The Age: Benefits of East West Link ‘inflated’

ABC TV Graphics

ABC TV Graphics

Traffic estimates used to justify the Napthine government’s east-west
link toll road ”artificially inflate the benefits that can be
expected from the project”, according to leaked emails sent by a
senior VicRoads manager.

We must not trust the information provided to us by the Linking
Melbourne Authority.

And a separate leaked memo from VicRoads’ senior transport economist
questions traffic figures put forward to support the road, saying the
projection ”smacks of a desire to enhance the quantum of benefits”.

Premier Denis Napthine on Monday dismissed the leaked emails as merely
advice from public servants who were ‘‘individuals that have different
views’’. They were not the view of VicRoads, he said.

Dr Napthine has vowed to see construction start on the east-west link
road, joining the Eastern Freeway to CityLink, before next year’s
election.

The Coalition came to office promising a variety of public transport
projects, including a new rail line to Doncaster, and ridiculed
pre-election suggestions it planned building the six-kilometre
freeway. The $6-$8 billion road – the most expensive transport project
in Victoria’s history – would tunnel from Clifton Hill under North
Carlton to Flemington, cutting the trip from the Eastern Freeway to
CityLink to just seven minutes.

Opponents including state Labor have attacked the plan, made largely
in secret and with haste after Dr Napthine’s elevation to Premier in
March.

In April, as the government prepared Dr Napthine’s May budget
announcement of the road, VicRoads’ manager of network modelling and
analysis, Douglas Harley, emailed the road authority’s strategy and
planning head, David Shelton. Mr Harley warned traffic figures being
used to justify the road could not be trusted.

The figures were compiled by consultant Veitch Lister for the Linking
Melbourne Authority, rather than using a traffic program created by
the government.

‘‘We must not trust the information provided to us by the Linking
Melbourne Authority,’’ Mr Harley wrote.

He warned the traffic modelling used was not transparent, even to
senior transport bureaucrats: ‘‘From the little that we can find out
about it, it appears to be using an inflated value of time to
artificially inflate the benefits that can be expected from the
project.’’

Mr Harley, who refused to comment when contacted about the leaked
emails, was VicRoads’ traffic modelling manager for three years but
last month took a redundancy package. He had worked at VicRoads for
almost three decades, including as an engineer on the Eastern Freeway
extension.

He warned VicRoads could be held responsible if the road ended up
being little used, comparing the plan with Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel
and Brisbane’s Clem Jones Tunnel in one email. ‘‘These projects are
similar to the proposed East West Link.’’

VicRoads’ Mr Shelton on Sunday hosed down the significance of the
emails, saying they did not represent the authority’s position.

‘‘As with any large organisation, individuals often express differing
views,’’ he said. ‘‘VicRoads endorses the traffic modelling for
east-west link, which has undergone extensive and rigorous
assessment.’’

The Linking Melbourne Authority referred queries to VicRoads.

Opposition roads spokesman Luke Donnellan said the government’s
traffic figures were ‘‘dodgy’’. And he said the projections that had
been put forward predicting the level of traffic the new road would
carry were ‘‘just delusional’’.

He said the East West Link was ‘‘an $8 billion road that no-one wants,
no-one is going to use and for a premier that no-one voted for’’.

‘‘All recent VicRoads figures highlight that traffic volumes for the
last 10 years have been going backwards on Alexandra Parade,’ Mr
Donnellan said. ‘‘So how the Premier can deduce that VicRoads backs up
his claim is just beyond comprehension – it’s simply dishonest.’’

Dr Napthine, keen to promote the project – and to counter the
Opposition’s attack on a plan he has staked his premiership on – held
a press conference on Alexandra Parade in Collingwood during Monday’s
morning rush hour.

He said that arguments that the traffic figures for the project were
wrong did not ultimately hold water. The projection of 80,000 to
100,000 cars a day using the ‘‘East West Link stage one’’ were, he
said, ‘‘sound, solid and if anything conservative’’.

‘‘When you have got an organisation as large as VicRoads, you always
get individuals that have different views,’’ Dr Napthine said. ‘‘But
… we have had traffic experts analyse the traffic and show that
80,000 to 100,000 vehicles a day will use [it],’’ he said.

Dr Napthine also said that ‘‘the business case confirms’’ these
figures – despite the government keeping this business case
confidential.

‘‘One only has to stand here on Alexandra Parade and be drowned by the
traffic noise, and look at the frustration in the eyes of the drivers,
and know that the East West Link will be good for Melbourne and
Victoria,’’ he said.

— Clay Lucas

To view the original article, click.

 

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About Friends of Banyule Inc

President & Public Officer of Friends of Banyule Inc, a community not- for-profit organisation to enhance and protect the environmental assets of Banyule City. Currently fighting the proposed NE Link freeway through one of inner Melbourne's most ecologically sensitive areas and historical areas.
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