Hundreds rally against East West Link

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The Age: Hundreds rally against East West Link November 15, 2014. Anna Whitelaw

Protesters show their support at the Anti East-West toll road protest, on November 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. The rally has united the groups around three main demands: Scrap the East-West Link, rip up the contracts signed and for investment in public transport as an alternative to toll roads. Click for more photos

Hundreds of protesters rallying against East West Link brought the city to a standstill on Saturday afternoon.

Nearly 500 protesters, from young families pushing prams to those who use wheelchairs, marched from the State Library of Victoria to Flinders Street Station chanting “Napthine go to hell, and take your tunnel there as well”, while flanked by a heavy police presence.

A colourful coalition of activists joined the rally, including community groups from the inner northern suburbs where the tunnel is proposed, public transport activists, environmentalists as well as representatives from the Greens and the Socialist Party.

Comedian and spokesman for the Protectors of Public Lands Rod Quantock told the crowd the community groups plan to mount a new legal challenge against special exemptions to Royal Park’s heritage status which allow the tunnel to proceed.

He was joined by Yarra City councillor Stephen Jolly who is running for the seat of Richmond on a platform of stopping the tunnel.

Mr Jolly told the triumphant crowd that regardless of whether the Napthine government lost the election, the battle to stop East West Link was “not yet won”, and urged them to continue to keep up pressure after the November 29 state election.

The City of Yarra is one of three inner city councils – including Moreland and now Moonee Ponds – who have brought lawsuits against the tunnel due to be heard in the Supreme Court on December 15.

Greens leader Senator Christine Milne also spoke at the rally saying that the election would be a referendum on the controversial project. Ms Milne promised if the Greens were successful in holding the balance of power in both houses after the state election, they would block the project.

Ms Milne also referred to a report by 10 transport planners and financial analysts from three universities found the East West Tunnel would cost taxpayers $17.8 billion, when interest repayments and availability were factored in, far in excess of the $2 billion Premier Napthine has quoted.

The protest was peaceful, except for a handful of angry motorists stuck in traffic on Swanston Street who tried to drown out the protest with their horns.

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