You Thought The East West Link Was Dead, Right? Well Think Again

From Senator Janet Rice, published in NewMatilda 4 Mar 2015

The Victorian Liberals were cast from office in large part over East West Link. Labor needs to kill, bury and cremate it as well, writes Janet Rice*.

Melbourne’s population is growing, congestion is increasing and we need to do something to fix it. Do we keep travelling the old, tired, expensive route? Or do we change course to a cleaner, cheaper option?

The Napthine government’s loss in what Tony Abbott described as the “referendum on the East West Link” was a win for the cleaner and cheaper option. As was the new Daniel Andrews government’s commitment to building the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel.

Despite this, Tony Abbott refuses to fund anything resembling sensible, congestion-busting public transport.

And lurking in the shadows is the western half of the East West Link.

This concept is a hangover from Sir Rod Eddington’s ‘East West Link Needs Assessment’ report, which was completed in 2008 for the Brumby government.

The report called for both the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and the East West Link, and Eddington believed that the western section of the toll road was the priority.

The Labor government agreed and planning proceeded at full speed, until they were turfed out of office.

Since winning last year’s state election, Labor have dodged the issue of this part of the toll road. We’re told it isn’t part of their plan “for this term”, but they “would never say never”.

At Senate Estimates in Canberra last week, the Department of Infrastructure let out that Victorian Labor is “yet to provide any formal advice to the Australian government on their commitment to the project”.

And while Labor leaves the door ajar for East West Link, the way we use transport in this city is making the idea obsolete. Continue Reading…

Traffic in the Inner North

Carlton Main Sewer

YCAT Editorial

With the ill conceived East West Link taken off the agenda, the Andrews Government has announced a new agency Infrastructure Victoria to advise on major projects for the State.

Among other things, the agency will review the traffic and connectivity issues along the Northern Corridor that the East West Link proposal comprehensively failed to address.

Some observers fear that Infrastructure Victoria might revive the East West Link again. They could do worse than begin with a review of the 21 draft recommendations of the Landmark Norther Central City Corridor Study (1999-2001).

The Draft (and final) NCCC report found that if all the recommendations were implemented, there may not be a need for a tunnel.

One of the study recommendations was to close Scotchmer St at the Nicholson St median.

In consultation with stakeholders, remove or reduce the impact of through traffic and trucks on Gatehouse Street, Harker Street, and the Michael, Scotchmer and Pigdon Street route.

At the time, this was met with considerable opposition from local residents and incredulous traders. It was one of the factors that spooked then transport minister Peter Batchelor to promptly shut down the study before a final report.

Fifteen years later, the draft recommendations remain a draft. Despite a concerted attempt by the now scrapped Linking Melbourne Authority to discredit the study, the recommendations remain solid and reasonable today.

In an interesting twist of fate, the recommendation to close Scotchmer to through traffic has come to pass. Last October, Melbourne Water closed Scotchmer St just east of Nicholson St. It’s planned to remain closed until at least June 2016 while the Carlton Main Sewer is replaced.

So far, the sky has not fallen and the shopping villages of North Fitzroy and Nicholson St seem no worse off. The cycling route has improved and there are fewer trucks.

It would be a good opportunity for Yarra Council to update their Local Area Traffic Management Study to investigate the benefits of making this closure permanent.

Obviously doing just one out of 21 recommendations will not solve all the problems. But there has been progress on many of the recommendations, including some of the improvements to the 96 and 86 tram routes, improvements to the DART bus routes and a study into Doncaster rail.

Some of the other traffic calming recommendations have also been fully or partially implemented.

It’s time for a review.

East West Link “Letter of Guarantee” demands investigation

YCAT Editorial

Here is a copy of the East West Link “side letter” to the consortium, signed by the Napthine Government that blackmails Victorian taxpayers.

The timing of this document being signed before November 2014 State Election surely demands further investigation via either a Royal Commission, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), if it had beefed up powers or a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Surely former Treasurer Michael O’Brien would be aware of the principles of accountability and good governance put forward by The Honourable Tony Fitzgerald AC QC:

  • Govern for the peace, welfare and good government of the State;
  • Make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;’
  • Treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
  • Promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions.

The former treasurer treated people with contempt when putting the political interests of the former State LNP government ahead of the public interest.

It appears that the former treasurer was prepared to give away $1.2 billion of Victorian’s funds to a foreign consortium just to hide the incompetence of a project that was always of the rails.

At the time of signing, he knew that the Andrews Government had committed to walk away from the project, and he knew the polls predicted an ALP win. So the deal was done purely to stop the consortium walking away before the election instead of after.

A cowardly deal.

East West Link Letter of Guarantee and Allan Myers QC Legal Advice by Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport (YCAT)

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