Engineers: Are taxpayers being taken for a ride on East West Link

Professionals Australia: Engineers: Are taxpayers being taken for a ride on East West Link? Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The professional engineers that design, scope and build large-scale infrastructure projects have questioned the veracity of the Victorian Government’s financial and delivery assertions on East West Link, upon the announcement of the East West Connect consortium as the project bidder, today.

Professionals Australia’s National Campaign Director Bede Payne said it was time for the Government to come clean and be honest with taxpayers, particularly around the project’s costs.

“The Government is telling taxpayers that East West Link will be delivered on time and within budget. However, industry data from Deloitte Access Economics shows that costs on large-scale projects blowout by an average of 12.7%. So, it is difficult to see how the Government can be so confident with its delivery and cost assertions.

“Taxpayers have a right to know the realities of what East West Link will actually cost to deliver.

“In this case the government told the world what their budget envelope was before the consortiums had even begun to properly investigate.

“These cost projections rely on the Government having the in-house engineering and technical capacity to manage the East West Link project. However, the Victorian Government has cut so many engineers and technical experts over the last few years, they simply no longer have enough expertise to keep these projects on track.

“Without proper engineering capacity, the Government has effectively become a cashed-up, uninformed purchaser, and the private sector is able to name their price. If you were doing a renovation on your house, it would be like handing the builder a blank cheque.

“Before this Government embarks on spending huge sums of taxpayer funds on the biggest project in the State, it has a responsibility to ensure it has the right engineering capacity to minimize waste and get best value for taxpayers.

Mr Payne said that engineers were concerned about the absence of transparency in the bidding process, which made it difficult for taxpayers to determine if they were getting best value for money.

“Engineers have a range of questions that the Government must now answer,” said Mr Payne.

“When the Government tells the public that the project will cost $6b-$8b, are they effectively building in a 25% buffer for the almost inevitable waste and delay that they know will occur?

“Does the Government think that the repeated reporting of their willingness to spend 6b-8b influenced the price of the return bids? Should we be unsurprised that the preferred bidders price is now falling within that envelope?

“The most pressing question of all is: Are taxpayers getting value?

“We call on the Government to get its engineering house in order, before it wastes millions of taxpayer dollars through waste and delay of East West Link.

Parliament Debates East-West Link Contracts

From Hansard Sept 3 2014

Member for Monbulk- James Merlino (ALP)

 8 royal children’s hospitals, 11 Burnley tunnels, 12 000 family homes and 20 million school kids bonuses.

“The Napthine government is so scared of a verdict on its dud $8 billion tunnel that it cannot even bear a vote in this chamber, let alone a vote at the election in November.

“Four years later our public transport system has ground to a halt, and the Napthine government says it will build this tunnel after all — a project that Victorians never wanted, that Victorians
never voted for, but that every Victorian and their children and children’s children will have to pay for. It is a project that will do precious little to fix congestion.

“In fact at most intersections it will make congestion worse. It has not been properly planned. It has barely been planned, full stop. It was thrown together with the sort of haste and artificial enhancement that would cost an accountant their job. Most importantly, it will take billions of dollars away from the other projects that Victorians actually need.

“Let us start in 2010 when the Liberals said they were not going to the election with a plan for the east–west tunnel. I give them full marks for consistency, because they do not want to take the east–west link to this election either. In 2010 they buried their intentions for the east–west tunnel. Now they are doubling down — nothing to see here, nothing you may vote on, nothing
you may know. The early life of this project was  bookended by denial in the lead-up to 2010 and is being bookended by denial in the lead-up to 2014. There is no mandate for this tunnel, and in the intervening period  there is its ungodly birth. As the artists’ impressions of east–west roll across our TV screens during every second ad break, I suggest ordinary Victorians are asking themselves,

‘How much will that thing cost?’. Here is the answer: 8 royal children’s hospitals, 11 Burnley tunnels, 12 000 family homes and 20 million school kids bonuses. It will cost $8 billion — and that is just for the dud tunnel itself.

All up, Victorians are looking at a price tag of $20 billion for the project, or 3 billion visits to your local GP under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. A responsible government might consider setting aside a decent sum for the no. 1 infrastructure priority, something that could truly change the face of a state. But this is not it. The Napthine government’s dud tunnel is not Victoria’s no. 1 transport priority. It is not even in the ballpark. The umpires at Infrastructure Australia have given it a bronze medal, putting it in category 3 out of a possible 4 categories. What an endorsement. It does not even qualify for the top 2 categories of necessity and urgency, but the Liberals are giving it the gold. If it gets built, we can call it Steven Bradbury Boulevard. And what are we getting for it?

