News State Victoria News Vic govt ‘cooked books’ on East West Link, says Labor

Vic govt ‘cooked books’ on East West Link, says Labor

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The Victorian Government’s analysis of the East West Link (EWL) business case suggests the project would increase traffic congestion on Melbourne’s existing freeways and has a $2 billion funding black hole.

The Government today released the long-awaited documents – which the former Napthine government refused to release while in power – despite preliminary contracts being signed by their predecessors.

New Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made an election promise to scrap the project, and last week ordered all preliminary works on the road to be suspended.

Daniel Andrews. Photo: AAP
Human chain around East West Link drilling site
Protesters form a human chain around an East West Link test drilling site.

The East West Link project is a proposed 18-kilometre road connecting Melbourne’s major arterials – the Eastern Freeway at Hoddle Street to CityLink, the Port of Melbourne and on to the Western Ring Road.

Today, Labor said its predecessor “cooked the books” to make it more attractive, and it would have been one of the most expensive road projects in the state.

In summarising 9000 pages prepared by the Napthine government, Treasurer Tim Pallas said the small percentage of people projected to use the link “nails why this project makes no sense at all”.

Mr Pallas said the original business case, dated April 2013, showed only 13 per cent of Eastern Freeway morning traffic travelled to the western suburbs and the airport.

“‘Almost nine in every 10 vehicles on the Eastern Freeway in AM peak are not using the East West Link’, the summary of the business case stated,” Mr Pallas said.

“The project is expected to benefit a number of users, however, at the same time, it will increase traffic at already congested location (on the Eastern and Tullamarine Freeways in particular) which erodes the overall project benefits cost reduction.”

Mr Pallas said the revised business plan, written three months later, was an attempt to “put the best possible light” on the East West Link project.

The revised version said the $6.8 billion project would “change the face of Melbourne”, with the cost of congestion in the city predicted to reach around $6 billion by 2021.

Deputy Premier James Merlino said it was clear why the former government refused to release the business case, labelling the project botched and rushed.

“This is worse than creative writing. It’s outright lies” he said.

“They planned to make a tunnel that would make congestion worse. It’s a litany of lies.”

But former treasurer Michael O’Brien said a city the size of Melbourne could not afford to have only one east-west crossing.

“It’s all about connecting our major freeways, it’s not rocket science,” he said.

“It’s only the recklessness of Daniel Andrews and Labor, who are now ripping up contracts and putting people out of work and exposing tax payers to billions of dollars (of compensation).”

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