Distinguished engineers say East West Link process fundamentally flawed

By Petra Stock

Today three respected engineers told the Assessment Committee the process for the East West Link is irredeemably flawed.

In their presentations Dr Paul Steinfort, Dr Simon Moodie and Professor Tony Marjoram tackled what Moodie termed the project’s “methodological flaws”: the rushed planning; the lack of probity, transparency and due process; the failure to consider alternatives; and the irresponsibly of pursuing a contractor to start works before the next election.

As an engineer myself, I am aware that engineers do not make such comments lightly. Professional engineers generally stay out of the political fray, they avoid criticizing government policy or a proposed development.

Dr Simon Moodie is a highly regarded engineer with extensive experience in the engineering, commerce and consulting sectors, including several years in charge of BHP’s corporate planning activities.

Moodie spoke first and described flaws in the Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS) as intrinsic and irremediable – they cannot be fixed. He said a fundamental flaw of the CIS was that it did not assess alternative approaches to deal with the problem of traffic congestion but rather it “considers the proposal in isolation”. Moodie cited further flaws, including the skewed discussion of costs and benefits – benefits are detailed whereas costs ignored. He said the CIS is inconsistent with the principles of triple bottom line assessment and transparency set out in the Transport Integration Act 2010.

Moodie described the methodology and transparency of the process for the East West Link as poor compared with the Eddington Report. He said “the flaws are substantial” which suggests “serious flaws with the project itself”.

Dr Steinfort, is an expert civil engineer and project manager, a Fellow of both the Institute of Engineers and the Institute of Project Management. Steinfort who was the project manager of the MCG redevelopment, said “We certainly ran [the MCG redevelopment] in a much more transparent way than this [the proposed East West Link]”. He observed the East West Link is being “rushed without due probity and transparency” and rasied particular concerns about the timeframes and the lack of information about detailed design.

Professor Tony Marjoram (PhD, FIEAust, CPEng(ret), MIEEE) a mechanical engineer with a PhD in Technology and Development later echoed the comments of Steinfort and Moodie. He explained the need to design infrastructure to meet future needs, taking into consideration population growth in the inner city, increasing oil prices, climate change and changing transportation needs. He said more roads encourage more cars which results in increased congestion.

Marjoram argued, like Moodie, that the information behind the project is biased and flawed. He said there is a need for solid economic, social and environmental impact analysis. He described the apparent contrast between the high level of detail and final design he was required to provide to local council for a $10,000 kitchen extension, compared with the limited detail contained within the CIS for the $8 billion reference design.

Marjoram said that if the project is pushed ahead it will be the single, major budget item in Victoria, costing $5,000 per Victorian taxpayer.

Marjoram said there should be an independent review of the need for the East West Link with particular reference to short and long term traffic projections, cost projections, cost/benefit analysis comparing the project with other possible investments such as public transport and 50+year business plan.




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