The release of the Victorian budget has brought about much debate on government priorities for the coming year. Two opposing projects have caused a stir within the federal budget released earlier this month and the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel and the East-West Link also seem to be taking much of the spot light in the discussion for what is best for Victoria.
The standoff between the East West Link and the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel has many experts talking in industry groups on LinkedIn. However, according to Vin Phillips, Director of Taxis Victoria, both projects should be given the go ahead:
“I fully support both projects. But the Eastern Freeway/ ConnectEast has always been an issue because it went nowhere. So by connecting the Tullamarine Freeway to ConnectEast, we now have traffic being diverted from Monash and Bolte Bridge and allow traffic to get from east to west. Hopefully this will also be for west to east.”
“The underground tunnel is needed but not as much as the traffic diversion. What isn’t known is that people on the Sunbery line going to Southern Cross won’t be able to access Southern Cross and will have to change trains at South Kensington or North Melbourne.”
However, David McKinnon of Servicestream thinks that increasing public transport will reduce congestion:
“Road or rail? Well, if we build a good reliable and well operated integrated public transport system then we can take some of those single occupant cars off the road, hence less road congestion, and less reliance on new freeways. An interesting observation, when we were using buses during the RRL closure over Christmas it was observed that a bus of 40 people uses the same road space as 3 people in a car each. And the bus probably uses not much more fuel than the 3 cars sitting in traffic.”
Only time will tell for these projects, as Premiere Denise Napthine has announced the East West link as the state priority, while Prime Minster Julia Gillard is requesting Infrastructure Australia’s business case before committing federal funding.
For some wider industry perspective on the Victorian budget, we also asked Brian Negus, General Manager of the RACV, and Anthony Morton, President of the PTUA, on what they thought were the big issues this year.
Brian Negus, General Manager of Public Policy at RACV
“RACV has raised significant concerns on behalf of our members and all Victorians with several State Governments over a number of years regarding the deteriorating condition of Victoria’s roads and the safety risks to users of these roads. RACV welcomes this strong government commitment to delivering the East-West tunnel and road link across Melbourne which comes on the back of the government’s announcement of a new public private partnership (PPP) policy which will actively support and attract private sector investment.
RACV also welcomes the State Government’s $10 million funding which adds to the $40 million already allocated by the Federal Government to advance the planning, design and preconstruction for the Metro Rail Tunnel.”
Anthony Morton, President of the Public Transport Users Association
The budget is a disappointment to all those Victorians who changed the government in 2010 on the promise of fixing public transport. The failure to invest in any city-shaping public transport initiative in Melbourne’s congested suburbs is a lost opportunity to connect people with employment without adding to traffic congestion, and a setback in the global ‘liveability’ stakes.
The determination to spend at least $6 billion on a road project whose only published benefit-cost ratio is a deficient 45 to 73 cents in the dollar risks doing economic harm while providing no congestion relief in the longer term. Getting freight and business traffic moving means providing alternatives for the 90 per cent of passenger traffic that now acts as an impediment to freight. This means progressing improvements to our multimodal public transport network, including through cost-effective measures to build the capacity of our rail system. These have received only scant attention in the budget.
Brian Negus and Anthony Morton will both be speaking at the Victorian Transport Infrastructure Summit in September.