On the 24th February MTAG presented to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee at the public hearing for the Inquiry into Infrastructure Projects. Appearing alongside MTAG were Concerned Locals of Yarraville and Friends of Stony Creek. This is the transcript of MTAG’s presentation:
“MTAG welcomes this opportunity to speak today. We are a residents based lobby group advocating for a reduction in truck numbers on residential streets in Melbourne’s inner west.
Every day 22,000 trucks use our narrow residential streets and up to 72% of them are container trucks with no local business.
They go through countless school and pedestrian crossings, drive meters past child care centres and schools, meters from our homes as we try to sleep, meters from cyclists and get stuck in endless traffic congestion.
These trucks are literally meters from children every single day of their primary school life, exposing them to unsafe levels of carcinogenic air pollution. Around 8 primary schools are affected as well as many kinders and child care centers.
The health impact on children is evident with the City of Maribyrnong having the highest hospital admission rate for children for asthma and respiratory illness in Victoria at 171% of the Australian average. Last year the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute highlighted the cancer risk to children in the City of Maribyrnong in a government submission on air quality. Environmental Justice Australia recently named Yarraville as one of Australia’s top 10 air pollution hotspots. We know we have a serious problem. But air quality isn’t the only concern, safety and noise pollution are also serious issues which you can read about further in your hand outs.
Residents have been calling for solutions for over 15 years. During that time government after government have failed to address the problem and truck numbers have tripled. We have been promised many solutions over the years, including West Link, increased freight on rail targets, the Truck Action Plan, East West Link, the West Gate Distributor and now we’ve been promised the Western Distributor. We’ve also had other roads promised to us as a solution, including the completion of the Western Ring Road and the City Link Freeway. All these roads did was make the problem much worse as no measures were put in place to force trucks to use them and trucks started using our streets in much greater numbers to avoid the tolls.
And this is our number one concern with the Western Distributor. Will it actually make the problem worse? Unfortunately the business case as it currently stands has us worried that this will be the case.
We currently have 5 residential streets in the inner west that are freight routes. The Western Distributor business case only recommends a truck ban on 2 of these streets, Francis Street and Somerville road. Removing trucks off 2 of the 5 streets will not even half solve the problem which is fairly unbelievable seeing as fixing this problem is a key objective of the project! We know truck numbers on these 3 roads will increase significantly as drivers find ways to avoid the tolls. Not to mention the fact that truck numbers are expected to treble by 2050.
Williamstown Road runs right through Yarraville, Seddon and Kingsville, meaning that those three suburbs still will have a major freight route running right through them, ensuring that noise and pollution issues in those suburbs will still be a major problem.
Buckley Street runs through Footscray and Seddon. It is slated for a large amount of medium and high density development, some of which will start this year. It has a Victoria University campus located on it, meaning that a major freight route is running right through the middle of this education precinct. It also has a railway bridge which is hit by more trucks than any bridge in Melbourne.
Moore Street is also a single lane residential street, most definitely not suitable for one of Australia’s major freight routes. Bizarrely the main argument in the business case for not implementing 24 hr bans on all of these streets is that there would not be full compliance from truck drivers. Surely a solution to that is enforcement. There is never full compliance of any curfew but that’s hardly a reason not to have one.
We also have major concerns around air quality. This tunnel will carry thousands of trucks a day and as the port grows this number will easily be in the tens of thousands. This will easily be Australia’s most polluted tunnel. We need this tunnel to incorporate worlds best practice environmental controls, particularly to capture toxic carcinogenic fine particle emissions. We need continuous monitoring of air quality both in the tunnel and at the portals. We need this air quality data to be publicly available and made accessible online so the community can see what they’re being exposed to. We also need the tunnel to be fitted with filtering technology that will filter dangerous fine particles. This is done overseas, for example in Japan and Spain, in tunnels that carry a high number of diesel vehicles located in a residential area and it’s done purely to protect the surrounding residents. This community must be future proofed as the port continues to grow.
We also have major concerns about loss of open space. I won’t talk too much about this seeing as the other groups will cover this in great detail, except to say that on paper the West Gate Option looks like a much lower impact design that manages to remove placarded loads, without destroying valuable parkland and doesn’t subject this residential pocket of Yarraville to noise and pollution issues for eternity.
MTAG sees this project as a once in a generation opportunity to remove heavy freight, excessive noise and carcinogenic pollution off the streets where we live. It is essential that this project succeeds at this while protecting our valuable parkland. We know that with political will, it’s possible. This community has borne the brunt of bad planning and political neglect for decades. It’s time to finally fix the problem once and for all, because if this 5½ billion-dollar project doesn’t do this, then what will?”