The West Gate Tunnel is a $6.7 billion toll road designed by Transurban, and approved by the Andrews Labor Government.
Transurban is set to make $15 billion in revenue from this deal with the Labor Government, and Victorians will have to contribute $2.6 billion to the construction costs.
What’s the problem?
This disastrous toll road will funnel thousands more cars into the city each day and destroy our city’s liveability. It will entrench car use in Melbourne – making our traffic and pollution problems even worse than they are now. And after five years of construction roadworks, it will be gridlocked just ten years after it opens.
The project has been condemned by transport and town planning experts, the local community, and the City of Melbourne.
The West Gate Tunnel is an expensive project that is designed to line the pockets of Transurban, and lock Melbourne in perpetual traffic for decades to come. This toll road creates more problems than it solves, and the Victorian Labor Government needs to stop it plans for the West Gate Tunnel immediately.
What’s the solution?
The Greens want the Victorian Labor Government to stop plans for the West Gate Tunnel, and instead proceed with the plan Labor took to the 2014 state election.
Labor promised it would build truck off ramps from the West Gate Freeway and create a dedicated truck route around the edge of Yarraville to the port. This plan (called the West Gate Distributor) would have cost a fraction to build ($0.5 billion), and could have been completed by now.
Instead, after the 2014 election, Labor dumped this plan in favour of Transurban’s West Gate Tunnel – a plan pitched to them by former Labor staffers who now work for Transurban.
We need real, long-term transport solutions that can keep up with the population boom in Melbourne’s west. A train line can carry 40,000 people per hour, while a freeway only manages 24,000, and that’s when it’s a massive 12 lanes wide. That’s why investment in public transport is essential for our growing city.
And we can get even more trucks of local streets by putting freight onto rail. The Greens have campaigned heavily for the Port Rail Shuttle to be built, and Labor finally agreed to it in 2017. Now they just need to get on with it and build it now.
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HOW WILL THE TOLL ROAD IMPACT YOU?
Learn how the West Gate Tunnel will impact your community!
There are cheap and simple solutions to truck problems in the inner west. But instead we’re being sold a massive toll road which won’t solve congestion, and just delivers mega profits to Transurban. We don’t need the West Gate Tunnel to get trucks off local streets, and the West Gate Tunnel won’t improve air quality in the inner west.
For people in the outer west, The West Gate Tunnel will make daily commutes even longer. Travel times from the outer west over the West Gate Bridge will be slower than they are today. People can take the tunnel instead, but this will only save three minutes on the way in. And that’s after enduring five years of roadworks, and paying a toll to Transurban for the so-called “convenience”.
The West Gate Tunnel toll road will flood inner city neighbourhoods with more traffic. The toll road will generate tens of thousands more car commutes into inner Melbourne every day. Most of them will be dumped onto local streets in North Melbourne, West Melbourne and Docklands.
ALL OF MELBOURNE
People across Melbourne will be paying CityLink tolls for an extra 10 – 12 years to fund the construction of yet more toll roads that won’t solve traffic congestion. Melbourne’s transport planning is too important to leave to companies like Transurban that are only interested in making profits.
If the West Gate Tunnel is built, cyclists in inner Melbourne will find themselves riding with all the traffic which has just been dumped by the new toll road. The government should be building bike infrastructure now, not in five years as a sweetener for a toll road that won’t work.
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 toll road 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.
- Twin road tunnels with portals west of Williamstown Road and 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 version of the toll road in April 2017. The route is essentially the same, but with the outbound tunnel exit shifted further west to the border of Yarraville and Brooklyn. The project now includes some open space and bicycle infrastructure which the State Government has put front and centre of its advertising campaign for the project. The west shouldn’t need a $5.5 billion toll road to get decent parks and bike paths.
What is the West Gate Distributor (truck off ramps) project?
The West Gate Distributor project is the plan that Labor took to the 2014 election, but then dumped in favour of Transurban’s West Gate Tunnel toll road.
The project was designed to build truck off ramps off the West Gate Freeway (before the West Gate Bridge) and create a dedicated truck route to the port, via Whitehall Street on the edge of Yarraville. This plan would have cost a fraction of the cost of the West Gate Tunnel — $500 million (compared with $5.5 billion).
