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Media Release

13/05/2001

Anger Greets Scoresby Toll-Road Announcement

The offer by the Federal Government to give $220 million dollars to the "Scoresby Freeway" section of the controversial Melbourne Eastern Ring Road would provide the worst of all worlds to the residents of Melbourne, according to the Public Transport Users Association.

The total cost of the Scoresby Freeway is estimated at 1 billion dollars. The Federal government today offered $220 million for the project, conditional on matching funds from the Victorian government. The remaining sum - over $500 million - would come from the private sector, according to the Federal government.

PTUA President Dr. Paul Mees condemned the government's decision.

"Despite all the dishonest nonsense about the project not needing tolls, Scoresby will be a toll freeway if it goes ahead. Toll freeways are rightly unpopular with the Victorian public and the Bracks government promised at the 1999 election that it would not use tolls to fund new roads. But there is no magic pudding. The private sector is not going to hand over half a billion dollars only to receive nothing in return. Talk of "shadow tolls", in which the government pays the tolls to the private operator on behalf of motorists, are nonsense because in such a case credit rating agencies would count the project's cost as state debt and downgrade Victoria's credit rating. That's why every privately funded road in Australia is a toll road." Dr. Mees said.

"The State government has announced that it will start work immediately on the first stage of the Scoresby Freeway, from Ringwood as far as Knox. This will send 50,000 cars a day onto already congested Burwood Highway and Stud Road in Knox, and cause traffic chaos. This will last for years, and possibly forever, if the State insists on asking for private funding without tolls to complete the rest of the freeway" Dr. Mees said.

"The real issue in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs is the appalling state of public transport. Knox council has said that its number one priority is fixing public transport, and this is a greater priority than the Scoresby Freeway. Government and private surveys over the last few years have confirmed that public transport is the number one issue."

"$440 million is enough to fix all the public transport problems in the outer east: enough for a rail line to Rowville and Monash University; for a tram extension to Knox City shopping centre; to duplicate the single-track sections of the Belgrave, Lilydale, Cranbourne and Eltham rail lines; and to upgrade local bus services to operate like trams, with frequent services til midnight every day of the year."

The 1998 EES study into the Scoresby Freeway found that projects like these could have greater economic and environmental benefits than a freeway would.

"Wasting money on the Scoresby Freeway means that there will be no money for these vital projects. The Federal government's announcement will kill any hope of improved public transport in Melbourne's outer east for a generation, and must be reversed."

Dr. Mees said the PTUA would be mounting a strong campaign on the issue at the forthcoming Aston byelection.

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 13 May 2001