Scott Morrison will today promise $4 billion to build the East West Link. In a bold bid to break city traffic congestion, the Prime Minister will commit to “get Melbourne moving” by connecting the Eastern Freeway with CityLink.
The plan to ease the jams for up to 100,000 cars a day will be unveiled at the Coalition campaign launch in Melbourne today, with Victoria now the key election battleground.
“We want to bust congestion to get people to work and home sooner and safer,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“Our investment is about standing by eastern Melburnians who want to get out of the gridlock so they can spend more time with their families, and so they can get to work without wasting hours each week on the road.”
The Coalition plan is aimed at bypassing the Andrews Government which axed the East West Link in 2014 — costing taxpayers $1.3 billion.
A Morrison Government will pay $4 billion towards the $7 billion road project, with the remainder of the money coming from an arrangement with the private sector through tolls.
If re-elected, the Coalition’s first Budget update would include an extra $1 billion over the medium term for the project, in addition to the $3 billion in federal cash earmarked for the link before it was dumped.
The 6km East West Link from Hoddle St to Parkville, across Melbourne’s inner north, is expected to be used by between 80,000 and 100,000 cars per day, bypassing 23 sets of traffic lights and cutting travel time from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink by 20 minutes.
Mr Morrison said projects like the East West Link would make Melbourne an even better place to live and work.
“When we make a commitment to a project like the East West Link that local residents continue to tell us is an important priority for them and their community, then we stick to that commitment,” he said.
“The East West Link complements the significant infrastructure program already under way in Victoria so we can get the city moving. In the past 18 months, we have increased our commitment to transport infrastructure in Victoria by $14 billion.
“Our investments in Victorian infrastructure now exceed Victoria’s population share. So we’re doing our bit to make life that little bit easier for Victorians through our transport infrastructure investments.”
The Morrison Government said the project would only begin once the state government agreed to it, putting pressure on Premier Daniel Andrews.
He notoriously ripped up the contract to build the East West Link five years ago, saying at the time: “Be very clear about this, there will be no compensation paid.”
With up to 10 Liberal seats in Victoria under threat from Labor, the Greens or independents, the Morrison Government hopes today’s announcement will help it retain vital seats, including several in the east of the city, and stay in power.
Scott Morrison will launch the government’s re-election bid in Melbourne today. Picture: Alex Coppel
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, whose seat of Kooyong is in Melbourne’s east, told the Sunday Herald Sun the East West Link would relieve congestion and get families and workers home sooner and safer.
“This is a major road project that Melbourne families and workers, including those in my electorate of Kooyong, so desperately want and need,” he said.
State and federal governments have squabbled over the project for five years, ever since the former Napthine state government signed the construction contracts just days before the 2014 election.
Then Opposition leader Daniel Andrews campaigned to scrap the project, and pledged that no compensation would be paid to tear up the contract.
Once elected, Labor paid the construction company more than $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds to cancel the tunnel project.
2012 Ted Baillieu budgets millions to examine the business case
2013 Premier Denis Napthine commits to stage one of the project
SEPTEMBER 2014 The Labor opposition, led by Daniel Andrews, says it will not build the tollway even if contracts are signed, and will not pay compensation
SEPTEMBER 2014 Napthine’s government signs construction contracts, shortly before the state election. This includes a termination clause.
NOVEMBER 2014 Daniel Andrews wins the election. He axes the project, costing taxpayers $1.3 billion in contractor compensation
DECEMBER 2014 Mr Andrews orders a halt to work and releases the business case showing benefit-cost ratio was 45c for every $1 spent
2015 The federal government commits to providing $3 billion to the first Victorian government willing to build the road and tunnel
2016 Infrastructure Victoria lists East West Link stages one and two as important to “meet infrastructure needs’’
2017 Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says the tollway would be brought back to life by a Coalition government
2018 Mr Andrews asks Prime Minister Scott Morrison to open the $3 billion “locked box” of cash earmarked for the link, for other projects
TODAY Mr Morrison promises $4 billion towards the Link, but says building it is subject to agreement with the Andrews Government