East West Toll
The proposed East West Link is an 18 kilometre toll road the current state government plans to run from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road through the densely populated and historic inner north and west of Melbourne.
It is estimated to cost $18 billion – that is $1 billion per kilometre or $1 million per metre.
The East West Link – Stage 1 would gouge a concrete tunnel, motorways and “signature” flyovers through Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Royal Park and West Parkville (Part A), via a viaduct taller than Citylink through Kensington, Flemington and North Melbourne (Part B). The East West Link – Stage 2 would see a 12 kilometre extension from the Port of Melbourne west to the ring road at Laverton on a route yet to be determined.
Stage 1 alone would cost around $8 billion and take 5 years to construct. It would have a massive impact on individuals, communities, neighbourhoods and open parkland and recreation areas.
Many homes and businesses would be destroyed to make way for a series of roads and flyovers in what are historic and densely populated residential communities.
Not only would building this road require billions of dollars up front from the Victorian and Australian Governments, but the current Victorian Government is planning to enter into contractual arrangements with a private consortium to build and operate it. This would mean Victorian taxpayers would bear all the risk of any toll revenue shortfall for decades.
The nature of the proposed Victorian contract would expose the Victorian taxpayer to huge ongoing financial risks.
Recent toll road projects funded under public private partnerships include Brisbane’s Clem7 and BrisConnections and Sydney’s Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels. They have proved to be huge financial failures as traffic use falls well below the optimistic predictions of the governments concerned. In the absence of the business case there are many unanswered questions about the viability of the EWL toll road.
Communities all along the proposed project route are concerned about the way this project is being rushed through by the government before the November election without due consideration of all the impacts on the community and on Melbourne’s transport future.
Their concerns include:
- The lack of equity for people unable or unwilling to drive (particularly the elderly), by denying access to and choice about alternative public transport modes;
- The diversion of public funds away from other congestion solving public transport alternatives to pay for the road;
- The severe loss of public land and recreational space in Royal Park and other open public spaces;
- The loss of wetlands, trees and flora and fauna;
- The addition of some 100,000 – 120,000 vehicles, including trucks, along the Eastern Freeway, and the implications of this on the connecting road networks and surrounding roads;
- The severe consequences of higher concentrations of vehicle exhaust particulates on the health of residents, tunnel commuters and especially children and the elderly;
- The likelihood, according to many traffic experts, that it will not solve the traffic congestion that is its main justification;
- The large commitment of funds to an unjustified infrastructure project in a climate of federal funding cutbacks and its implications for future state budges on such areas as health, education and aged care delivery.
The missing business case
Extremely limited information has been released to the public in relation to the business case for this toll road, leading to concern that this project does not meet the robust standards required to justify an $8 billion liability for Stage 1. Even the Senate is not being given access to information in support of an Abbott government contribution.
Many Victorians believe that if this project genuinely justifies the cost, then there is no need to keep this essential information from us, indeed the state government would want it out in the public domain.
Victorian taxpayers will bear the financial risk. Surely they have a right to know if the investment is justified.
Infrastructure Australia, an independent body that assesses and advises the Australian Government on major public infrastructure projects that it puts money into, has not seen the full business case for the East West Link – Stage 1, and does not consider the project to be ‘ready to proceed’.
We therefore strongly support the action taken by Anthony Murphy in the Supreme Court of Victoria alleging that the State Government and the Linking Melbourne Authority have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by making the representations they have.