Dear Premier Andrews and Minister Donnellan,
The West Gate Tunnel toll road is a $5.5 billion band-aid that won’t fix our traffic and truck problems, and will just deliver more profits to Transurban.
We need real, long-term solutions to road congestion in the west and beyond!
We want freight on rail, and big investment in public transport in the west.
The people of the west deserve a healthy, clean and liveable neighbourhood for decades to come!
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
TRUCKS OFF LOCAL STREETS
In April 2017, the Victorian Government agreed to ban trucks from using local streets to go around the West Gate Tunnel tolls. This is a huge win for the community and the Greens, who have been calling for truck bans for years, and it should take about 20% of the trucks off the streets of the inner west. But it doesn’t mean we need the West Gate Tunnel. We could have the same truck bans with truck off-ramps from the West Gate Freeway. The government promised to build these at the last election and they would save them $1 billion and get trucks off local streets (but they wouldn’t make profits for Transurban!)
FREIGHT ON RAIL
The Port-Rail Shuttle project would create a rail connection between the Port of Melbourne to three distribution hubs, and would remove 3500 trucks from our local streets every day. This relatively cheap $58 million dollar project has already been budgeted for, but the Andrews Government has put the project on ice. The government must proceed with building the Port-Rail Shuttle immediately so we can get freight onto rail and container trucks off our residential streets.
BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORT
We need efficient, reliable public transport in Melbourne’s west that includes frequent trains and buses that connect to the trains. For around a tenth of the cost of the Western Distributor we could double bus services in the west for 10 years! A train line can carry 40,000 people per hour, while a 12-lane freeway can only handle 24,000 per hour, so better public transport is crucial for the rapidly growing population in the west.
WHY WON’T THE WEST GATE TUNNEL WORK?
MORE CONTAINER TRUCKS
The West Gate Tunnel toll road further entrenches the current backwards, 20th century system of putting freight on container trucks. These trucks then create more traffic, more pollution, and more dangerous accidents on the road. In a modern, 21st century city we should be putting freight onto rail, particularly as truck movements are set to double over the next 15 years.
MORE TIME IN TRAFFIC
Melbourne has been building bigger roads for decades, and our travel times keep getting slower. The government says the West Gate Tunnel will save you 20 minutes, but the fine print is that they expect the commute from the ring road over the Bolte Bridge nine years after the road opens to be only 4-8 minutes faster than it was in 2014. If you’re going to South Melbourne, then they expect your travel time to be just as slow as it was in 2014. And that’s after five years of construction. By then they also expect the road to be nearly at capacity in peak hour, so any time savings are likely to be short lived.
DID YOU KNOW?
Decades of unfair tolls
Transurban only has the right to charge tolls on CityLink till 2035. But to fund the West Gate Tunnel, CityLink tolls would be extended for 10-12 years, meaning that people who never use it will be funding the road. It would also extend the clogging up of our courts, because unlike unpaid phone bills, unpaid tolls are dealt with through the criminal justice system. There’s also a chance that Transurban’s tolling could end seven years from now. But this chance might be blown by building the tunnel.
More Roads = More Traffic
Building a road to solve traffic is like buying bigger pants to solve obesity! By the time the West Gate Tunnel toll road is built, there would actually be more cars on the West Gate Bridge than there is now, because the new toll road won’t be able to accommodate the increase in traffic in our growing city.
It's not value for money
$5.5 billion is a huge amount of money for a toll road which does nothing to solve our traffic problems in the long-term. This money invested in public transport would provide a real transport alternative for the west, and would provide benefits for decades to come. For example, for around a tenth of the cost of the West Gate Tunnel toll road we could double the amount of bus services in the west for 10 years.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the West Gate Tunnel?
The West Gate Tunnel is a $5.5 billion tollway which Transurban proposed to the Victorian Labor Government — not to solve the west’s transport problems, but to make big profits. It used to be called the Western Distributor, but was renamed the West Gate Tunnel when the government released its new route in April 2017. The route includes:
- Widening of the West Gate Freeway from the Ring Road to Williamstown Road.
- A tunnel from west of Williamstown Road to just south of Footscray Road.
- A bridge over the Maribyrnong River and a freeway above Footscray Road, exiting to City Link, West Melbourne and Wurundjeri Way.
