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Media Release


Freeway Tunnel Proposal an Expensive Waste

The Public Transport Users Association has slammed the latest inner city freeway proposal released in a report prepared for the City of Melbourne.

The council's "East-West Integrated Transport Proposal" includes a 15km freeway tunnel from the Western Ring Road through to the Eastern Freeway - a project that could cost over $2 billion.

"For the price of the freeway tunnel, we could deliver world class public transport to Melbourne - including new rail lines to Rowville and East Doncaster, increased overall rail capacity, and frequent 7 day bus services to all suburbs. By making public transport an attractive choice, there would be no need for a costly new freeway across the inner suburbs, and we could move a lot more people a lot more efficiently", PTUA President Daniel Bowen said.

"Abysmal public transport in Melbourne's middle and outer suburbs is forcing people to clog already congested roads, and throwing billion dollar freeway tunnels at the problem is just going to make things worse."

The City of Melbourne report acknowledges that new freeways only ever provide temporary relief for traffic congestion, yet at the same time it claims the proposed tunnel will reduce congestion on existing streets - even after they are narrowed - and somehow not encourage any more trips to be made by car. The Citylink project made similar claims before it was built, and yet years after its opening, traffic congestion is just as bad.

"Introducing a freeway link across the centre of Melbourne is bound to entice more people to make their journeys by car, and traffic congestion will only get worse", Mr Bowen said. "It's been the case with every major freeway ever built."

However, the PTUA welcomed the report's call for improved public transport infrastructure and services - specifically including the proposed Doncaster rail line.

"The vast majority of traffic on the Eastern Freeway is headed for the city centre, and building a freeway tunnel around the city will do little to ease that traffic congestion. But a high speed heavy rail line to Doncaster could carry over four times more people per hour than the existing freeway at a small fraction of the cost of the proposed tunnel.", Mr Bowen said

The PTUA noted that as with previous proposals, the implementation plans for the road and public transport components have been separated. Mr Bowen said that too often the public transport components of such proposals never get built, and recalled the original Eastern Freeway project which promised a Doncaster railway line by the mid 1970s. Ironically the Doncaster rail line has been added onto the side of another massive freeway proposal and could face the same fate again.

"Improved public transport is by far the most cost effective and environmentally friendly way to tackle congestion. With rising petrol prices and one third of Melbourne unable to drive, improved public transport is a necessity and heavy rail to Doncaster should be at the forefront of the transport agenda", Mr Bowen concluded.

PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 30 August 2005