that promise.”