The Liberal’s East West Link would have been near completion by now if it hadn’t been dumped by Daniel Andrews who absurdly paid out $1.3 billion of taxpayer dollars to cancel the contract in 2014. So we are now in the midst of a traffic crisis with little done to prevent the inevitable – plans are not yet finalised for the North East Link and the Metro Tunnel is still nine years away.
To sway voters, the Labor government declared as an election promise their Western Distributor project was ‘shovel ready’, only to scrap it when they made a sneaky deal to build The Westgate Tunnel with Transurban. This trade-off gave another 12 year extension to Transurban on its City Link toll contract, providing them a windfall of $20 to $30 billion in additional tolling revenue to come out of drivers’ pockets.[i]
The University of Melbourne and RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research case study ; West Gate Tunnel: Another Case of Tunnel Vision? [ii] speculated on the government’s motivation and lack of transparency .The study was disregarded by Daniel Andrews – and when Labor’s own transport expert William McDougall, contacted State Treasurer Tim Pallas to raise his concerns over the economic viability of the project, he was abruptly removed from his position. [iii]
This form of clandestine, market driven infrastructure project doesn’t invite public discussion or allow time for scrutiny of economic, environmental or transport modelling considerations. Traffic congestion in Melbourne ranks us as the 58th most congested city in the world [iv] and with our rapidly expanding population, driving a car will soon be nothing short of a nightmare; just ask commuters stewing in the Monash Freeway traffic stand-still twice a day.
The East West Link, with contracts signed and ready to go, was planned to connect the Eastern Freeway to City Link, the Port of Melbourne precinct and the Western Ring Road. In 2014, John Fitzgerald of Infrastructure Australia reported “Infrastructure Australia has consistently held the view that an East West Road link is a meritorious project. This major link has been on Infrastructure Australia’s national priority list, as a project with real potential, for some time. It is especially significant as it will create an alternative to the Westgate Bridge”. Daniel Andrews, playing political games, ignored the experts’ advice and cast his vote for the highest bidder.
Can we still call ourselves ‘the world’s most liveable city‘ in 2018? To retain that right we must acknowledge the essential demand for short and long-term strategies to get people into and around our city seamlessly, integrating infrastructure with public transport, urban planning and the environment. The goal is to achieve this while recognising the needs of our community, and to do it openly and honestly – not with secret deals in back rooms with greedy conglomerates.
[i] Schneiders, Ben; Miller, Royce (6 February 2016). “Toll bonanza”. The Age. Melbourne.
[ii] Woodcock, I., Sturup, S., Jiaotong. X., Pittman, N., Legacy. C., Dodson, J. (December 2017)
West Gate Tunnel: Another Case of Tunnel Vision? Centre for Urban Research RMIT University.
[iii] Clay Lucas, (3 August 2017) “Expert cut from toll road project after warning Tim Pallas it did not stack up”.
The Age. Melbourne.