Construction on a long-awaited rail link between Southern Cross Station and Melbourne’s Tullamarine will begin within a decade, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced.

The build will be underway by the time the $11.3 billion Metro Rail Tunnel project opens in 2026.

The rail link, which has been talked about since the mid-1960s, includes plans for a major train hub at Sunshine linking the city to the airport. The initiative will also involve the construction of new tracks to Ballarat and Geelong that can handle high-speed trains. It’s believed they will get commuters from the latter into the city in less than 40 minutes.

"It would change the way people work and live. And it would change the face of our state forever,” Andrews said in a speech in Melbourne this morning.

The Andrews and Turnbull governments have committed $30 million towards a planning study that will also look at ways to electrify rail lines in Melbourne’s west that are currently running on V/Line’s diesel network.