The planned Melbourne Airport rail link would cut commutes by up to 30 minutes for regional travellers under the preferred route through Sunshine.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday matched the federal government’s $5 billion commitment, and released a ‘Strategic Appraisal’ rating the Sunshine route higher than all other options.
Mr Andrews said it would create a “super hub” in the suburb in Melbourne’s west, connecting both the regional and metro train lines to the airport.
Passengers from Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo, Warrnambool, Ararat, Swan Hill and Echuca would all save 30 minutes.
They would no longer need to head into the city and would change trains just once.
The journey from the CBD is expected to be around 30 minutes, but Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the travel time would be confirmed in a detailed business case, due to be completed next year.
Other potential station locations to be investigated.
It would take longer from the city compared to two of the other options.
“While travel times to central Melbourne are longer via the Sunshine route than the Maribyrnong and Flemington routes, travel times to other employment clusters and middle and outer metropolitan suburbs were better as airport services can more efficiently connect to Melbourne’s south-east and a higher number of other lines,” the paper released on Sunday said.
It would be integrated with the Metro Tunnel, allowing superior connection to more parts of Melbourne.
The $19.50 SkyBus has a travel time of between 30 and 45 minutes from Southern Cross Station.
In Sydney, the train journey takes just eight minutes from Central Station to the domestic airport, or 11 minutes to the international airport. Travelling from Wynyard, as opposed to Central, adds another 10 minutes.
Mr Andrews said the 12-kilometre route would cost between $8 billion and $13 billion, and could have private partnership.
He would not be drawn on how much a ticket would cost passengers, merely saying it would be as cheap as possible.
The Sunshine route was estimated to be between 1.5 cheaper than Flemington and twice as cheap as Maribyrnong.
It would be significantly cheaper to deliver since it would align with existing rail reserves.
That means it will not require the acquisition of any homes or businesses.
The super hub would create connections for regional commuters, with the route fitting with a fast rail plan for Geelong currently being investigated in a $50 million study.
“We want to see construction started on an airport rail link that’s going to be not just a connection between the airport and the city but one that also connects for regional Victorians and people living in the western and northern suburbs as well,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
“We were never going to agree to just an airport rail link. It can be an airport rail link and it can unlock capacity for rapid, fast services to Geelong and Ballarat.”
It’s the alignment, it’s the corridor option that stacks up best.”
Sunshine was rated 4.3 out of five, compared to 4.1 through Craigieburn, 3.6 through Flemington and 3.5 through Maribyrnong.
Construction will begin by 2022 if the Andrews government is re-elected.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was happy with the announcement.
“I have had a number of very good meetings with the Premier, Daniel Andrews, and I’m delighted that today he has confirmed that Victoria will commit the same amount of money, and I’m confident that … $10 billion will enable us together to build the rail line from Melbourne to Tullamarine airport.”
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy on Sunday told reporters it was long overdue and committed to the project if elected in November.
He said Sunshine was the only sensible route, but that it “beggars belief” it could cost up to $13 billion.
The previous Liberal Napthine government committed to a rail link using the same corridor.
Following Mr Turnbull’s $5 billion commitment in April, Melbourne Airport said a rail link would “help us to realise the full potential” of the airport.