Ditch road tunnel and remove level crossings instead, Liberals urged

The Victorian and federal Liberal parties should forget the uneconomic East-West road tunnel and instead direct road funding to a widespread program of level crossing removals, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said today.

“Even being optimistic, the Eddington study found the East-West tollroad would cost several billion dollars more than any benefits it would deliver,” PTUA President Tony Morton said. “Ted Baillieu and Tony Abbott had offered up billions of taxpayers’ dollars to pour down that financial black hole, and those funds could be much better used elsewhere.”

In a submission ahead of the federal budget in May, the PTUA has warned the federal government not to waste scarce funding on road projects with costs that exceed the benefits, and to instead provide genuine relief from traffic congestion by improving access to high quality public transport and removing level crossings. Dr Morton said, in an election year, this advice applied equally to all parties.

“Long-lasting relief from congestion, that doesn’t just encourage more car traffic, relies on expanding the reach of fast and frequent public transport,” said Dr Morton. “The Victorian government has claimed overdue rail extensions like Rowville can’t happen until level crossings are removed. Well, let’s cut the excuses and remove them.”

The PTUA’s submission names 23 level crossings across Melbourne as priorities for grade separation. Level crossings where trams cross the railway line are among the top priorities since trains (including express and freight trains) must slow down to cross the tram square, resulting in boom gates staying down for longer and extended delays for road users. The potential for derailment on tram squares also increases the possibility of delays for road and rail users alike. Level crossings on SmartBus routes have also been prioritsed to help these services meet their potential as fast and efficient alternatives to traffic-worsening cars.

“Denis Napthine should ask Tony Abbott to redirect his offer of funds for the East-West tollway to removing level crossings,” said Dr Morton. “By holding up public transport improvements right across Melbourne, level crossings are the real scourge for Melbourne road and rail users.”

Grade separation has been identified as a priority by a range of transport stakeholders [1]. According to Dr Morton, a steady stream of grade separation projects would also provide ongoing work that could build the capacity of local firms to deliver secure jobs and value-for-money infrastructure right across Melbourne, in constrast to the employment boom-and-bust of costly freeways [2].

“Previous grade separation projects such as Boronia, Laburnum and Altona North demonstrate these can be done affordably [3]. The amount of federal money offered by Tony Abbott for the East-West tollroad, plus a more modest contribution from the state government, could complete nearly two dozen grade separations around Melbourne,” concluded Dr Morton.


Full submission:

1. e.g.: http://www.racv.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/Internet/auxiliary/news+_+events/royalauto/news/articles/level+crossings+removal
2. http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/big-project-pipelines-at-a-dribble-20130204-2dume.html
3. http://www.ptua.org.au/2012/11/06/affordable-crossing-removal/