BY GRANT REYNOLDS
08 Jun, 2011 12:00 AM
Roads and Transport Minister Terry Mulder has undermined the future of a $380million project to divert trucks off residential streets after contradicting advice from VicRoads about its benefits.And a local MP says Mr Mulder has to explain whether he knowingly misled the public accounts and estimates committee hearing last month.
Facing questioning on budget spending, Mr Mulder was asked by Altona MP Jill Hennessy when the state government would commit to continuing the $380million truck action plan and “give local residents some peace of mind” that there would be relief from trucks.
Mr Mulder said: “Early advice that I received in relation to this indicated to me that without WestLink, this particular upgrade would be very quickly taken up with additional vehicles and no real benefit would be seen in the future.”
Mr Mulder’s statement contradicts advice he was given in January by VicRoads acting chief operating officer George Mavroyeni.
Incoming ministers are briefed on the status of major projects by the departments they represent following a change of government.
In a progress report for the minister, obtained by the Weekly under freedom of information laws, Mr Mavroyeni wrote: “Traffic analysis shows that the Truck Action Plan, in its own right [without WestLink], provides a significant contribution to improving access to the Port of Melbourne as well as reducing truck traffic in residential streets by around 50 [per cent].”
The truck plan was put forward by the previous Labor government to get trucks off residential streets after years of lobbying by residents.
It would include ramps linking Hyde Street to the West Gate Freeway, removing up to 5000 trucks per weekday from Francis Street and Somerville Road.
But only $41million for stage one, widening and strengthening Shepherd Bridge and
realigning the northern end of Moreland and Whitehall streets, was included in the 2011-12 state budget. Mr Mulder has said the remaining work is under review.
State Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said Mr Mulder had “serious explaining” to do.
“He needs to come clean about whether he knowingly made statements to an important parliamentary committee that clearly contradicted th e advice that he had received from VicRoads.
“This is a most important issue and the minister shouldn’t be playing games with local residents.”
Maribyrnong Truck Action Group spokesman Peter Knight said Mr Mulder’s office had not responded to repeated requests for a meeting and the latest revelation about his contradictory statements called into question his ministerial competence.
“If they’re ignoring us, VicRoads and the EPA – what are they doing? Who are they listening to?
“If they’re pulling out of the the Truck Action Plan they need to be prepared for prolonged and regular disruption of port traffic.
“If we have to go back to square one and blockade Francis Street every month in peak hour until he commits to a plan to get trucks off residential streets then we’ll do that.”
Late yesterday, Larissa Garvin, a spokeswoman for Mr Mulder, said the minister’s comment in PAEC “referred to an earlier comment in an Infrastructure Australia submission that Truck Action Plan would provide an interim reduction in truck numbers until WestLink can be provided. The comment was made in context of the government’s decision to review the Truck Action Plan.”