Labor intensifies opposition to construction of East West Link’s western section

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The Age: Labor intensifies opposition to construction of East West Link’s western section. May 21, 2014. Henrietta Cook, State Political Reporter at The Age

The state opposition says it does not support the second stage of the East West Link, regardless of whether the first stage is built, in effect turning the November election into a referendum on whether the western section of the project goes ahead.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy was repeatedly asked on Wednesday whether Labor would build the second stage of the project if it wins the upcoming state election.

She was also asked whether residents in the west would get the second section of the project if they voted for Labor.

Ms Hennessy replied: “We need to make a determination as to what our contractual obligations are after the election if we are so lucky to win.”

“We have constantly said that we want Denis Napthine to put the contract to the people of Victoria; we think that money would be better spent on public transport and that is our position.”

The state government is set to sign contracts for the eastern section of the project, which connects the Eastern Freeway at Clifton Hill to City Link, before this year’s state election.

Construction of the six kilometre section of the tunnel will begin by the end of this year.

But contracts for the western section of the project – which would connect CityLink to the Western Ring Road – will not be signed until 2015.

If Labor wins the state election, this could mean only the eastern section of the project is built.

East West Link architect Sir Rod Eddington proposed that the western link be built first.

Premier Denis Napthine has previously said the western section of the road would eventually save motorists 15 minutes to 20 minutes travel time on their commute to the city from Geelong, Werribee, Altona and Laverton.

Labor’s transport plan includes eliminating 50 level crossings as well as the $500 million “West Gate Distributor” project to remove 5000 trucks from the West Gate Bridge.

But a government spokesman said the West Gate Bridge was carrying almost 200,000 vehicles per day, and Labor’s proposed west gate distributor would only remove 2.5 per cent of traffic off the busy bridge.

“Yarraville residents want trucks out of their local streets, yet Labor’s off-ramp will funnel 5,000 more onto Hyde [Street], then Whitehall Street,” he said.

Ms Hennessy was joined by federal Labor’s transport spokesman, Anthony Albanese, who said the new Melbourne Rail Link was a “second-rate option” that skirted past the CBD.

He said Infrastructure Australia rated the Melbourne Metro project, which was axed by the Napthine government in the recent state budget, as its number one Victorian infrastructure project.

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