After canning the East West Link, Victoria is about to go on a huge roads and rail building spree

Melbourne. Photo: Vince Caligiuri/Getty.

Just two weeks after agreeing to pay a $339 million cancellation fee to the developers of the controversial $10 billion East West Link toll road, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has unveiled a range of big ticket transport infrastructure projects for Melbourne a week out from the state Budget.

On Tuesday, Andrews announced an additional $1.5 billion for design work on the $10 billion Melbourne Metro underground line below Swanston Street, from Kensington to South Yarra, would be in the budget.

Today, the Victorian Government announced it has signed a $1.3 billion deal with Transurban to widen a 24km stretch of road linking the city with Melbourne airport.

The CityLink-Tullamarine Freeway widening is expected to save drivers more than 30 minutes on their daily commute. Around 210,000 vehicles use the road daily. The project also includes a new bridge over the freeway at Bell Street, major improvements to the English Street interchange and the widening of the entry ramp from the Bolte Bridge to the West Gate Freeway.

Construction will run from October 2015 to 2018 and will be done in two stages: with Melbourne Airport to Bulla Road managed by VicRoads and Bulla Road to Power Street managed by Transurban. The project is expected to create 1,400 jobs. The federal government is contributing $200 million towards the work.

Andrews also made a surprise announcement that a $5 billion proposal by Transurban to connect the West Gate Freeway to CityLink via a 5km tunnel, second river crossing and elevated freeway along Footscray Road was gathering momentum.

The proposal would supposedly halve the travel time between the CBD and M80 and increase capacity on the West Gate freeway by 60%, with 30 kilometres of new road built in two extra lanes. The bridge would add an extra 60% to river crossing capacity, easing pressure on the West Gate Bridge. Trip times from Geelong and Ballarat to the city would be reduced by 15 minutes.

The project is being assessed by Treasury and Finance and external consultants. It has now progressed to stage three of the government’s market-led proposal guidelines.

The premier said that if the Victorian government agrees to the project, work would begin by the end of the year, with a 2020 completion date. He said it would relieve pressure on the West Gate Bridge, improve truck access to the Port of Melbourne and significantly reduce truck numbers in the inner west.

Transurban estimates the project would create 3500 new construction jobs for half the price of the cancelled East West link and deliver a cost benefit ratio of 1.6.

CEO Scott Charlton said the Western Distributor concept was submitted earlier this year and the stage three assessment is expected to take up to six months.

“No State funds are required, freeing up investment for other vital infrastructure projects, including new public transport connections,” Charlton said.

He said there would be toll caps for trips using both the Western Distributor and CityLink.

“We believe the proposal ticks all the boxes for a level of Federal Government support as a project of national significance,” he said.

Transurban’s $5.5 billion plan for a second river crossing to take pressure off the West Gate bridge. Source: Transurban.

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