The Victorian government has announced $2.2 billion in funding for initial and early works of its $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop, a 90-kilometre rail line running through Melbourne’s middle suburbs.
In what is billed as “the biggest transport project in Victoria’s history” and an antidote to Melbourne and Victoria’s prolonged lockdown, 12 new underground rail stations will be created in a loop from Cheltenham in the south east via Melbourne Airport and the western suburbs.
The new loop will connect to the $11 billion Airport Rail Link and travel west via Sunshine to Werribee, where plans for an “Education City” are also taking shape.
The initial $2.2 billion spend will go towards the acquisition of land, upgrade roads and power supply, build new sub-stations, relocate and protect gas, water and other utilities and deliver other vital works to prepare for major construction.
The government’s only concrete commitment to the project prior to the announcement had been its $300 million investment towards planning and business case development
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.
Pre-construction work on stage one from Box Hill to Cheltenham has also begun.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the investment case is expected to be completed by early 2021.
“This infrastructure project will play a big role in getting our state back on track [by] delivering a world-class public transport system and creating tens of thousands of jobs for Victorians,” Andrews said.
“We promised to deliver this project and we’re delivering on that promise.”
The proposed locations of six new train stations have also been revealed, with the new line to start near Southland, underneath Sir William Fry Reserve.
Other proposed stations are next to Monash and Deakin universities—central to the Box Hill and Glen Waverley activity centres—and north of Carinish Road in Clayton, where a transport “super-hub” will connect regional passengers to the new rail line.
The rail loop will travel underground from Cheltenham on the Frankston line via new stations at Monash University, Clayton, Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Doncaster, Fawkner and Broadmeadows to Melbourne Airport.
From the airport, the Suburban Rail Loop would spread west along an existing corridor set aside the Melbourne Airport Rail link via Sunshine and onto Werribee.
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 in Melbourne’s south east.
When operational, the project is expected to ferry up to 400,000 passengers a day, taking thousands of passengers off overcrowded city-bound trains and an estimated 200,000 cars off the rapidly-growing southern capital’s gridlocked roads.
It would also link regional rail passengers via suburban interchanges, sparing them the chore of travelling via the congested City Loop.
The rail loop will create 20,000 construction jobs over the course of its delivery, with final completion expected to take three decades.