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East-West tunnel is a "con job" - MP Kelvin Thomson

Wills-Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Kelvin Thomson, condemns the East West link. There is indeed a transport congestion issue for Melbourne, and we are presently growing by 200 people a day: 1,500 people a week, 75,000 people a year. It is said that we already have 2 million cars in Melbourne, but by, I think, 2036—20-odd years away—we will have an extra one million cars.


SPEECH
Date
Monday, 27 May 2013 Source House

Speaker
Thomson, Kelvin,

Mr KELVIN THOMSON
(Wills—Parliamentary Secretary for Trade) (13:00): There is indeed a transport congestion issue for Melbourne, and we are presently growing by 200 people a day: 1,500 people a week, 75,000 people a year. It is said that we already have 2 million cars in Melbourne, but by, I think, 2036—20-odd years away—we will have an extra one million cars.

That is truly mind-boggling. So there is certainly a transport congestion issue.

But there are better transport projects than this. The member for McEwen pointed out the proposal for rail to Mernda and there are projects that would be much better for the member for Aston's own constituents, like the rail to Doncaster link, a public transport link to the Monash University and the Melbourne Metro.

I have supported road projects over the years. I have supported the Western Ring Road, I have supported CityLink,

I have supported EastLink and I have supported the Craigieburn bypass. But there is always one more road to build; the problems are never solved in this way.

By contrast, federal Labor's plan to keep Melbourne moving involves investing in both its road and rail infrastructure. That is why we have been working on the Melbourne Metro project. It was, after all, $40 million in funding from the federal government which enabled the Victorian government to get this project shovel ready.

The Melbourne Metro project will untangle the inner core of the rail network and open it up for the future.

The recent budget allocated $3 billion for the Melbourne Metro, and the Victorian transport minister recently said: It is our No. 1 transport priority.

The fact is that it will improve existing services and allow for more and longer trains to move across the network.

It will make sure an extra 20,000 people an hour can travel on the Melbourne rail network. And, as Melbourne grows, the Melbourne Metro is the core that is needed before you can start building new spurs, like a future Doncaster railway line, a new link to the Melbourne airport or the Avalon rail link.

By contrast, if the Leader of the Opposition were elected he has made it clear in recent weeks that there would be no federal funding for any public transport infrastructure project, not just in Victoria but nationwide. Regrettably, such an unbalanced, roads-only approach will lead to more gridlock, worsening congestion and a poorer quality of life in our cities.

Furthermore, it is a con job. The amount of money being proposed by the opposition is way short of what would actually be required in order for the East-West Link road tunnel to be completed.

The opposition leader talks about $1½ billion towards construction of the tunnel. However, estimates of the tunnel talk about $5 billion, $6 billion or even $8 billion. Just as Tom Cruise said in Jerry Maguire the question here is, 'show me the money'.

At present it is a con job.

The question for motorists is: how exactly will the Victorian government fund this proposal? They have talked about tolling the proposed tunnel. Adam Carey reported in The Age on 15 May that a study by University College in London found that the tolls on the planned East-West Link would have been three times the current cost of an average trip on CityLink for the project's investors to make a profit. So, given that an average trip on CityLink costs $3.50, tolls would need to start at around $10.50 for a car trip of a couple of metres.

There have also been reports that the Victorian government would consider selling off, tolling or privatising existing roads, such as the Eastern Freeway or the Westgate Bridge, to pay for the East-West Link tunnel. I think these are ludicrous proposals, but the coalition needs to rule them out. The public should not have to be paying tolls on roads that have been public property for decades.

There is also a mountain of evidence and community feedback casting serious doubts over the viability of the proposed tunnel. Josh Gordon reported in The Age very recently that the Hoddle Street traffic nightmare would still remain, or even possibly worsen, after this tunnel was completed. We have heard concerns expressed from residents in Flemington and Travancore about how it is going to affect them.

We have had the spokesperson for the Protectors of Public Lands Victoria, Julianne Bell, raising serious concerns about the tunnel's potential impact on places like Royal Park, Princes Park and Parkville. The bottom line is that the coalition stands for more gridlock, more congestion and a poorer quality of life. By contrast, Labor stands for better, more accessible public transport and more livable cities.

Debate adjourned.