BENDIGO rail commuters could have access to suburban Melbourne without having to venture into the CBD in a highly ambitious suburban rail loop being planned by the Victorian government.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the radical plan this week, which could cost up to $50 billion, and connect Melbourne’s north, east and south via underground tunnels.

A mix of 12 existing interchange stations and new stops will be used in what the government is calling the biggest public transport project in Australian history.

The business case, design and pre-construction phase will cost about $300 million, before construction begins in 2022 at the earliest. Labor will provide that money if re-elected in November.

The line at one end would start at Werribee and go on to Sunshine, becoming part of a major transport interchange with regional lines and suburban services.

It would then travel to Melbourne Airport via the airport link and on to another regional interchange at Broadmeadows, Fawkner, a new station at Bundoora’s university precinct, Heidelberg, a new Doncaster station, Box Hill, Burwood, Glen Waverley, Monash, Clayton and terminating at Cheltenham’s Southland station.

The new Monash and Burwood stations would be located to service the Monash and Deakin university campuses in those suburbs.

The Werribee line would be connected to the project at Sunshine, with further technical investigations to explore how that could be made possible in the future.

The government says the project will take 200,000 cars off major roads and will be the state’s busiest rail line by 2051, however, the project may not be completed long before then.

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan told Melbourne radio station 3AW the project could cost up to $50 billion, and would require federal, state and private funding.