“West is best for tunnel”

Herald Sun: West is best for tunnel (September 9, 2008)

A giant cross-city road and tunnel network linking west and east Melbourne would be built in stages, with the western suburbs to benefit first under plans being considered by the Government.The Brumby Government is investigating a strategy to delay the eastern end of the 18km cross-city project. The Herald Sun believes that senior members of the Government are seriously concerned about a voter backlash over the Eastern Freeway end of the project, which is planned to join CityLink at Parkville.

This aspect of the project is highly controversial because it has enraged politically active voters in key inner-city seats. It would require the drilling of a massive tunnel under Melbourne General Cemetery. Sources familiar with the Government’s plans said serious thought was being given to backing the west over eastern Melbourne.

Labor was eager to appease its core constituency in the western suburbs, which is groaning under the weight of unprecedented traffic growth, particularly heavy trucks. The Government has entered the decision-making phase of the Victorian Transport Plan, which will decide whether to back big slabs of the so-called Eddington report into east-west congestion.

The estimated cost of stage one of the west-east road/tunnel project was $2 billion, with two options for the western end of the 18km road. Both would start on the Western Ring Rd and skirt the southern end of Flemington racecourse. One would follow a rail line, the other the West Gate Freeway, before hitting the port area.

There is heavy speculation that the Government will not only back a west-east road link, but also a rail tunnel linking Footscray to Caulfield. The rail tunnel is expected to include a rail freight component, which could potentially open up Hastings as an alternative cargo port.