Secret papers reveal details of $6.8 billion East West Link

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Herald Sun: Secret papers reveal details of $6.8 billion East West Link. 15 December 2014

THREE major infrastructure projects were added to the East West Link stage one project at the last minute to boost the case for the road, secret documents reveal.

The Andrews Government today released about 9000 pages of documents detailing the potential costs and benefits of the $6.8 billion link between the Eastern Freeway and CityLink.

The documents include two business cases, one published in March 2013 and presented to the Napthine cabinet in April and an updated case from June 2013, which was exclusively obtained by the Herald Sun yesterday.

The cost-benefit analysis in the initial case estimates the link would produce a return of 45c for every dollar spent, the “cabinet in confidence’’ papers reveal.

Even including wider economic benefits, the original project would only produce 84c worth of value for every dollar spent, according to the reports.

But the updated case, produced just two months later, asserts the project, taking into account wider benefits, would deliver $1.40 back for each dollar invested.

The extra value is only achieved thanks to the addition of the multi-million dollar widening of the Tullamarine and Eastern freeways and extensive public transport improvements in its calculations.

The documents also detail, as reported exclusively today in the Herald Sun, extensive tolling of existing roads would have been necessary to pay for the East West Link without massive investment from the federal and state governments.

If only the new road was tolled and there was no funding secured from other sources, it would take 56 years to pay for East West, according to calculations in both business cases.

Tables suggest it would take eight years to pay for CityLink and 20 for East Link, in comparison.

As detailed in the Herald Sun, tolling sections of the Eastern Freeway or introducing a tolled lane on the road, as well as tolling the M1 between CityLink and the Bolte Bridge were suggested to cover funding shortfalls.

It proposed tolling the West Gate Bridge and West Gate Freeway to help fund the $8-$10 billion western section of the link, connecting CityLink to the Western Ring Road.

The new Labor government has argued the documents _ also including supplementary reports _ conclusively reveal the road is not cost effective.

The Andrews regime has had a four-strong team poring over the papers throughout the weekend.

Treasurer Tim Pallas yesterday said the cases were never sent in their entirety to Infrastructure Australia for its analysis.

Mr Pallas said the business cases revealed there was a $2.1 billion black hole in the project.

But former treasurer Michael O’Brien said the Napthine government never considered tolling other roads to pay for East West Link because it knew it would receive a $1.5 billion contribution for the route from Tony Abbott.

The Abbott Government has also committed $1.5 billion towards the western section of the East West Link.

michelle.ainsworth@news.com.au

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