Is the CIS standing up to scrutiny?
Five barristers and five expert witnesses later and the jury of public opinion is unimpressed.
After just five days out of thirty, here are the top ten points to note:
1. The East West Link tunnel will not deliver commuters better travel conditions during peak hours. The benefits will be for off-peak travel. The LMA traffic expert, Michael Veitch, gave this evidence: “The project will generate off-peak benefits … A lot of our major infrastructure has congestion … This project is not going to solve Melbourne’s peak hour capacity problem.”
2. Inconsistency is a hallmark of the traffic evidence put to the panel. Expert witnesses for the LMA testified that: there will be a big increase in traffic on the eastern freeway if the EWL is built (60-70,000 more vpd); the tunnel will be at capacity by 2031; and benefits to Alexandra Pde will reduce over time. But Veitch also said there is “nothing in our forecast that says we will suddenly create traffic out of nowhere that will use EWL”.
So Terry Mulder is partly justified in saying: ”it seems the commentary on this project is that either no one will use it or too many vehicles will use it”. We just don’t know. One traffic expert said: “I can guarantee the model will be wrong, but I would say there is a 90% chance we will be within 15% either side – I can’t be more precise than that”.
3. There is talk of using varied toll pricing as a mechanism to manage traffic through the tunnel.
4. LMA will consider requests for voluntary acquisition of land from residents outside the project area on a case by case basis only, but the assessment committee may refer cases to LMA based on submissions received which they think have merit.
5. The committee ruled that it would not ask for revised drawings of proposals or flyovers and the purpose of the project is to connect the eastern freeway with CityLink. There was also a lot of talk about the project boundary and the LMA argued the freeway alignment was essential to the boundary and plans outside of this could not be considered.
6. The tunnel is considered by the expert to be good urban design focused on minimisation. The flyovers are not. “The whole project design is around minimisation, because of the tunnel”, said Wyatt. ”I think there is a lot of minimisation that is in the reference design.” He said that the “tunnel across Royal Park is good urban design outcome. Thirty years ago there would have been a freeway across it” (forgetting perhaps the design does build a freeway across a park). Royal Park is a relatively “tranquil, pleasant place to be”, the project “will definitely change it, and will probably change it for the worse”.
7. A consortium involved in developing the reference design included: representatives from John Holland, Leighton, Dragados, SKM, AECOM and was directed by Malcolm Short of John Holland. Morris named specific contributors: John Welsh of Leighton, Barry Cox of Leighton, Brian Fittz of SKM, Phillip Health SKM, Jeff Keys of AECOM and LMA personnel. They were supported by other members of their firms.
8. There is a mysterious and oft repeated contention from the LMA that the project will affect only one percent of Royal Park – that’s 1% of 160 hectares or 1.6 hectares. Ross Straw Field is about 24 hectares and not much of it will be left unaffected. See p.19
9. LMA is relying on Eddington: counsel for LMA, Tweedie, says it is “not incumbent on CIS to reproduce Eddington or prove again what has been comprehensively proven in Eddington”.
10. And, CIS traffic modelling does not include Melbourne Metro impact. Mr Veitch said that people from the EWL catchment are not users of public transport.
There was also a question from the panel about performance requirements and much debate about how the committee can assess the impact of the project given the aspiration and “non-enforceable” nature of the performance requirements. There will be more on that this week.
Not many people can spare 30 days to witness the public hearings on the East West Link – which is why we have created the East West Link Blog to keep you up-to-date and informed. Hope you enjoy the next four days.