Friends of Banyule President Dennis O’Connell is appearing at the East West Link project panel hearings today. In his presentation he will outline why the EW link should not proceed and how Banyule residents will be impacted. Below is the transcript for your edification.
Thank you Madam Chair and committee members. Friends of Banyule appreciates the opportunity to appear before the inquiry and draw to attention particular issues concerning the road network in Banyule and the North-East Region as a result of the proposed project. Friends of Banyule is a community organisation campaigning for the preservation of the Middle Yarra corridor open space known as the Banyule Flats and Warringal Parklands, covering an area of approximately eighty hectares about twelve kilometres north-east of the CBD. Our focus has broadened in recent years with the increasing realisation that road- intensive development at the expense of more sustainable, space efficient transport modes is a growing threat to open space and parkland in Melbourne.
In this regard, we view with grave concern the future as a result of this project, for the 188 hectare Royal Park in the City of Melbourne and valuable open space in the City of Moonee Valley and elsewhere.
In July 2011 Planning Minister Matthew Guy advised representatives of Friends of Banyule that the north-east link wasn’t on the radar. We now know that it is and we are sceptical of government declarations that they intend the North-East link to be in a tunnel, as declared in Plan Melbourne (1). To do so it would have to go under the Yarra River at three points one proposed potential alignment. In our view, the East-West Link and the North-East Link are not substitutes, they are complementary projects for a pre- ordained car dependent Melbourne. The massive commitment to car dependency that the East-West link represents, would trigger another 10 – 15 years of freeway building in Melbourne. By the LMA’s own estimation, the network effects of constructing East-West Link would buy time for around the next 12 years only. It seems certain to transfer traffic congestion at Hoddle Street on the Eastern Freeway and north-south axis on Hoddle Street, to Flemington Road and CityLink. This would precipitate the construction of the western section which would feed into a similarly congested M 80 Ring Road and from there, the North East Link. In the east there is a growing capacity constraint at the Mullum and Melba tunnels on EastLink.
Whilst it is claimed these projects will be tunnels, every indication is that these roads are likely to be constructed via cut and cover and where possible above ground, due to the major costs involved in tunnelling. It has been suggested by the LMA in this hearing that the Committee not require a ‘vanilla coated tunnel’ due to the expense. We ask the Committee to consider the costs, impacts on, health, land use and environment, of this major miss-allocation of Melbourne’s green open space network.
We ask that the Committee consider that freeway building, rather than increasing the capacity of our existing public transport network, is not only an expensive and short lived endeavour, it is potentially counter to statutory requirements. We refer to the finding of the Auditor-General that Public Transport Victoria has no explicit mode shift strategies and targets to back up its statutory obligation to effect an increased share of public transport trips. Public reporting against a target was abandoned at the end of 2010 with the election of the current government. (2)This, along with the commitment of this government to expand the freeway network indicates an abandonment of the Victorian Transport Integration Act which under section 12 requires network capacity across all transport modes to be optimised.
Further to this, we submit that this project puts Doncaster Rail, with its attendant potential to effect necessary mode shift in this corridor, at substantial risk. It would do so by absorbing land that should logically be assigned to the rail service. The foreshadowed measures are said to include the proposed widening of the Eastern Freeway by two lanes from Hoddle Street to beyond Burke Rd and the sequestering of the median strip between Yarra Falls and Hoddle Street for the road tunnel. In addition to the physical constraints this would present for Doncaster rail, these actions threaten to significantly increase the costs of the rail project such that the government could assert it was no longer viable.
The Hoddle Street and Eastern Freeway intersection has been of particular concern in this hearing. A significant proportion of the congestion is due not only to traffic on the Eastern Freeway seeking to enter and depart the CBD and inner Melbourne but also, north-south travel on Hoddle Street which originates north of the Eastern Freeway alignment. (3). North-south route bus services on major arterial roads between City of Banyule/ City of Darebin and southern destinations at Hoddle Street, Chandler Highway, Burke Road/ Bulleen Road are mediocre to non-existent. (4), contributing to additional motor car travel on the Eastern Freeway.
We are immediately concerned that whilst the East West Link project is ostensibly to provide for a significant growth in motor vehicle traffic in the east-west corridor to the south the city of Banyule, there will be major spill-over effects putting increased pressure on the arterial road network in Banyule, as well as Darebin, Manningham and Boroondara. Such concerns have been reported publicly (5) with peak hour traffic volume increases of 25% on Manningham Road, 25% on Templestowe Road and 43% on Thompsons Road, being indicated. Rosanna Road is a particular concern as current traffic volumes significantly degrade the residential environment. The road is believed to carry significant volumes of traffic to and from Melbourne Airport as well as trucks avoiding tolls on the M1 and CityLink.
We find unconvincing, the argument that East-West Link is the solution for travel to the airport. Melbourne Airport is forecast to increase passengers handled in 2012 from 29 million to about 64 million in 2033. On the current mode split for passengers alone this would equate to about 140,000 passenger vehicle trips alone each day, greater than the current daily load on the Eastern Freeway. (6). These impacts have not been assessed by the LMA within the CIS. We request that additional impact assessments be made into traffic along Manningham Road, Templestowe Road, Thompsons Road, Heidelberg Road, Bell Street and Rosanna Road and provided to the Committee prior to your decision being delivered.
We believe the proposed project will not achieve its aims to alleviate congestion but will via “induced traffic”, significantly add to it on surrounding arterial roads in the north east and elsewhere. It will lock up scarce infrastructure funds for a decade and beyond and will make Doncaster Rail or an Airport Link more difficult and costly as well as appropriating significant amounts of public open space and parkland.
(1) Plan Melbourne, 2013, p. 81: ” As part of any future planning for the North East Link, an above-ground freeway through the Banyule Flats and other environmentally-sensitive areas will be precluded and there will be careful consideration of other transport, environmental, heritage and social issues.”
Also see Victoria: The Freight State (2013), p. 25
(2) Victorian Auditor-General, Managing Road Congestion (April 2013), p. xii, pp. 18, 19
(3) LMA document 234 tabled on 27 March 2014 indicates Average Weekly Daily Traffic in 2031with the East West Link (Stage 1A and 1B at 41,300. The figure was already 36,000 in 2012. See http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/Moreinfoandservices/RoadManagementAndDesign/RoadUseAndPerformance/ArterialRoadTrafficVolumes.htm
(4) There is only one route bus service on Hoddle Street, the 246 between Elsternwick railway station and Clifton Hill, typically with 10 to 15 minute frequencies on weekdays and lesser frequencies on weekends. About a third of all weekday services continue to La Trobe University in Bundoora, but none on weekends.
There is only one route bus service on Chandler Highway, the 609 between Hawthorn railway station or Kew and Fairfield. It runs only six times each weekday and not at all on weekends.
There is only one route bus service on Burke Road, the 548 between Kew and La Trobe University in Bundoora. The 548 is a Monday to Saturday service only, infrequent (half hourly except for peak periods) and finishes in the early evening.
There is no route bus service on Bulleen Road which connects to the City of Banyule.
(5) Josh Gordon, “Secret report on east-west link reveals traffic explosion,” The Age, December 9, 2013.
(6) Melbourne Airport Master Plan 2013 to 2033, p. 114