Melbourne Airport Rail Link


Prospective pipeline

Credibly proposed


Under procurement

Preferred bidder announced

Recently closed
Melbourne Airport Rail Link

Prospective pipeline

Greenfield (construction) or brownfield (government asset divestment) projects needed or likely to occur within the next five years, but is not formally proposed by a state, territory or major local government.

Credibly proposed

The project or divestment is supported by a state, territory or major local government, is subject to studies or other processes (such as pre-feasibility or scoping studies or business case development), and is likely to proceed to formal announcement.   


The project has a firm commitment and timeline from a state, territory or major local government, but has not yet entered the market.

Under procurement

The project or transaction is under procurement (such as a call for Expressions of Interest, requests for tender, or another offer to the market).

Preferred bidder announced

A preferred bidder has been selected and is in exclusive negotiations.

Recently closed

Projects that have progressed to contractual close remain on ANZIP for 12 months.

ANZIP is focused only on major infrastructure activity, above the following thresholds:


Construction projects: > AUD$300m

Investable greenfield & brownfield: > AUD$100m

New Zealand

All greenfield and brownfield projects and divestments: > NZD $100 million

STATUS: Announced
TYPE: Greenfield

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL) is a proposed rail transit service between Tullamarine Airport and the Melbourne CBD.

Following the signing of a Heads of Agreement between the Federal and Victorian governments for the project in March 2019, the agreed route for MARL will see a line constructed from Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine) via existing rail corridor to Sunshine and then onto the CBD. The total cost of the Sunshine alignment is estimated to be between $8-$13 billion.

Through their 2017-18 and 2018-19 budgets, both the Federal and Victorian governments have allocated funding to business case development. Both governments have also committed to spend up to $5 billion each on the project. MARL is also expected to include opportunities for private finance.

Rail Projects Victoria (RPV, formerly the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority) is responsible for the delivery of MARL.

As part of its market engagement process, RPV called for Registrations of Interest (ROIs) in September 2018 for industry participants interested in being part of delivering MARL. ROIs are being sought from designers, engineers, rail systems providers, rolling stock providers, investors, financiers, developers and other rail infrastructure providers. Industry proponents who do not participate in the ROI process will not be precluded from bidding for work once procurement starts.

The full business case using the Sunshine alignment is expected to be completed in 2020, with construction scheduled to begin by the end of 2022 and take up to nine years to complete.

Infrastructure Victoria notes that the MARL could potentially use new 10-car High Capacity Trains (HCT2), and could possibly utilise ‘beneficiary charges’ if there is substantial uplift in land values around the rail line.

Infrastructure Australia lists Melbourne Airport to CBD public transport capacity as a priority initiative that is of medium term importance.

Project History

In 2005 the Victorian Government reserved land for a rail link to Melbourne Airport, which spurred off an existing freight corridor that runs between the Sunbury and Craigieburn lines.

Known as the Albion East Design, the design includes new track along the Sunbury line, which connects to Southern Cross Station or the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. This design was re-recommended in Public Transport Victoria’s (PTVs) 2013 Melbourne Airport Rail Link Study. However, Infrastructure Victoria has cautioned that further work to examine alternative network configurations for accommodating the line is warranted. Other options considered as part of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link study included:

- a Direct tunnel link, with potential new stations at Milleara Road, the Federal Government's Defence site, Highpoint and Victoria University;
- a Flemington link mirroring the Direct tunnel link up to Highpoint before connecting to the existing Flemington line; and
- a Craigieburn link, using the existing Craigieburn line and new track through Westmeadows.

The Flemington link and Craigieburn link would connect to Southern Cross Station, while the Albion East Design and the Direct tunnel link would utilise the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.

Assuming the use of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, estimated journey times between the Airport and the CBD along this route would be 30 minutes, with a train every 10 minutes.

Melbourne Airport has included the MARL in their 2013 master plan, which sets a goal of having at least 30 per cent of trips to the airport by public transport in the long term.

The Victorian Government announced in the 2017-18 State Budget $10 million (from the Federal Government's Asset Recycling Initiative) to develop a MARL plan in partnership with the private sector, while the Federal Government in their 2017-18 Budget, announced $30 million would be put towards a business case. The Treasurer also noted the MARL could be supported through the $10 billion National Rail Program, subject to a positive business case. 

In November 2017, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments met with industry and formally commenced the business case study, which is looking at:

- potential corridors for the rail link;
- existing and future rail upgrades across the metropolitan network; and
- proposals from private industry.

The study builds on previous studies, including  to examine potential transport improvements for Melbourne Airport, along with new detailed transport planning and analysis. The Federal Government indicated the business case is considering the previous four routes examined by PTVs 2013 Melbourne Airport Rail Link study with the only modification being the Direct tunnel link option heading to Southern Cross Station.

In the lead up to the 2018-19 Federal Budget, the Federal Government announced it would invest $5 billion for the MARL project, indicating it expects to enter a 50:50 funding partnership with the Victorian Government while also welcoming private sector investment. The 2018-19 Budget papers note that the $5 billion investment would be provided as equity or otherwise as agreed, with half coming from the Infrastructure Investment Program and the other half from the National Rail Program. 

The 2018-19 Victorian Budget allocated $50 million towards detailed planning and technical investigations to identify the preferred option for MARL along with options to integrate a fast rail link between Geelong and Melbourne. In July 2018, the Victorian Government announced that if re-elected at the November 2018 State election, it would match Federal Government funding by providing up to $5 billion towards MARL. The Victorian Government also identified the Sunshine (Albion east) alignment as the Victorian Government's preferred alignment. The Sunshine alignment was chosen due to its comparatively lower cost and earlier deliverability along with having superior connections to regional Victoria and the Metro Tunnel.

In December 2018, the Victorian Government announced that a Aurecon Jacobs Mott MacDonald Joint Venture (AJM JV) had been appointed as a technical advisor and KPMG as a commercial adviser for the project. The AJM JV is carrying out detailed investigations of infrastructure upgrades, costs and train requirements to deliver fast rail to the regions as part of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link for the Western Rail Plan.

In March 2019, the Federal and Victorian governments signed a Heads of Agreement document for the project. The agreement outlines how the two governments will cooperate on the project, including jointly progressing the business case for the project. The business case is expected to be finalised in 2020.

The 2019-20 Victorian Budget allocated $681 million over the forward estimates from the Federal Government. The Victorian Government notes that it ‘has made a substantial provision in the Victorian Transport Fund for this project’ but does not detail an allocation for the project specifically. The Federal funding has been provided in the forward estimates for business case development (due for completion in 2020), design and pre-construction works.


Last reviewed: 03/06/2019

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