Fund public transport, not the East-West Tunnel!

Upfield[By Dave Holmes] The Victorian government is planning to spend an estimated $8 billion on the proposed East-West Tunnel tollway linking the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways. If it proceeds, Melbourne will be irreparably scarred. At both ends homes will be demolished for exit ramps and large areas will be subject to serious loss of amenity (noise, pollution, restriction of movement, etc.). Royal Park will suffer significant diminution and damage.

All areas of government spending will come under pressure due to the need to finance this huge project. In the first place, the proposed tunnel is a monumental diversion of money that should rather be spent on urgently needed improvements to public transport. For instance, a rail line to Doncaster would take large amounts of traffic off the Eastern Freeway (thereby completely undermining the claimed case for a tunnel).

And although Moreland is not directly affected by the tunnel we will be significantly impacted nonetheless. The municipality is currently  suffering a very serious ongoing public transport crisis on several fronts.

1. The Upfield rail line urgently needs improvement: far more peak-hour services; an end to the all-too-common and infuriating cancellations; the single track section north of Gowrie station should be duplicated to enable a more frequent service; the line should be extended to Roxburgh Park; more stations should be added (e.g., Camp Road); there should be grade separation at key road crossings such as Bell St.

2. The Lygon Street tram services need to be significantly improved, above all in peak hour. At the moment it is standing room only on the Yarra Trams cattle trucks in peak-hour services in the morning and evening. As hundreds and hundreds of new apartments in the big new blocks being built all along the tramline in Brunswick are occupied the situation for commuters will be become completely impossible.

3. Peak-hour overcrowding is also a serious issue on the Sydney Road and Melville Road tram lines. This issue needs to be addressed with a lot more services in times of maximum usage.

4. The bus services that go across the municipality, servicing huge areas between train and tram routes, are completely inadequate. Brunswick’s Hope Street service has been shut down. But we need more services, a much greater frequency and longer hours of operation.

Following a motion moved by Councillor Sue Bolton, Moreland Council has set up a ‘trains, not toll roads’ campaign and allocated $20,000 to it. A public meeting will be held to inform residents of the implications of the tunnel project for Moreland. Details of this meeting are yet to be finalised but the provisional date is November 19.