What are we missing thanks to the Western Distributor?

What are we missing thanks to the Western Distributor?

The State Government is pushing Transurban’s Western Distributor tollway, a massive $10 billion road through Melbourne’s inner west. The taxpayer contribution to this road is set to be at least $1.6 billion, with the rest paid for by allowing Transurban to levy additional tolls on road users for decades to come.

It’s billed as a road to get big trucks out of our residential streets. Yet unlike the original West Gate Distributor proposed before the election, it doesn’t directly address this issue. Instead, it’s planned to run directly into the city centre, encouraging an extra 5,000 cars an hour into central Melbourne and boosting Transurban’s already swollen bank account at the expense of more cost-effective, congestion-busting alternatives. There is no requirement for trucks to use the road, and they will pay heavily to do so.

What could our government be doing with $1.6 billion instead of building another destructive inner-urban tollroad that won’t solve our traffic problem? Here are some ideas, free of charge.

  • Build the Port Rail Shuttle and develop the inland ports, as already planned and (notionally) funded, to get freight on environmentally friendly rail where viable to do so, and cut toxic diesel pollution in the inner west.
  • Run trains every 10 minutes on all lines through the western suburbs, all day every day. In many cases this can be done without infrastructure upgrades and using existing rolling stock. The main new work required is partial duplication of the Altona Loop, but this should not delay improvements on other lines.
  • Bring forward rail electrification to Caroline Springs and Melton, to be done alongside duplication now proceeding.
  • Build the short connecting track from Werribee to Wyndham Vale planned as part of the original Regional Rail Link scope, to re-establish a connection between Geelong and Werribee train services.
  • Identify and roll out a new network of Smartbus services running every 10 minutes during the day, 7 days a week. This should include the current 903 service, the ‘blue orbital’ from St Kilda to Footscray incorporating existing routes 504 and 246, and also the ‘missing’ portion of route 902 between Airport West and Werribee.
  • Extend tram route 57 from West Maribyrnong to Milleara Mall via Avondale Heights, providing interchange with the 903 Smartbus.
  • Develop targeted road network solutions in consultation with the community to get large trucks off residential streets. This may include some version of Sir Rod Eddington’s Truck Action Plan Stage 1 (but not so as to degrade the Stony Creek or Don McLean Reserves) and/or establishing truck priority lanes on some of the half-dozen existing river crossings in the west. Restrict articulated trucks to a declared network of motorways and non-residential arterial roads.
  • Ensure all road widening projects in growth areas include provision of full time bus lanes, and a commitment to provision of bus service every 10 minutes along the road in question.
  • Fully fund the implementation of the Principal Bicycle Network in the western suburbs.

We could make a solid start on all the above—or we could have more of the same traffic snarls and pollution with the Western Distributor. It’s our choice.

If you’re in favour of a sensible transport alternative, get involved! Phone or visit your local MP (you can find out who they are at www.parliament.vic.gov.au) and donate or get involved with the Sustainable Cities Campaign.