Labor won’t support East-West tunnel


The Age:  Labor won’t support East-West tunnel. July 30, 2013. Royce Millar and Josh Gordon


State Labor is set to draw a line in the sand over the controversial east-west tunnel, with Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews to announce he is unambiguously against the $6-$8 billion project, one of the largest in Victoria’s history.

Senior ALP sources yesterday confirmed the Opposition’s intention to support and new road linking the western suburbs to the Port of Melbourne, and for works to ease congestion along Hoddle Street.

Fairfax Media understands the shadow cabinet firmed its position at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

Labor is also committed to the $9 billion metro rail tunnel, which has been backed by Federal Labor.

Since the Coalition embraced the eastern link – from the Eastern freeway at Clifton Hill to Tullamarine freeway – as a priority in late 2011, Labor has struggled with the politics of the state’s biggest infrastructure project.

The government ramped up the tunnel project in the May budget, despite being advised by the Linking Melbourne Authority to give priority to the western link.

Until now Mr Andrews has refused to state a clear position on the Coalition-backed road link, which will connect the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway through traditional Labor heartland of Collingwood, Fitzroy and Carlton, and which has created anxiety for inner city Labor MPs.

The Coalition’s project, which has not been assessed by Infrastructure Australia, has been deemed as important to the Coalition’s electoral fortunes, with a raft of marginal state and federal seats to the east and south-east of the city.

It has also been seen as an opportunity to wedge Labor in the inner city against the Greens who have opposed the tunnel.

The Coalition is expected to use Mr Andrews’ outright opposition to the project to argue he is creating business uncertainty.

Labor has been spooked by the idea of linking the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways since the party took part in protests in the late 1970s that helped truncate the Eastern Freeway at Hoddle Street.

The Bracks government baulked at taking a position on an east-west link when it announced an unfunded transport vision for the whole of Melbourne in the mid 2000s.

Instead, it sought advice from transport supremo Sir Rod Eddington who proposed an 18-kilometre road tunnel linking the Eastern Freeway with CityLink but a further link to the west beyond. Sir Rod proposed that the western link be built first, stressing its importance as a freight link to the Port of Melbourne.

The Napthine government has refused to release key forecasts for the project, including traffic projections and expected toll revenue, claiming that making public such information could jeopardise sensitive commercial negotiations.