Melbourne will not accept the East West Link
Spanish company Acciona is part of the consortium picked to build the first stage of an 18 kilometre toll road across the city of Melbourne, Australia, called the East West Link.
The road would pass through one of the oldest and most densely settled sections of the inner city. Hundreds of homes and businesses would need to be acquired. Imagine doing this to the barrios of Madrid, or the inner city areas of Barcelona!
Melbourne’s oldest and largest park, Royal Park, the ‘lungs of the city,’ will lose its tranquil western end under a monstrous tangle of seven viaducts. One freeway viaduct will pass within metres of a major complex of public housing—at the tenth storey! This complex is home to many refugees and other vulnerable people.
Precious open space for recreation and wetland habitat will be lost.
It will cost five billion euros to build, but a much larger, still secret amount will be paid by fixed payments to Acciona and the consortium over 25 years. This will be a crippling burden on the state budget, diverting money from much more effective public transport projects—and from health and education as well. The business case too is secret but it shows the costs will substantially outweigh the benefits.
It is disturbing that Acciona would involve itself in a deeply anti-environmental project like this one—in complete contradiction to the claims it makes about itself.
Unlike most developed nations Australia has poor public transport and high car dependency. Pollution from diesel trucks and cars is now known to be a serious health risk especially for children. Despite this, the project intends leaving the two exhaust stacks from its tunnel unfiltered (is that fact?) – one of them within (x 20?) metres of a primary school and the other in close proximity to the city’s major hospital for children.
Does Acciona really wish to be a party to this?
They claim the project will improve environmental outcomes by reducing traffic congestion, but transport experts agree that congestion for a growing city like Melbourne needs sustainable public transport investment, not roads which always just attract more cars.
The political background
The state government in Victoria is in the hands of the same conservative party that is in power federally. Both are actively hostile to the idea of doing anything to tackle global warming.
Our Prime Minister Tony Abbott says “Coal is good for humanity”. He is a close ally of the Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Both are deeply committed to coal as an industry and hostile to renewable energy. In particular they have virtually declared war on wind power, which they seek to smother with regulation. It is strange then that they gain support from Acciona, a major manufacturer of wind turbines.
Mr Abbott has announced he will make no funding available for public transport. On his side Premier Napthine has broken the promises he made before the election in 2010 to build new rail lines and to extend public transport. Instead he has made this giant road project almost the sole focus of his government.
He and his ministers are strenuously refusing to make public the most basic and important information about this project. Instead they are pushing it through at breakneck speed. As a result the planning has been poor and consultation with the community merely token.
What lies ahead
The East West Link has become the key issue in the upcoming state election of 29 November. If the conservative government is defeated the road may well be stopped. But according to the government the contract Acciona has signed contains a clause for huge compensation granting them the profits they would have made if the project had gone ahead. The size of the sums mentioned beggar belief (how much? $500 M).
From the start there has been huge public opposition to the project. Currently three law suits in our Supreme Court are trying to stop it. During the geological testing protestors came out before dawn, day after day over six long months, standing against police to stop the work. If an attempt is made to start actual work on the project this will resume but on a much larger scale.
Stopping the East West Link will be a major victory for the environment and climate change policy.
We want you to ask Acciona why it has involved itself in this woeful project—when it is a company that claims to be concerned for the environment.
Please help us: send an email to the following addresses to carry our message to Acciona.
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Cc: Infrastructure.firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
At the very least we would like you to know what a company based in your country is up to in ours.
Thank you for taking the trouble to read this.
For further information (in English) here is a very full article giving the arguments for and against the project by Gay Alcorn in the Guardian.
Of the two short videos below the second has subtitles available in Spanish (CC); the message of the first we hope is clear in any language.
Public Transport Not Traffic: Really Moving Victoria
Acciona quiere convertir esto…