PREMIER Denis Napthine has labelled as “utter rubbish” an advertising campaign by Labor that says Melbourne’s planned east-west link will be built at the expense of south-west roads.
An advertisement authorised by the Ballarat-based member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford claims the state government’s expenditure of $8 billion on the east-west tunnel between Clifton Hill and Flemington in inner Melbourne will be at the expense of upgrades to major roads such as the Princes and Hamilton highways.
Labor also says any effort to alleviate overcrowded V/Line services to the south-west is likely to be another victim of the tunnel’s cost.
Labor has called on the Coalition to defer the project and take the issue to next year’s state election.
Dr Napthine hit back, saying Labor was “spreading lies” about the project’s funding, which would principally come from a toll on tunnel users.
The estimated cost of the project was between $6 billion and $8 billion, to which the federal government had committed $1.5 billion.
The state would make only a modest contribution, Dr Napthine said.
“This is not going to take $8 billion out of infrastructure in Victoria,” he said.
The state government had funded major infrastructure projects in country Victoria since announcing the east-west link and would continue to do so, he said.
“The big factor is the Coalition supports major infrastructure projects and Labor opposes them.”
The state government had built more than $15 million of passing lanes on the Princes Highway between Colac and the SA border, committed $15 million to Peter’s Project to improve cancer care in the south-west and spent $10 million to build a passing loop on the Warrnambool to Melbourne rail line.
It was also investing more than $5 billion into the Regional Rail Link project that would, among other benefits to regional Victoria, prevent delays by rail services from Warrnambool to Melbourne. Since the go-ahead for the east-west link was given, the state government had also announced $170 million of additional road works, including a ring road around Portland, committed $25 million to upgrade the Great Ocean Road and announced improved bus services for Warrnambool.
“What we are seeing instead of the south-west missing out, we are getting more funding, more infrastructure upgrades,” Dr Napthine said.
He said the east-west link would reduce traffic congestion in Melbourne, increase productivity and efficiency and create 3200 jobs. The improved traffic flow would be enjoyed by people from the south-west travelling in Melbourne, similar to those presently provided by the City Link toll roads, he said.