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Let's finally build the Melbourne Airport Rail Link

By Ordan Andreevski - posted Friday, 7 July 2017


Deeply concerned citizens from Melbourne's western and northern suburbs have launched a grass roots campaign in support of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL). The campaign seeks to address pressing unmet social, economic and environmental needs. It aims to improve the lives of the community, businesses and all who depend on public transport to go about their activities through this significant investment in critical rail infrastructure.

The campaign comes at an important time when the latest Australian Census shows that Melbourne's population has grown by an extra one million people since 2006. The population of Melbourne could easily reach 8 to 10 million by the middle of the 21st century. Melbourne is one of the fastest growing large cities in the developed world. This population growth will inevitably drive changes to federal and state infrastructure plans with significantly larger investment in transformative infrastructure and integrated urban, economic and social planning. Public policy debate needs to focus on how to achieve greater social equality between the increasingly wealthy inner city and the much larger and poorly serviced middle and outer metropolitan areas.

The Turnbull Government has committed $30 million in the May 2017 Budget for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL) Business Case Study and the Victorian Government has committed $10m. The community campaign seeks to harness strong support from key stakeholders for the rapid implementation of the proposed project. The MARL should have been built in 1970 when Melbourne Airport was opened at Tullamarine. Lack of political will, safe seats and political donations from the beneficiaries of the status quo have left Melbourne without integrated public transport and urban planning and without a Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

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The MARL will transform Melbourne into a truly world class city that has express rail connection from Melbourne Airport to the CBD with underground stations at Milleara Rd in Avondale Heights, the Defence Site in Maribyrnong, Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maidstone and Victoria University in Footscray Park. The MARL is a highly positive and significant urban infrastructure and transport development for Melbourne and Victoria because it will deliver urgently needed social, economic and environmental benefits to all Victorians and visitors to Melbourne.

There are five main drivers for MARL. First, the runaway population growth of Melbourne's north-west and the poor infrastructure to cater for this growth especially rail. Second, the projected growth of passenger numbers of Melbourne Airport from 34 million in 2016 to 60 million in 2033. The planning for the airport rail is an integral part of the bigger solution to Melbourne's wider congestion problem. Third, there is growing legitimate community and business concern about poor infrastructure planning in support of resilient and sustainable urban rail projects in badly neglected areas in the MARL corridor. Fourth, deep ethical concerns about the looming infrastructure gap where Victoria receives just 8 percent of federal infrastructure funding even though it has 25 percent of the national population. Fifth, long term strategic economic, social and environmental planning is missing in action for a project that is needed and wanted by just about all key stakeholders including Melbourne Airport, local government, High Point Shopping Centre and Victoria University. Even the influential Royal Automobile Club of Victoria has identified the MARL as a high priority project.

The campaign will engage new and different voices especially youth and multicultural communities in the climate, sustainable transport and energy debate. It is envisaged that strong commitment to the MARL will be achieved through a powerful coalition of key interest groups in the community, business, industry, public policy think tanks, universities, federal, state and local government and the media. Collaboration for collective social, economic and environmental impact will be the driving feature of the campaign.

PM Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten MP along with Premier Daniel Andrews need to understand that the MARL is the most sustainable and cost effective solution for addressing some of the most pressing economic, social and environmental challenges facing Melbourne in the 21st century. It is time for action.

The Campaign Management team will conduct a Stakeholder Survey to measure and communicate the strength of support for the project. It has established a Facebook page 'Support Melbourne Airport Rail Link' which has an online petition.

All around the globe and around Australia, people powered movements like ours are fighting and winning battles in support of urgently needed public transport solutions like the MARL. In this day and age, it is the citizenry rather than the polity that leads and demands sensible and timely public transport solutions.

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About the Author

Ordan Andreevski is Director of Australian Outreach, United Macedonian Diaspora.

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