Construction of the West Gate Tunnel will begin next month, with the Victorian Government signing contracts to build the alternative to the West Gate Bridge. The contracts were signed just as a new report raises serious concerns about the West Gate Tunnel.
The government line
The six-lane tunnel will take thousands of trucks off residential streets in the inner west, slash congestion along the M1 corridor from Pakenham to Geelong and create thousands of Victorian jobs.
The project will stop rat runs in the inner west for good – and 24/7 truck bans will be enshrined in law.
The government said it has negotiated a fairer deal under the Market-led Proposal guideline, including making the toll recovery system fairer and removing clauses that compensate Transurban for road projects that divert traffic off its network.
Construction of the new road tunnel will be partly funded with a ten-year extension of the CityLink Concession deed. This partnership has been assessed as high-value for taxpayers and for drivers, with tolls increasing at a lower rate than agreed by the previous government to fund the CityLink-Tulla Widening Project.
Legislation to operate the new road tunnel, and amendments to the CityLink concession deed, will be introduced into Parliament before the road is complete in 2022.
There have been massive improvements to the project’s scope after five design updates, through two years of community consultation and a comprehensive Environment Effects Statement process, the government said.
The final design approved for construction will cost $6.7 billion, due to tunnels now twice as long as the original business case to improve traffic flow and protect homes, better city connections, additional noise walls, the creation of massive new open spaces and more cycling paths, and extending air quality monitoring for 10 years.
In addition to the business case released in 2015, the Government today released key documents, including a project summary, concession deed amendments, an exposure draft of the West Gate Tunnel Bill and the value for money assessment. The Government will also shortly release the contracts between Transurban and the State.
Early works will start in January, with the first of two massive Tunnel Boring Machines to be ordered in the next few weeks. The project will be complete in 2022.
Don’t do it: new report raises serious concerns about West Gate Tunnel
The West Gate Tunnel Project could worsen Melbourne’s traffic congestion, increase car dependency and should be rolled back, according to a new report from six leading planning academics.
Other concerns raised by the report include:
- The project’s overreach and overstatement of benefits.
- The poor planning process and lack of overall strategy.
- A lack of transparency in the market-led proposal.
The report, a joint publication between RMIT University and the University of Melbourne, argues that the project will not meet three of its key objectives and only partially meet two others. It recommends that Parliament instead limit its support for strategic road investment in Melbourne’s inner west to building the $500 million West Gate Distributor – a project that addresses access to Port Melbourne and trucks on inner west roads.
The report’s authors note that the proposed tunnel will not improve transport capacity along Melbourne’s M1 corridor, and will not reduce reliance on the West Gate Bridge. The project will fail to give residents in Melbourne’s fastest growing region better access to employment opportunities via public transport.
The report also warns that freight access to the Port of Melbourne and the rest of the city will only be partially improved by the tunnel, and that the plan’s ban on trucks will only slightly improve community amenity and local streets in Melbourne’s inner west.
Co-author, RMIT University’s Dr Ian Woodcock, said the project’s inability to meet its key objectives would have major consequences for many Melburnians, particularly those living in the city’s fastest growing metropolitan area – the west.
“International and local evidence overwhelmingly shows that when it comes to improving traffic congestion, building new roads is only a short-term solution,” Woodcock said.
“By building extensive new road capacity that simply entrenches car-based transport, the West Gate Tunnel Project will introduce new transport complexity to the west and the rest of the city, and will compromise many decades of carefully developed aspirations for the central, inner-west and north Melbourne.
“The project’s massive $5.5 billion budget will severely limit options available to future governments to create better public transport, and to meet demands for investment in health, education and regional development.”
Dr Crystal Legacy, from the University of Melbourne, said the West Gate Tunnel was a clear case of ‘overreach’ and the government should revert back to the 2014 West Gate Distributor plan.
“For too long, Victoria’s transport planning and infrastructure investment has occurred in a policy and planning vacuum.
“We therefore call on Parliament – and all sides of politics – to support urgent action for the preparation of an integrated Victorian Transport Plan, as required by the Transport Integration Act 2010.
“This can be done through transparent, strategic and vision-led infrastructure planning, based on an appropriate evidence-based assessment process. All alternatives must be considered to create the city in which its residents wish to live.”
The report also includes an open letter to Victorian State MPs signed by 22 internationally renowned academic leaders in transport planning, urban planning, engineering and safety about the direction of transport planning in Melbourne and Victoria.
Download the report at https://bit.ly/WestGateTunnelReport.