Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rail tunnel vision praised, road link less popular

Over 1,500 submissions received. Well done everybody!

A $7 BILLION plan to tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield to build a new "metro style" underground rail line has won overwhelming endorsement from councils, transport groups and social welfare bodies.

But support for a proposed $9 billion road tunnel stretching from Footscray to Clifton Hill has received a mixed response in submissions to the Government's review of Sir Rod Eddington's $20 billion transport plan for Melbourne.

CityLink operator Transurban said the road tunnel should be built as a tollway - but even then it could only be built with additional Government funding.

And new tolls should be placed on existing freeways, Transurban said, as a way of managing congestion. The Government should also consider introducing "hot" lanes - tolled lanes on existing roads - on the Eastern Freeway and the Metropolitan Ring Road. And the Government should consider extending the contracts for both Transurban and ConnectEast to toll CityLink and East Link, Transurban said, as a way of raising money to build new road and public transport projects.

The Government received more than 1500 submissions to the Eddington report - many from local residents who are furious at the proposed road tunnel, and from residents concerned their houses might be compulsorily acquired as a result.

The Government was expecting to receive fewer than 500 submissions to Sir Rod's report, and has been overwhelmed by the response. Sir Rod told The Age yesterday he stood behind all his proposals, and did not believe concerns about climate change had diminished the argument for building the $9 billion road tunnel.

"There is a nonsense that says trains are good, cars are bad - none of that work has any supporting data on carbon footprint," he said. A lightly loaded train had a significant carbon footprint, he said.

Many of the submissions demanded the Government map out a long-term transport vision for Melbourne.

Train operator Connex, in its submission, backed the Footscray-to-Caulfield rail tunnel, and Sir Rod's $1.5 billion Werribee-to-Deer Park rail line.

"In our view, the level of congestion on the current metropolitan train system is unsatisfactory," Connex's submission said. New rail connections would "more than double the capacity" of lines serving 80% of Melbourne's growth areas, Connex argued.

Federal member Kelvin Thomson and state MP Carlo Carli made a joint submission, calling for the rail tunnel to be built, but not the road tunnel.

The Metropolitan Transport Forum, a coalition of 20 Melbourne councils, slammed the Eddington road tunnel proposal, saying it had a benefit-cost ratio of "considerably less than one … meaning it should not proceed".

And the Victorian Council of Social Service backed the rail tunnel proposal, but opposed "any increase in public transport tickets" to fund the project.

The Property Council supported both the road and rail tunnels, and also said the Government must look at linking the Metropolitan Ring Road to EastLink and the Eastern Freeway.

Premier John Brumby said the Government had reached no decision yet on any of Sir Rod's recommendations, and that it would respond with a wider transport plan for Melbourne by the end of the year.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said he supported the east-west road tunnel proposal, but added it was appalling that Melbourne had no overall transport strategy, despite Labor having been in power since 1999.

Read the original article here -

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