The West Gate Distributor would have been a far quicker and cheaper solution to our truck problems. And if Labor stuck to its election promise, the West Gate Distributor would have been built by now, and would already be removing trucks from our streets.
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 Labor 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?
No. By the Labor Government’s own projections, the West Gate Bridge will be even more congested in 15 years’ time than it is now.
The commute over the West Gate Bridge will be even worse than it is today, as two lanes will be cut from parts of the freeway to make way for the toll road. Commuters will be able to use the West Gate Tunnel, but it would only save 3 minutes on the way in, or 5 minutes on the way out. And that’s after enduring five years of roadworks, and paying a toll to Transurban for the so-called “convenience”.
Building more toll ways to tackle congestion does not work. Infrastructure Victoria, the State Government’s independent advisory body, 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?
No. The Labor Government’s own report shows that Transurban’s new toll road will only make things worse.
The commute from the outer west over the West Gate Bridge will be even longer than it is today, as two lanes will be
cut from parts of the freeway to make way for the toll road.
Commuters will be able to use the West Gate Tunnel, but it would only save 3 minutes on the way in, or 5 minutes on
the way out. And that’s after enduring five years of roadworks, and paying a toll to Transurban for the so-called
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 across the inner west?
No. For some parts of the inner west, truck numbers will be much worse after the West Gate Tunnel is built. Williamstown Road truck numbers will double. People on Millers Road north of the freeway can expect 7000 more trucks passing their door every day, and those on Blackshaws Rd and Hudsons Rd can expect to see trucks rat running to avoid the tolls.
The State Government has promised to implement trucks bans on four residential streets in the inner west (Francis Street, Somerville Road, Buckley Street, Moore Street), once the new toll road is completed.
Yet there’s a good chance lots of trucks won’t use the toll road and will defy the truck bans. The trucking industry has already said it doesn’t want to be forced to pay tolls, and the government has already admitted they won’t properly resource enforcement.
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, but only once the West Gate Tunnel toll road is built.
While this is a big victory, it doesn’t mean we need the West Gate Tunnel toll road to get trucks off local streets. 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 toll road which will quickly fill with cars.
This is the plan the Labor party took to the 2014 State Election. For reasons not clear to anyone, Instead of building the off ramps from the bridge, they scrapped the plan and fast-tracked Transurban’s toll road.
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 at the latest. However, in exchange for building another toll road in the form of the West Gate Tunnel, CityLink tolls would be extended for 10-12 years, meaning that people who never use the West Gate Tunnel will be subsidising it by paying tolls on CityLink out to the 2040s.
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 for the State Government to end Transurban’s tolls on CityLink earlier than 2035. There is a clause in the CityLink contract which would allow the tolling to end in 2025 if CityLink is making super profits. Allowing Transurban to build the West Gate Tunnel will scrap this option.
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 truck off-ramps from the West Gate Bridge, 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.
The Environment Effects Statement was released in May 2017. Colleen Hartland’s team has summarised the most important parts of the 10,000 pages relevant to traffic and congestion, air and noise pollution, trucks on local streets and cycling infrastructure. The Greens are also developing an alternative transport plan that does not involve more toll roads. The fact sheets are available here.
Colleen is encouraging the public to make submissions on the Environment Effects Statement, which can be as simple as a single paragraph expressing concern. You can make a submission here.
Sign the petition to the premier and the roads minister to be kept up to date on the outcomes of the Environment Effects Statement consultation process and the next stages in our campaign for better transport in the West.
Will the West Gate Tunnel project be good for cyclists?
The new route for the West Gate Tunnel project includes some cycling infrastructure. 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. For more information on the bicycle infrastructure, read our cycling fact sheet.
It also looks like the bike infrastructure was designed with the aim of making the toll road look good, rather than of meeting cyclists’ needs. The veloway is particularly poorly designed, as cyclists would be subjected to fumes from traffic above and below, and have no way of exiting the veloway if their personal security were threatened. If you have feedback on the bike infrastructure, please contact Colleen Hartland, Greens MP for the western suburbs, to help inform her position on what bike infrastructure the community really needs.