East West Link bidders ask to dig up more of Royal Park

The Age: East West Link bidders ask to dig up more of Royal Park. May 4, 2014 Clay Lucas, Reporter for The Age

Bidders vying for the contract to build the East West Link have been told by the Napthine government’s road authority they are free to put in a bid that would result in more of Royal Park being dug up.

At least one of three consortiums bidding for the $6-8 billion freeway has asked the Linking Melbourne Authority the extent of “cut and cover” construction it can undertake in Parkville’s Royal Park.

The East West Link is a proposed road tunnel joining the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink in Flemington. It would travel underground from Smith Street in Collingwood to just near the Melbourne Zoo.

The government’s project requirements specify bidders must tunnel to within 200 metres of Elliott Avenue, near the zoo. From there, bidders can construct the tunnel by excavating a trench from the surface then covering it.

But a bidder earlier this year asked the government if it could excavate even more of Royal Park to spend less time and money tunnelling below ground.

The bidder was told by the Linking Melbourne Authority that, while such a bid would be considered non-conforming, it was free to put forward such a proposal, along with a conforming plan.

News of the possible increased excavation of parklands came as people gathered on Sunday to question the road’s impact on the zoo.

With construction in that area expected to commence next April, opponents of the planned road say there has been little or no research done on the impact its noise, light glare, pollution and construction will have on zoo animals.

Moreland councillor Sue Bolton said the Linking Melbourne Authority needed to be more honest about these impacts. “Their plans clearly show twin exit ramps from the tunnel a scant 40 metres from the zoo,” she said. “This is in an area where the zoo is attempting to mate pygmy hippos [that are near] extinction.”

Among those at Sunday’s rally was Rachel Baillie, who went as a tiger. The 10-year-old said she had “two favourite animals – tigers and wolves”, and was worried the road would affect the zoo’s tigers. “It would make it hard for them to sleep,” she said. The zoo’s chief executive, Jenny Gray, received a petition from the group on Sunday, and she said the protesters were there because they loved the zoo and had concerns about the tunnel’s affect on it. “It was a very civilised event,” she said.

However, Ms Gray said there was nothing in the work done by the Linking Melbourne Authority that had concerned the zoo in terms of noise, light or vibrations that would hurt animals. “There is nothing in any of those studies that would alarm us,’’ she said.”

The zoo was already close to Elliott Avenue, had a tram line running 10 metres outside one wall, and a train line close by, she said. “It is an urban zoo, and the animals are used to urban noises.”

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