The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has welcomed the ambitious $18 billion transport blueprint for Melbourne launched by prominent businessman Sir Rod Eddington yesterday.
VECCI chief executive Wayne Kayler-Thomson says proposed East-West links are a vital piece of ‘nation building’ infrastructure worthy of Commonwealth funding.
“It is important that today’s proposals are seen as the first step in also tackling future as well as current needs, and take into account options for future infrastructure development in the context of any broader infrastructure vision, which might include additional public transport, port and rail freight options as well as the completion of Melbourne’s ring road system,” he said.
Eddignton’s Investing in Transport report, commissioned by the Brumby government, foresees the construction of mega tunnels to facilitate links between the east and west of Melbourne over the next 10 years. The investment will be a boon for infrastructure sector companies if realized.
The report outlines 20 key proposals to meet the growing transport demands for Melbourne, which is growing by 1000 residents a week. Eddington stressed the 300 page blueprint was aimed at big picture issues critical to the long term future of Melbourne as a liveable city.
The centrepiece of his vision are three big ticket projects, aimed at easing bottlenecks heading into western Melbourne:
- An 18 km corridor that will link the end of the Eastern Freeway with CityLink, the West Gate Freeway and out to the Western Ring Road. The route will pass through the inner north and will not include turn-offs into the CBD.
- A 17 km cross city metro rail tunnel connecting Caulfield station in the south-east and Footscray station in the west.
- A new Tarneit rail loop to link outer western suburbs, and to connect the V-line from Geelong and Ballarat
“Melbourne is overly reliant on the West Gate Bridge and if the [bridge] were to be unavailable for any length of time, there will be huge congestion,” he said.
Multiple funding models could be used to meet the huge costs of the project, including a mix of federal and state government funding, public-private partnerships (PPP), infrastructure operators, banks, levies and higher taxes, Eddington said.
The massive infrastructure investment would provide a large stimulus for transport companies, construction and engineering firms, infrastructure operators and a host of sub contractors.
While the Brumby government will review the plan and begin consultations with the public, criticism of the transport strategy has already emerged.
Paul Mees, Senior Lecturer in Transport Planning at the University of Melbourne told The Age:
“People in the outer suburbs who actually need rail extensions have been told to get stuffed. They’ll never find the money to build Eddington’s proposals, but if they find even a part of it, no other major transport project will be built in Melbourne in my lifetime.”
Melbourne’s population is tipped to climb from 3.8 million today to 4.5 million by 2020 according to forecasts based on 2006 census data. Melbourne is expected to push past Sydney as Australia’s largest city by 2028 on these trends.