You can find more information on the state government’s West Gate Tunnel map.
What’s the difference between the Western Distributor and the West Gate Tunnel?
The Western Distributor was renamed the West Gate Tunnel when the government announced the new route in April 2017. The new route is essentially the same as the old route, but with the outbound tunnel exit shifted further west to the border of Yarraville and Brooklyn. The new route also has some good open space and dedicated bike paths, but we shouldn’t need a $5.5 billion toll road to get decent bike paths in the west.
How much will the West Gate Tunnel cost?
$5.5 billion, with $1.5 billion paid by the Victorian government.
The remainder will be funded by Transurban, which they will make back by charging drivers tolls on the West Gate Tunnel and CityLink (the Victorian government did a deal with Transurban to extend the tolls on CityLink for another 10 -12 years).
When will the West Gate Tunnel be built?
The Victorian Government says that it’s planning to have the contract signed and construction starting in late 2017, however they are already behind schedule. Either way, any short-lived improvements in traffic would be years away, with construction planned to continue until 2022.
Will the West Gate Tunnel reduce traffic congestion on the West Gate Freeway?
In the long term — no. By the government’s own projections, the West Gate Bridge will be even more congested in 15 years’ time than it is now.
The West Gate Tunnel will take 22,000 vehicles off the bridge each day, but this is only a 6-9% reduction on the number that would be there without it. And because of the growth in population and car use, there will still be more vehicles than there are on it today.
The government’s projections also show that the road will almost be at capacity in peak times just nine years after it’s opened. They have the option of turning the shoulder in the tunnel into a third lane, but this is only a solution until a vehicle breaks down, or this fills up too.
Building more freeways to tackle congestion is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants. Even Infrastructure Victoria has said that “experience shows that just building infrastructure attracts more road users until roads are congested once again.”
Will the West Gate Tunnel reduce travel times?
The government’s projection says that while it could be up to 20 minutes, the average saving will be 7-12 minutes in 2031. But that’s only 4-8 minutes less than the average 2014 travel time.
The 7-12 minutes figure is the projected saving from Grieve Parade to the Bolte Bridge/Footscray Road intersection. The travel time from Grieve Parade to South Melbourne is expected to have no time saving at all. And that’s after $5.5 billion and five years of construction.
While 4-8 minutes would still be a welcome relief for the thousands of people stuck on a very long commute, it is likely to be short lived.
By the government’s own projections, the West Gate Tunnel will nearly be at capacity just nine years after it is built. Meanwhile, experience in Melbourne shows that building and expanding roads just doesn’t solve congestion problems, with average travel speeds continuing to slow.
The only real solution is to make public transport a real alternative for people in the outer west, and to get more shipping containers off trucks in the city and onto rail.
Will the West Gate Tunnel reduce trucks on local streets in the inner west?
With the truck bans on local streets, the West Gate Tunnel will probably reduce truck numbers in the inner west by about 20%. This is a great start, although we could have the same truck bans with truck off-ramps from the West Gate Freeway. The government promised to build these at the last election and they would save the government $1 billion and get trucks off local streets. But they wouldn’t make profits for Transurban.
The truck bans will only apply to trucks crossing the river which don’t have an origin or destination in the inner west. Because truck numbers in general are expected to grow over the next few decades, it’s likely that even with the West Gate Tunnel and the truck bans, there will still be more trucks in the inner west in the future than there are today.
The real, long term solution to the truck problem is putting shipping containers on trains.
This doesn’t have to be hard. The Port-Rail Shuttle would take 3,500 trucks off our roads every day by taking containers by train to three distribution hubs around Melbourne. Most of the infrastructure is already in place and it would cost just $58 million to finish it off – one percent of the cost of the Western Distributor. This would not only reduce truck traffic crossing the river, it would also reduce truck movements to and from distribution hubs and container storage areas in the inner west.
What's the best solution for the outer west?
The people of the outer west deserve better transport choices. There’s a thirst in the west for better public transport options – when the Tarneit Train Station opened in 2015, people flocked to it, quickly making it the busiest V/Line station after Southern Cross. We need more of these options.
We need a reliable and efficient public transport system, with frequent buses connecting to trains. We’re not saying people have to give up their cars. We’re saying they deserve choice.
