The Age: Traffic estimates for the East West Link ignore planned rail tunnel. March 6, 2014. Adam Carey Transport Reporter
Official predictions about how many vehicles will travel on the East West Link ignore the impact the Metro rail tunnel would have, despite the Napthine government and the opposition pledging to start building the rail link before the end of the decade.
Michael Veitch, the director of the consultancy hired by the state government to predict traffic numbers for the East West Link, admitted under cross-examination on Wednesday that the predictions published by the Linking Melbourne Authority late last year did not factor in the rail link.
On day three of the 30-day planning panel hearing into the $9 billion-$11 billion road project Mr Veitch said this was because building Metro rail between South Kensington and South Yarra would make little difference to how many motorists used the toll road.
”Most candidates for the East West Link don’t have an attractive option for public transport across the north of Melbourne, because there isn’t any,” Mr Veitch said. But residents of south-eastern suburbs – potential users of the East West Link – would benefit from the tunnel’s extra capacity on the Dandenong, Pakenham and Cranbourne train lines.
It is predicted that by 2031 between 100,000 and 120,000 vehicles a day will use stage one of the East West Link, between the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood and Tullamarine Freeway in Flemington. Metro rail is expected to have capacity for an extra 24,000 passengers an hour.
A ”sensitivity test” for the road that included Metro rail in traffic modelling found it would barely make a dent in vehicle numbers, Mr Veitch said.
What would make an impact was the toll cost. ”There is no doubt rat-running will be significantly reduced,” Mr Veitch said, though the higher the toll, the more motorists would avoid it in favour of local roads.
The prospect of higher peak-hour tolls as a ”demand management tool” was flagged by planning lawyer Stuart Morris, QC, representing the Linking Melbourne Authority, at the hearing on Monday.
Premier Denis Napthine said last week his government was committed to starting work on the rail tunnel by the end of the decade. So far it has spent $49.7 million on planning.
But Labor planning spokesman Brian Tee said Metro rail’s absence from official traffic forecasts for the East West Link proved the government was not genuinely interested in the project. ”You can’t trust Dr Napthine’s promise to deliver Metro rail because the internal working shows he has no intention of delivering the project,” Mr Tee said. Labor has promised $300 million for Metro rail in its first budget if elected.