‘Missing link’ in freeway network tops RACV election wishlist

The Age: ‘Missing link’ in freeway network tops RACV election wishlist. Adam Carey, Transport Reporter for The Age. 18 August 2014

Political parties vying for power in November’s state election must commit to building the “missing link” between the Metropolitan Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway if they want the backing of the RACV, the motoring group says.

The RACV will on Tuesday release a state election report card judging the Coalition, Labor and the Greens for their respective stances on more than 30 transport projects. A copy of the report card has been given to Fairfax Media.

“We are keen to make sure we have a clear understanding of your party’s positions in regard to the key issues that RACV will be pursuing on behalf of our 2.1 million members,” a letter to each of the leaders of the four main political parties states.

The North East Link headlines the group’s wish list, which calls on the parties to “commit to and announce the route and timing for the Metropolitan Ring Road completion from Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway and EastLink”.

The link’s cost has been estimated at $6 billion. It is currently not a commitment of any major political party.

RACV public policy general manager Brian Negus said the 2014 election would “absolutely” be fought on transport issues and governments needed to be more innovative in finding ways to deliver the major transport projects the state needs to solve its congestion problems.

“We’re calling for a new and much more innovative transport investment strategy at both a federal and state level because we’ve long said that you can’t deliver the sort of transport projects that are needed on the drip feed of a yearly budget,” Mr Negus said.

The report card names the first stage of the East West Link between Collingwood and CityLink as the second biggest transport priority, followed by stage two between CityLink and the Western Ring Road. It calls for construction to have started on both stages within two years, aligning the RACV’s position with the Napthine goverment’s stated commitment to the $18 billion road project. Labor opposes the East West Link but will build it if contracts are signed.

Victoria’s biggest public transport project, a new rail tunnel through the city centre, is listed at number five on the RACV’s priority list, one place below the $850 million widening of CityLink and the Tullamarine Freeway, a project that was also announced this year by the Napthine government in partnership with Transurban, CityLink’s owner.

Parties should commit to completing the road widening project “within the term”, the report card states. No date is listed for the completion of the multibillion-dollar rail link, which the government says it will build by 2026, with two news stops including one at the planned new high-rise suburb of Fishermans Bend. Labor has also committed to building the rail link but along the originally proposed route beneath Swanston Street, with five new stations instead of two.

Mr Negus said the RACV report card struck a balance between investment in roads and public transport.

“You can’t solve congestion by roads alone nor by public transport alone, it’s very much about an integrated and balanced plan,” he said.

But Greens leader Greg Barber accused the motoring group of ignoring the growing mood among the public for increased investment in public transport.

“Not satisfied with one giant polluting road tunnel, the RACV now want to spend billions more, to dig up the Yarra flats at Heidelberg. It’s top of their list, but if they asked their members, investment in public transport would come before roads,” Mr Barber said.

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