Originally published in The Westsider: A letter from resident groups of the inner west – The inner west does not need or want the West Gate Tunnel project (May 2018)
It’s been widely claimed by the government and the press that the west supports the West Gate Tunnel Project. This is not accurate. A small section of one suburb, and one action group support it and even they have serious reservations about it. The rest do not. Community members of the Community Liaison Group made clear to Western Distributor Authority in December 2017 that considerable unresolved issues remained in the project. The City of Melbourne is opposed to the project and the City of Hobsons Bay has flipped flopped over the issues in the face of staunch opposition from its residents. Academics have published a highly critical report and significant professional planning groups have written to government with their concerns about governance and design.
But still the government has continued to proceed and get signed agreements with TransUrban, pushed through gazetting of planning scheme amendments and commenced construction in the knowledge that the community do not support it and the Legislative Council has the numbers to revoke approvals and halt work. The government has used paid advertisements from big companies and the website and press releases of one community organisation to justify it in the Parliament. This is brinkmanship, not good governance.
Melbourne is a city growing at an extraordinary pace, bringing with it a number of growing pains. Melbourne’s western suburbs is at the forefront of this growth. From Werribee to Footscray the strain on the local infrastructure is impossible to ignore. Something needs to be done, and sooner rather than later, before ‘The world’s most liveable city’ becomes unrecognisable for all but a few well connected inner city suburbs. The people of the west have been screaming for transport infrastructure investment for a long time.
The Inner west covers the cities of Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong and Melbourne. It is home to the port and has a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial land uses. It has not always been a happy coexistence but the locals do their best to make it work. It is clear there is a problem with trucks on local streets with road freight servicing the port and the large number of logistics companies in the area in conflict with increasing commuter vehicles and lack of integrated public transport options.
The Outer West has gone from a few sleepy country towns surrounded by farms, to an area which now has surpassed Geelong in residential numbers. There is no end in sight for this growth. The local roads and public transport options have not kept pace with the growth of young families searching for affordable housing and employment.
The west, and the whole city, requires an integrated transport solution. The West Gate Tunnel creates more problems than it solves.
For the Inner West, the West Gate Tunnel project offers some minor improvements for a very small section, whilst placing an enormous strain on the rest. The project does not remove a single truck from the transport system. The claim that it will remove 9,000 trucks from inner west roads is false. It simply moves them onto other parts of the inner west, primarily the small stretch of Miller Rd in Brooklyn. Without proper traffic studies including local and feeder roads at either end of the project, it can only be conjecture about how trucks and commuter vehicles will respond to the location of tolling points, tolls, truck bans, level crossing removals and road widening included in the project. We do know it will induce demand on the freeway, create congestion on all feeder roads such as Blackshaws Rd, Douglas Parade/Hyde St, Melbourne/Williamstown Rd, and Millers Rd in medium density residential areas accessing the freeway. Grieve Parade was built to service the logistics industry but remains underutilised in this project. The project will also deliver constant gridlock as traffic is funnelled into the residential fringe of the CBD.
For the Outer West, after 5 plus years of construction hell, the saving in travel time from Geelong to Melbourne is estimated to be only 4 – 7 minutes, not 20 minutes as marketing for the project suggests. It will not improve the notorious bottle necks that Point Cook, Hoppers Crossing, Williams Landing and others suffer twice a day, every day. It locks them all into complete car dependency.
For all of Melbourne, it locks in years of extended, crippling tolls and car dependency. The proper name for the tunnel is the Yarraville Underpass which tunnels from Spotswood under Yarraville then feeds traffic over the Maribyrnong River to the elevated Footscray Rd onto City Link designed as a tollway link for TransUrban. The west already has the worst air quality in the state with this project tipping it over standards set by EPA and bringing a health burden to already under resourced health services. The damage to the environment, particularly our waterways, is nothing short of devastating and the project will add a burden of GHG emissions to Victoria that will prohibit reaching its climate change targets.
The WGT project removes the chance of getting any significant investment in public transport such as another line to take the strain off Werribee line, expanding and reforming bus services or creating new roads and trucks routes such as Westlink or Paramount Rd, shifting freight to rail or speeding up the Melbourne Metro 2 project. These are already in the pipeline with support from local governments in the west and deserve assessment for comparative outcomes with West Gate Tunnel. The West Gate Tunnel Project is not part of the vision that local residents have of Melbourne’s west as it becomes the economic engine room of the state.
This project is the result of a break down in sound planning policy and processes in Victoria: a failure of governance. We applaud the LNP and Greens for using the revocation of planning scheme amendments as a last resort to highlight this breakdown and to stop this project. We urge all political parties to cease using transport projects as a political football, to cherry pick projects and for childish point scoring. We urge our leaders to join with local government in planning for bipartisan long-term planning in the public interest and a collaborative approach to produce a Victorian Transport Plan under the Transport Integration Action 2010 so Victoria can progress in an orderly way.