Tim O'Brien | Oct 4, 2012

EDITORIAL | The proposed East West link, linking the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine and Western Ring Road, will only solve part of Melbourne's rapidly-worsening traffic problems.

And worse, it will increase the problems already bedevilling both the Tullamarine Freeway and Western Ring Road.

Any Melbourne commuter who has had to get to the Melbourne airport on any peak-hour weekday morning will attest that it's a road teetering on collapse.

Above: Victorian State Government's indicative route for East West Link.
Above: Victorian State Government's indicative route for East West Link.

Similarly, workday commuters travelling to and from the the CBD are commonly gridlocked from Pascoe Vale Road heading south, and before Bulla Road heading north.

The Western Ring Road, despite recent and ongoing widening works and additional lanes, is also at capacity, and, some days, when filled with trucks and heavy vehicular traffic, nearly impassable.

The East West Link, while necessary, will make these problems significantly worse if not part of a more far-reaching transport plan.

And should the Victorian government proceed with its plans for a new deep-water port at Hastings on Westernport Bay (which, incidentally, we think is short-sighted, and a new major city and port at Portland in Western Victoria will make more sense for the future), it will immeasurably add to freight road-traffic volumes crossing the city to the west, and, in particular, heading north to the Hume Freeway.

It is not good enough to half-solve a problem, and to thus leave no solution nor in-built excess capacity for the future. The community and business now pays a heavy price for past near-sighted planning.

What Victoria and Melbourne needs is a project of 'Sydney Harbour Bridge' proportions.

It needs a Northern Link 'supertunnel' running from the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen Road, to the terminus of the Hume Freeway at the Western Ring Road.

Above: proposed Northern Link Supertunnel. Click to enlarge.
Above: proposed Northern Link Supertunnel. Click to enlarge.

Such a 'supertunnel' will run 12 kilometres under Rosanna, Heidelberg and Reservoir and would be an immense infrastructure undertaking.

But in global terms, it's not such a big deal.

Europe, China and Japan boast many larger and longer tunnels - and arguably, considerably more complex. The St Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland is 17.5 kilometres, the Duplex A86 in France is 10 kilometres, the Frejus Tunnel, 13 kilometres.

A Northern Link Supertunnel is the logical and necessary solution to moving road freight transport from Hastings to the Hume Freeway.

Yes, Melbourne needs an East West Link to speed travel and freight across the city; similarly, the rail tunnel project should also proceed without delay.

But, for transport and freight movements to our busiest highway, Melbourne and the Victorian economy most needs a Northern Link Supertunnel. If the Port of Hastings goes ahead, the city, and our road system, simply won't survive without it.

- Tim O'Brien
TMR Managing Editor

Top image: Melbourne traffic, neonluxe at Flickr.com

Above: entrance to Switzerland's St Gotthard Tunnel.
Above: entrance to Switzerland's St Gotthard Tunnel.

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