The East West Link proposal was contained in a lengthy report undertaken by the former airline executive, Rod Eddington for the Bracks government, Investing in Transport: East West Link Needs Assessment, which was published in 2008. The proposal was for an 18-kilometre freeway linking the Eastern Freeway with CityLink, the Port of Melbourne and the Western Ring Road.
The Liberal Government went into the 2014 election, with Premier Denis Napthine having committed and signed contracts to build the project. Napthine was photographed at the time hanging off the Hoddle Street with the then prime minister, Tony Abbott, who had promised federal funding support.
The ALP, meanwhile promised to reject the project outright in its successful 2014 election campaign. It was assisted in this commitment by a strong community campaign which reached well beyond the project corridor.
The ALP had inner suburban electoral concerns at the time, which included the possibility of the loss of several seats, including the electorate of Richmond, held by then – planning minister Richard Wynne.
Labor won the 2014 election with the opposition leader, Daniel Andrews declaring prior to the poll: “This election will be a referendum between Labor’s plan for better public transport and Denis Napthine’s $8 billion dud tunnel.”
However, the East West Link is still a real threat. Despite the fact that Andrews claimed the 2014 election to be a choice between public transport and more freeways the threat of the East West Link looms large.
Under the Andrews government’s North East Link project, massive capacity increases are planned for the Eastern Freeway between Springvale Road and Hoddle Street, altogether amounting to about 45 kilometres of extra freeway lanes. The interchange of the Eastern Freeway with the North East Link at Bulleen is being designed to cater for very large traffic flows, CBD – bound, from northern and outer eastern suburbs.
Eight wasted years
Now, with road traffic movements closer to pre-pandemic levels in Melbourne, nothing has been done by the Andrews government since it was first elected eight years ago to enhance public transport capacity from and for these suburbs. The modal mix in favour of the motor car over public transport in Melbourne is as bad as it has ever been. Such dilatoriness raises the question as to whether Labor was ever really genuine in its opposition to the East West Link, or whether their stance in 2014 was no more than a temporary tactical device to shore up their electoral standing in inner suburban electorates.
In this regard, it is instructive to reflect on the fate of a proposed rail service to Doncaster Hill, which has been the victim of government dithering, including that of the current incumbents over many decades.
The Andrews government proposes, as part of the North East Link Project, to construct a “busway” alongside the Eastern Freeway. This busway would terminate in Collingwood, possibly somewhere near the Victoria Park railway station. The travel time benefits for patrons would be negligible, relative to a train service incorporated into the existing rail network.
What is the real agenda?
Is the real, but so far unadmitted, agenda of the Andrews government to construct a cross-city freeway from the western suburbs to the eastern suburbs, as proposed in the 2008 report to the Bracks government by Rod Eddington, but subsequently halted in 2014 by the incoming Andrews government? After all, the western section, in the form of the West Gate Tunnel, is already under construction by Transurban, albeit with major cost blow outs.
A compelling case was made against the West Gate Tunnel project by the Melbourne City Council, and others, in that it would massively increase traffic congestion in the City of Melbourne, from western suburbs.
Funny that. And isn’t that which Daniel Andrews promised to save us from in the eastern suburbs, over eight years ago now? It doesn’t look like it now.
9 January 2023