The Sustainable Cities community group is calling on the Victorian government to abandon its $16 billion tollway and allocate the funds to much needed public transport in the north eastern corridor.
The North East Link is a 7-lane trench and tunnel which is being built through built-up suburbs and precious open space in Victoria’s north east from Greensborough to Bulleen. Sections of the Eastern Freeway would be widened to 24 lanes, which will allow for widespread destruction of the local environment as well as endangering the health of communities.
Sustainable Cities is campaigning for an immediate roll-out of high capacity route bus services, upgrades to existing rail services and better connectivity between public transport services.
It wants the government to commit to a timeline for major projects, including Melbourne Metro 2 and Doncaster Rail. Apart from providing much needed public transport services in the northern and eastern suburbs, these initiatives would substantially reduce private care usage.
The billions being allocated to the project would also have a huge impact on the state’s economy, already reeling from the pandemic.
It would restrict funds for vital transport projects including the restoration and construction of regional rail networks and improved maintenance of regional roads and bus services in townships.
The government has already told Victorian unions there is no money in the budget for improved working conditions, or pay rises.
The health effects of adding 95,000 more vehicles to the Eastern Freeway will be significant. It would cause an increase in air and noise pollution near hundreds of homes, schools, kindergartens and residential aged care centres, causing increases in respiratory, cardiac, cancer, noise related illnesses.
There are also considerable environmental costs: at least 26,000 trees, some 100 years old, will be cut down. There will be a dramatic increase in traffic on the road network throughout Manningham, Boroondara, Banyule and Whitehorse Council areas.
It will destroy public parkland on either side of the Eastern Freeway and increase carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming.
It will also mean that many people living in the northern suburbs will have to rely on cars. Those who cannot afford one or who cannot drive will have their mobility curtailed.
The $16 billion being allocated to this disastrous project does not include additional expenditure which will be required for the health care of those suffering from vehicle emissions and noise pollution.
[Mary Merkenich is a member of Sustainable Cities which is hosting an online forum on August 27 about how the North East Link will affect you. RSVP for the zoom link at https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/nel_panel]