Transurban’s $6.7 billion mega-toll road proposal for Melbourne.
What is it?
The West Gate Tunnel began as the Western Distributor proposal to get noisy, poisonous trucks off the residential streets of the inner West. Transurban’s proposal has morphed it into a mega plan to lock the West into a car dependent future.
It consists of an expanded 12-lane West Gate Freeway toll way, short tunnel, 3 giant bridges across the Maribyrnong River, then an 18-lane double-decker Footscray Road leading to spaghetti interchanges and flyovers in the city and West Melbourne.
Why do locals have concerns?
The environmental effect statement (EES) process saw over 500 submissions, with the vast majority expressing concerns about the project.
As Rosa McKenna from Better West – Spotswood South Kingsville Residents Group says “the government and Transurban are pushing this project though, but we know it is wrong for so many reasons: shifting truck traffic onto other inner west streets in Hobsons Bay, with the health and safety implications, and locking us into decades more of road based infrastructure”.
But, the residents are not on their own. Melbourne City Council calls the project “a fundamental betrayal” undoing decades of work by the council and state governments to reduce cars driving into the CBD. The proposal will incentivise 1,000’s of extra vehicles to squeeze into a congested city, fighting for parking spots, and producing more pollution. Three (and counting) traffic modelling experts have said that the numbers in the EES and the business case just don’t stack up.
Trucks on residential streets are a continuing disaster. Maribyrnong has Victoria’s highest rate of child hospital admissions for respiratory illness, and the asthma rate among adolescents is 50% higher than the rest of Victoria. The Maribyrnong Truck Action Group has been fighting to stop diesel and noise pollution, and improve safety for years. The sheer scale of the Westgate Tunnel proposal is well beyond addressing this problem.
The Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, has approved this project despite the growing concerns.
What are the alternatives?
Public transport services in the west are straining under increasing demand. The existing infrastructure has not kept up with population growth, pushing more commuters onto already congested roads. Let’s start with increasing frequency and capacity of passenger trains. Electrify train lines to allowing faster, more frequent rail services that are quieter, less polluting, more energy efficient and cheaper to run.
Building Melbourne Metro 2 as another river crossing that would deliver double the capacity of the West Gate Tunnel. Train lines can carry 40,000 people per hour in both directions, while a freeway only manages 24,000 (when it’s a huge 12 lane one). Building a line to connect the Wyndham/Werribee corridor to Newport, through Fisherman’s Bend to the CBD and Clifton Hill See Map. Giving a direct link west, avoiding the Footscray stations and reducing travel times to Werribee, while increasing capacity of services across the western suburbs.
Improve bus routes so services on existing bus routes represents good value for money and reduce congestion. Create safe bike routes across the western suburbs to get people moving.
Get truck freight on to rail freight, for example with the Port Rail Shuttle. This will connect the port to distribution hubs across Melbourne via rail.
Labor went to the 2014 election promising to build the Western Distributor project and get truck off our streets for a fraction of Transurban’s plan – let’s get this project delivered.