The Victorian Auditor General has slammed decisions by the former Victorian Labor government to proceed with major roads projects. He raised especially serious questions about the Peninsula Link freeway which is currently under construction between Carrum Downs and Dromana. In common with much of outer suburban Melbourne this area is chronically short of good quality public transport services.
The project will cost Victorian taxpayers about $2 billion over its full life as a public private partnership (PPP) and has precipitated considerable environmental degradation along its path.
In particular, The Linking Melbourne Authority, which is responsible for developing the Peninsula Link project and is now overseeing its delivery, was found to have not adequately informed decision-makers about whether the Peninsula Link project should proceed. The estimate of the economic benefits of the project were found to be unreliable.
The Auditor General’s report, Management of Major Road Projects, which was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on 1 June 2011 can be read in full, together with the audit summary, at
Slapdash roads spending
The audit report reveals again the slapdash way that public money was committed to major road projects without adequate evaluation. Writing in The Age on 2 June, Clay Lucas and Royce Millar (“Auditor hits $2b road project”) reported that the government was determined to proceed with the project come what may. A senior transport authority figure was quoted as saying that with Peninsula Link ex-premier John Brumby needed a ”shovel-ready” project to stimulate the economy and to show a PPP could be delivered in a difficult climate.
”It was justified on the basis of his political needs and the GFC. It was never justified on a needs basis, and that’s shown by the fact it could never have worked as a toll road, because the demand wasn’t there.”
The article by Clay Lucas and Royce Millar can be seen at: http://www.theage.com.au/frontpage/2011/06/02/frontpage.pdf
Relevance for the proposed North East Link
The episode raises serious questions about how major road projects are considered at state government level. In the absence of any open public and expert inquiry processes both Peninsula Link and the North East Link freeway projects were included in the Brumby government’s December 2008 Victorian Transport Plan.
Whilst the Baillieu government says that it is not committed to the North East Link project, it has permitted VicRoads to conclude an in-house bureaucratic evaluation process commenced by the Brumby government. It is now all but been finalised. The government has not ruled out building the North East Link.
The fact is that the North East Link project does not make any more sense for north east Melbourne than Peninsula Link made for south east Melbourne. The government should put a line through it in favour of a comprehensive program for public transport.
Read related comments in The Age below:
3 June 2011
4 June 2011
- Auditor hits $2b project (theage.com.au)
- Victorian traffic projections off mark (news.theage.com.au)
- Freeways slow to a crawl (theage.com.au)