Public transport can move people in a way that roads just can’t. A train line can carry 40,000 people per hour in both directions, while a freeway only manages 24,000, and that’s when it’s a massive 12 lane one.
It’s also surprisingly cheap – the overall economic cost per passenger kilometre is much lower for public transport than roads. Making it happen is also affordable because the immediate need isn’t more infrastructure, it’s better buses and more frequent trains.
We must invest in better public transport for Melbourne’s west and its rapidly growing population. It’s a much more long-term solution than building a freeway, widening it, then widening it again as it continues to fill up.
What's the solution for the inner west?
After a lot of campaigning by the community and the Greens, the government has agreed to ban trucks from local streets when the West Gate Tunnel is built.
While this is a big victory, it doesn’t mean we need the West Gate Tunnel. The better solution would be to building truck off-ramps off the West Gate Freeway, which would direct trucks around the edge of Yarraville, along Francis and Whitehall Streets and away from houses. This would save the government $1 billion, and wouldn’t create yet another freeway which will quickly fill with cars.
The real, long term solution, is to put shipping containers on to rail. The Port-Rail Shuttle would take 3,500 trucks off our roads every day by taking containers by train to three freight terminals around Melbourne.
Most of the infrastructure is already in place and it would cost just $58 million to finish it off – one percent of the cost of the Western Distributor.
How would the West Gate Tunnel affect CityLink tolls?
Transurban only has the right to charge tolls on CityLink till 2035. But to fund the West Gate Tunnel, CityLink tolls would be extended for 10-12 years, meaning that people who never use it will be funding the road.
It would also extend the clogging up of our courts, because unpaid tolls are dealt with through the criminal justice system. Toll costs can build up quickly, particularly for people who are homeless or have moved and don’t realise that fines are being sent to an old address. While an unpaid phone bill can leave you facing debt collectors, unpaid tolls land people in the court system and take up a disproportionate amount of court time.
The West Gate Tunnel could also blow the opportunity to end Transurban tolling early. There is a clause in the CityLink contract which would allow the tolling to end in 2025 if CityLink is making super profits. Whether or not CityLink is currently making super profits is debatable, but allowing Transurban to build the West Gate Tunnel would probably blow this opportunity.
What do truck drivers need?
Truck driving is the most dangerous job in the country and many truck drivers struggle to make ends meet. This means driving long hours, driving unsafe vehicles, trying to find the quickest route and to avoid tolls. Whether they drive through the West Gate Tunnel or on the truck off-ramps the Labor government promised, truck drivers need safe rates.
It’s up to the big retailers and manufacturers to take responsibility for safety in their supply chains by paying drivers enough money to not have to cut corners just to make ends meet.
What should people do if they're affected by the construction of the West Gate Tunnel?
Whether they will be living near a widened freeway or have a tunnel run under their house, many people will be affected by West Gate Tunnel construction.
Colleen Hartland, Greens MP for the western suburbs, has been holding the government accountable on the Western Distributor throughout the consultation process. When the Environmental Effects Statement is released (probably in May 2017), her office will be going through it to make sure there is adequate provision for noise barriers, and adequate management of exhaust from the tunnel, noise and vibration from construction, contaminated land, and construction vehicles in residential areas.
She will be encouraging the public to make submissions to the Environmental Effects Statement, which can be as simple as a single paragraph expressing concern. Sign the petition to the premier and the roads minister to be kept up to date on what is in the Environmental Effects Statement and how you can have a say.
Will the West Gate Tunnel project be good for cyclists?
The new route for the West Gate Tunnel project includes lots of new off-road bike paths. While it’s great to see new bike infrastructure, we shouldn’t need a $5.5 billion toll road to get decent bike paths in the west.
It also looks like the bike routes were designed with the aim of making the toll road look good, rather than of meeting cyclists needs. If you have feedback on the bike routes, please contact Colleen Hartland, Greens MP for the western suburbs, to help inform her position on what the community really needs in bike infrastructure.
Colleen will be encouraging the public to make submissions to the Environmental Effects Statement, due out mid-year, which can be as simple as a single paragraph. Sign the petition to the premier and the roads minister to be kept up to date on what is in the Environmental Effects Statement and how you can give your feedback on the project.