East West Tunnel and Toll Roads – Two Experts State their Cases

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BRIAN NEGUS, RACV general manager public policy

CONGESTION is impacting greatly on the ability of road users and public transport passengers to get where they need to go in a reasonable time.

It’s also impacting heavily on businesses, with that cost being passed on to consumers.

Road congestion costs Victorians $3 billion a year and is predicted to rise to $6 billion by 2020. RACV research indicates that 88 per cent of Victorians believe congestion is worse now than it was five years ago, and 90 per cent believing it will be worse again in five years.

Melbourne’s transport infrastructure needs to be improved with several new road and rail projects to aid our mobility and reduce congestion. It is critical that the Coalition Government tackles Melbourne’s crippling congested roads and addresses road safety by setting timelines for key city-shaping projects in its State Budget, in particular the East-West Link.

The RACV welcomes the Government’s statements of commitment to this project made recently.

The RACV believes the East-West Link from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road, with a tunnel to CityLink, is a critical project for Melbourne. It will deal with the huge congestion at the end of the Eastern Freeway and on both east-west and north-south roads in the extensive area north of the city. Many of the north-south roads have trams and passengers will also benefit from this project.

The East-West Link provides a key piece in the complicated jigsaw that is Melbourne’s road system and it will provide the missing link for east-to-west and west-to-east movement across town. Importantly, it also provides an alternative to the Westgate-Monash corridor, which is Melbourne’s only cross-town route for people and freight.

The East-West Link is a key cog of a totally integrated transport plan that needs to consider our state’s current transport issues across road, rail, tram, bike and pedestrian requirements. This plan needs to include several road and public transport projects to improve our mobility and well-being into the future.

Apart from the East-West Link, the projects that must be delivered over the next 10 years include the Metro rail tunnel from Footscray to South Yarra, the northeast link to complete the Metropolitan Ring Rd to the Eastern Freeway/Eastlink and the fast rail link to Melbourne Airport.

The State Government, along with the Federal Government, needs to put in place long-term investment strategies to deliver these critical projects, including the use of public-private partnerships, rather than trying to rely on the year-by-year Budget cycle. These transport infrastructure improvements are vital to Victoria’s growth and the economic and social wellbeing of our community.

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JULIANNE BELL, secretary of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria

THE question has been put should the East-West Link proceed? Over the past 10 years Melburnians have answered this with a resounding “no way”.

After his election, Premier Ted Baillieu dusted off Sir Rod Eddington’s 2008 plans for the East-West Link project, declared it a priority and asked the Federal Government for $30 million to fund a “review” (which has just been refused).

The project already has been subjected to intense scrutiny in two reviews by the previous state government and both times it was rejected.

In 2003, under the Bracks government, the Northern Central City Corridor study, with an independent expert panel, concluded that most traffic off the Eastern Freeway was headed north-south (mainly to the city), not east-west, and recommended against the link. Then, following the Eddington review by the Brumby government, the East-West Link and its extension under the western suburbs – WestLink – were not included in the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan.

Our opposition to the project is based on financial grounds. Economics writer Kenneth Davidson says the link is not financially viable because “the benefit-cost ratio is 0.5, according to the traditional measure, and 0.7, according to Eddington”.

So for every dollar invested the return is 50c.

Why is the Government so desperate to push this project through? Are the merchant banks and investors waiting in the wings to profit – at public expense – from a public-private partnership? The old argument that it will “bring work” is a furphy. So would public transport projects such as Doncaster, Rowville or Airport rail links.

It is obvious that if constructed, the freeway/ tollway – whether above, below or on ground – would destroy heritage streetscapes and the residential amenity of inner-Melbourne and the western suburbs, in addition to causing widespread traffic chaos. Plus it would devastate major parks, namely Royal, Holland and Travancore along its route.

While community and public transport groups plus Yarra Council oppose the East-West Link, we are actively campaigning for construction of the Doncaster rail link, which was first proposed in 1972 when the Eastern Freeway was built. It was planned that the railway line be constructed down the freeway road reserve (this was specially strengthened when the freeway was built).

The spectacular success of rail and bus transport in Western Australia, with Prof Peter Newman of Curtin University as its guru, has shown other state governments how to move commuters out of cars on to public transport. It should be possible in Victoria.

The East-West Link threatens to become a debacle and the Premier should embark upon the project at his peril.

Retreived from Hearld Sun, 22 April 2012

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