EastLink (Melbourne) - Controversies

Controversies

  • A notable controversy surrounding this project has been the issue of tolls. The Victorian Government, led by Steve Bracks, initially planned not to build the road, instead promising to invest in public transport. Though the government reversed their policy position and decided to go ahead with the road instead. They gave an undertaking that the road would be toll free, a promise on which they later reneged. This led to a total withdrawal of what had been partial federal funding of the project. This policy change has caused much debate, discussion and resentment in some quarters. The Victorian Government's position is that project was not viable without tolls.
  • The Federal government withdrawal of funding was based on the premise that funding was only available for the road if the road was toll free. However, at the same time, they were also funding a tolled freeway in Sydney, the Westlink motorway. This led to the controversial belief in some quarters that the funding withdrawal was solely designed to discredit the Victorian Government, rather than being driven by a reluctance to fund toll roads.
  • The then Victorian State opposition, led by Robert Doyle, initially opposed any form of tolling on the road. Subsequently this policy was changed to support tolls. After the 2010 state election, the state leadership led by Liberal leader Ted Baillieu continues to support tolls.
  • A court case was heard, where the plaintiffs argued that constructing EastLink would result in pressure to build the "missing link" between EastLink and the Metropolitan Ring Road. They claimed that such a freeway would damage the environmentally sensitive green wedges through either Eltham and Warrandyte or Heidelberg and the Yarra Flats. Indeed, as at October 2008 (months after the opening of EastLink) there is mounting pressure to build this "missing link".
  • During the planning stages of the project, businesses in the Rutherford Road industrial area (located at the Southern terminus of the freeway) wanted access via on/off ramps to the Mornington Peninsula Freeway and Frankston Freeway, in addition to EastLink. Prior to this project they had an off ramp only from the Mornington Peninsula Freeway into the industrial area. Under Eastlink, this was retained, but no on ramps were designed or constructed to link to the existing roads. The Mornington Peninsula Freeway, and the Frankston Freeway, despite being on their doorstep are only accessible via residential roads. The only on ramp from Rutherford Road takes traffic onto EastLink, Northbound.
  • Although there is speculation that existing public roads will be restricted to increase traffic on Eastlink, there is legislation in place prohibiting the restriction of traffic, and SEITA has stated that "Importantly, the State Government has passed legislation to maintain the existing capacity on arterial roads. The EastLink Act and the contract between the State of Victoria and ConnectEast prohibits closing or narrowing any existing roads in an attempt to force people onto EastLink."
  • On 28 August 2006, due to the late completion of bridge preparation works on the Belgrave and Lilydale railway line, the line was closed for the morning with inadequate warning to commuters of the closure of the line between Blackburn and Ringwood stations causing chaos at Ringwood where lengthy queues formed for the replacement buses. Passengers at Heatherdale, Mitcham and Nunawading stations were stranded because of the mess where the delay was caused by the portable crane "Snow White" being unable to operate near the rail line where bridge supports are being constructed. The ground was too soft for the crane and gravel had to be ordered in causing the delay. Theiss John Holland were required to pay penalties to Connex Melbourne while commuters were not reimbursed. It is interesting to note that some of the more willing commuters set about the one hour walk to Blackburn. Those individuals managed to arrive well before other commuters that had been caught in the confusion at Ringwood, by an hour or more.

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