It’s an election year in Victoria and the promises and pledges are swirling around, whipping up voters into a vacuum of hope. Inevitably, these voters will be left dazed and distraught when they are spat out as hope becomes an oath unfulfilled.
But that’s all part of the game isn’t it?
Denis Napthine, the man who nobody elected Premier, will battle it out with Daniel Andrews, the man who nobody knows, on November 29 to decide who will be the supreme leader of Victoria for the next four years, or rather who will fall on their own sword just two years into the job due to party pressure as we have seen too often lately.
As it stands, Spring Street has been primed for the Labor Party, with the latest opinion poll leaving the Liberals languishing behind by four per cent on a two party-preferred basis.
Perhaps this could be because of public pressure that has amounted on the Libs because of an issue that in the grand scheme of things harbours little relevance to this election. A contract has been signed, no promises have been broken and if the opposition were to win power and attempt to throw it all away, it would cost Victorian taxpayers a fee in excess of $5 billion.
However, what one thing is to one man is very different to another.
The East West Link has provided the media with a multitude of headlines since being announced two years ago. The motorway, which will provide the city with an alternative to the West Gate Bridge while also reducing traffic on the Eastern Freeway, has polarized Victorians, which opposes the objective of the plan to better connect our state.
Many who disagree with the project believe their taxes should not be spent on a ‘pointless’ motorway, with public transport the preferred substitute, as the system has been long neglected in the state.
Consequently, the ‘Trains not Toll roads’ protest group was launched and has solidified their place as one of the most aggressive movements against the government in recent years.
The campaign has received support from the Melbourne, Moreland, Yarra and Moonee Valley councils, adding significant pressure which has compelled the government into a compromise known as the Melbourne Transport Plan, with proposals revived from six years ago.
Accompanying the East West Link will be a railway line to the Airport (long required) and a tunnel underneath the new Fisherman’s Bend precinct stretching from South Yarra to Southern Cross Station. It goes without saying, however, that the likelihood of this occurring within 15 years is smaller than a newborns show, and the cost is likely to be astronomical.
The fundamental question that must be asked here is if any progress better than no progress at all?
With so many people opposing the plan, is it actually beneficial for the wider community? Sure it will alleviate traffic from two of Victoria’s largest arterials, but will it set the state backwards in other ways?
Over 100 houses are being compulsorily acquired to make way for the project, leaving copious amounts of families in the lurk for a new place to call home. All will be compensated, but some believe not fairly enough, as it isn’t exactly cheap to buy/build a new house in the areas that surround what will be the East West Link.
Another aspect of protest is the ever prevalent environmental concern. The greenies are concerned that segments of Royal Park and splinters of Melbourne Zoo are being dug up to assist construction. Compounding their concerns is the impact that more cars on the roads will manufacture, with City smog already at record highs.
Nonetheless, this angle seems relatively weak. EastLink and Peninsula Link, the last two major road works undertaken in Victoria, of which the latter was by the Liberal Government, have both included bike paths and gardens with trees also featuring prominently along the arterials.
East West Link will also include a bike path of which will be the longest inner-city bicycle track when completed, further promoting the use of bikes to reduce fumes whilst also promoting physical activity generally.
Melbourne’s main river crossing, the West Gate Bridge, was designed to cater for 40,000 vehicles a day. Today, 165,000 crossed the bridge.
The Eastern Freeway was constructed in the 1970’s when Melbourne had a population of 2,561,000 people. In 2015, the population is expected to reach 3,451,000 people.
The unmistakable truth is that Melbourne needs East West Link.
Victoria has always had a reputation for existing as one of the most progressive states in the country and it need not be tarnished now.
Demand in all areas keeps increasing day by day, particularly the need to transport extra freight around the state. If the movement of freight stagnates, so do we as a state.
Victorians must take the good with the bad and recognise that this project will deliver more good than bad in the long term. The state must keep moving and it must keep moving forward, leading the way for the rest of the country.
The contract has been signed and will be delivered irrespective of which party wins power in November, unless the opposition breaks the deal which robs Victorians of not only their money but a badly-required motorway.
It is all in the past now. The issue of East West Link needs to be put to bed so that our leaders can focus on what our state needs for the future so that we are not caught behind once more.