Herald Sun: Prime Minister Tony Abbott aims to rev up East West Link Stage Two. Matt Johnton. 20 February 2014
East West Link protesters at Alexandra Pde, Brunswick. Picture: Nicole Garmston Source: News Limited
TONY Abbott says a big federal cash injection for East West Link Stage Two would fast-track the full 18km toll road “by several years”.
The Prime Minister has given his strongest indication yet that the Commonwealth will provide money for Stage Two of the toll road, which will run from CityLink to the Western Ring Rd, describing it as “a great project for Victoria and for our country”.
Shovels are yet to hit the ground for Stage One of the project, which will link the Eastern Freeway to CityLink in Parkville, and contracts aren’t due to be signed until later this year.
But Mr Abbott told Radio Gold 104 that Premier Denis Napthine had pushed hard for him to support Stage Two during a meeting on Wednesday.
“Denis said to me that they would like to build the two effectively simultaneously; work is going ahead very, very fast on Stage One of the East West Link,” he said.
“If they can get a significant commitment from the Federal Government towards the Stage Two to complete East West Link they can virtually build the whole lot together and bring the completion date forward by several years.”
Mr Abbott, who is battling to repair a massive federal Budget deficit gave no indication where money could come from, but said his government would consider carefully the plea for cash because it is “a very worthwhile project”.
“I need to study it obviously because it would be an additional substantial commitment of federal funds and we’ve got to be very respectful towards the taxpayer’s funds,” he said.
“But it would be a great project for Victoria and for our country.”
The first stage of East West Link, which includes a 4.4km tunnel under Royal Park in Melbourne, is planned to be built by the end of 2019.
The Abbott Government had already committed $1.5 billion for Stage One, which the PM said would create about 3500 jobs in the construction phase.
It is unclear how much of the second stage of the Link, which includes a tunnel running under the Maribyrnong River, could be done while the first stage is under construction.
Spokeswoman for Dr Napthine, Kathryn McFarlane, said the government had made a substantial submission to the PM’s review of Victoria’s economy “with a focus on job-creating infrastructure”.
“We are delighted with the feedback from Canberra and particularly with the Prime Minister’s reinforcement on Thursday of his passion to be the infrastructure Prime Minister of Australia,” she said.