How many minutes of travel time will it shave off? What is this project ultimately worth? The government knows the details but it is not telling the Victorian taxpayer. I wonder why that is. A business case is not just some lofty strategic governance plan. Ordinary Victorians conduct modest business cases of their own when they sit around the kitchen table and work out whether they can afford a new car. It is the principal statement of cost, benefit and risk. If I am signing myself up to a $20 billion mortgage, it is the one thing I would want to see. That is a mortgage that the Napthine government is imposing on every single Victorian, but Victorians will not get to see the business case. It is locked up like a Pentagon file, held in a safe under the Premier’s desk. What is the Napthine government hiding? Is it the bit that Infrastructure Australia described as ‘woefully inadequate’? The bit where the cost-benefit ratio, on Infrastructure Australia’s conservative estimate, is 80 cents to the dollar? Maybe we should listen to the words of the Napthine government’s own traffic modelling expert, Mr Doug Harley, a 27-year veteran of road building in Victoria
and a former manager at VicRoads. He quit VicRoads in disgust over this dud tunnel. He said the road had been assessed using ‘a dodgy model to make it look like a huge economic success’.

[Read the full debate on Hansard]

The Member for Brunswick Jane Garret ALP

This project is about our children and their children. What the government is trying to do is put an $8 billion concrete millstone around the necks of our children and our children’s children by trying to ram through this dud tunnel — not only ram it through the homes and gardens of those in the electorates we  represent, but ram it through to the exclusion of other projects and investment in public transport.

On 17 November 2010 on ABC radio, the member for Polwarth, now the Minister for Roads, who made his usual passionate contribution to this matter of public importance today, said in relation to the east–west link,  ‘You made that up’, ‘You were wrong’, ‘We are not  going to this election with a plan’ for this tunnel.  Instead the government promised to fix Victoria’s public transport system. In January 2011, after being elected, the Minister for Roads said:

We went to the election to say that we had no plans for the tunnel. And that is our policy

The Member for Richmond, Richard WYNNE (ALP)

I want to make the position of the inner-city members crystal clear: we do not support this project. We have never supported this project, and we will fight this project into the ground.
We will fight this project all the way to the election.

This entire project is being underpinned by the state. This is not a public-private partnership; there is no risk to the consortium that bids for this project. We as the state will underpin this project for years and years to come and at what opportunity cost?

What do you say to the students at Clifton Hill Primary School about where the vent stack is going to be placed? What an outcome for that community. We will never stand by silently and allow this
government to rip the heart out of the inner city and displace decent people who deserve to live in dignity in their community. We will never let that happen

 The Member for Gemebrook Mr Battin

The Leader of the Opposition talked about the east–west link and said, ‘No, if the government signs contracts, there are no dramas. We will continue with it. If we win government, then I am sure we will take the pat on the back as everything gets built’. He might like to speak to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who  recently talked about Swinburne TAFE and said, ‘If any contracts are signed by this government, we will tear them up’. I suppose the question then is: how can we trust those on the other side not to tear up any contracts we sign for the east–west link? Why does the
opposition not tell Victoria that it is going to tear up contracts for one project but not another.


Gridlock to hit busy Monash Freeway and Ring Road if Port of Hastings becomes container port

Herald Sun: Gridlock to hit busy Monash Freeway and Ring Road if Port of Hastings becomes container port. Aleks Devic. 26 August 2014

Melbourne’s busiest arterial roads, the Monash Freeway and Ring Road, could grind to a halt with 40,000 extra trucks daily tipped to hit the road. Picture: Jason Edwards

Melbourne’s busiest arterial roads, the Monash Freeway and the Ring Road, could grind to a halt should the Port of Hastings become a second container port.

An extra 40,000 trucks a day would hit the roads, according to two independent reports on the impact on traffic of the new port.

Consultant Deloitte, in leaked road modelling seen by the Herald Sun, has estimated that an extra 30,000-35,000 trucks would take to the Monash on a weekday.

And a Victoria University report says about an extra 4200 trucks a day would hit the Ring Road.

VicRoads says more than 155,000 vehicles, including about 15,000 trucks, now use the Monash and 160,000 vehicles, including 25,000 trucks, the M80 Ring Road each day.

Can the Monash and Ring Road afford to carry 40,000 extra trucks a day? What it do to your commute? Tell us below.

The State Government wants to redevelop the Port of Hastings as a second container port, handling about nine million containers a year — almost double the Port of Melbourne’s capacity.

Labor’s preferred option for the new port is Bay West, between Pt Wilson and Little River, near Avalon Airport.

The Victoria University report, released on Tuesday, says 70 per cent of Victoria’s freight would have to travel across metropolitan Melbourne to the port.

“The current road network, which is already under severe stress, would require substantial improvements and increased capacity,” it says.

It also says the present rail network would not cope with a forecast140 freight trains — one every 10 minutes.

Prepared by the university’s Institute for Supply Chain Logistics, the report said homes would have to be acquired for track widening at Malvern, Toorak, Richmond, Armadale and South Yarra.

Deloitte predicted 30 per cent of containers would be moved at weekend.

Opposition ports spokeswoman Natalie Hutchins said feeder roads would also be gridlocked as people tried to escape Monash truck jams.

“To put all those trucks on the road is unthinkable — you would be at a standstill, and every second vehicle would be a truck,” she said.

Minister for Ports David Hodgett said the Victoria University report was “riddled with inaccuracies”.

“The Port of Hastings … would come online after construction is complete on the full East West Link, which will totally change the movement of freight traffic across Melbourne,” Mr Hodgett said.

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