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?

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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
“convenience”.

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.