What is the West Gate Tunnel project?
The West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP) is a $6.7 billion toll road that will join the West Gate Freeway with City Link. The project was ‘market led proposal’ presented to the Andrew’s government by Transurban.
It features a tunnel under Yarraville, a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River, an elevated roadway above Footscray Road and major widening of the existing West Gate Freeway between the West Gate Bridge and the Western Ring Road. It also features on/off ramps connecting the West Gate Freeway to Hyde Street in Yarraville to allow placarded loads to directly access the freeway.
It will be built by toll road company Transurban and primarily financed by tolls on both this road and City Link. The state government’s contribution is estimated at $1.5 billion. The project was originally due to open in 2022 however has now been pushed back to 2023 due to disputes around the handling and storage of contaminated soil.
What will it mean for the truck issue in the City of Maribyrnong?
The WGTP is estimated to remove up to 9,000 trucks per day from residential streets in the City of Maribyrnong, from a total of around 22,000 truck movements each day. This will be achieved by a direct freeway access to the Port of Melbourne from the West Gate Freeway. The government has promised the project will be supported with 24/7 truck bans on Francis St, Somerville Rd and Buckley Streets in Yarraville plus Moore St in Footscray. Additional bans have also been announced for Hudsons Rd in Spotswood and Blackshaws Rd in Altona North.
The ramp connections from the West Gate Freeway to Hyde Street will ensure that placarded loads do not continue to use the residential streets of Melbourne’s inner west, as well as providing an alternative to Francis Street and other residential streets for trucks travelling between the Spotswood industrial area and Melbourne’s west. The current local exemption for these trucks will be removed from Francis Street, finally giving those residents some night time relief.
Williamstown Road is the only residential truck route in the City of Maribyrnong with no promised truck bans and truck numbers on this partly single lane road are expected to be double todays level once the WGTP is open. The traffic congestion and pollution impacts on both residents and the freight industry will be unbearable and unsustainable.
Where will the vent stacks and tunnel exits be located?
The vent stacks are in close proximity to the tunnel exits. One is in the industrial land currently used as a container park on Whitehall St Yarraville, approximately between the Yarraville Gardens and the Maribyrnong River. The other exits and vent stacks will be located within the current West Gate Freeway footprint, west of the Footscray Hockey club, opposite the old Bradmill factory site.
Will these vent stacks have their emissions filtered?
The Government and Transurban at this stage have no plans to filter the ventilation stacks, although the towers are being built to allow retrofitting in the future.
What is the opposition to this project?
Community and environmental group’s concerns are privatisation and tolls, the scale of the project, concerns the road will encourage more traffic and congestion (particularly at the city end of the project), fears of increased pollution, more trucks on other roads (particularly Millers Rd in Altona/Brooklyn and Williamstown Rd in Yarraville/Kingsville) and the impacts of the design on the Maribyrnong River. The Liberal Party just appears to oppose anything the Labor Party does. The Libs are anything but a ‘no roads’ party, approving Victoria’s first privatised toll road, Transurban’s City Link. Their opposition is nothing to do with wanting better public transport or freight on rail, less truck pollution or purpose-built freight routes.
The Greens oppose the project, preferring the much smaller West Gate Distributor project that the State Labor Government took to the 2014 election.
How does the WGTP differ from the old West Gate Ramps plan?
The West Gate ramps plan, which has been called both the Truck Action Plan and the West Gate Distributor, consisted of two ramps on each side of the freeway, commencing just before the West Gate Bridge and joining with Hyde St by the Mobil tank farm. Traffic would use the ramps, then Hyde and Francis Streets before turning onto a widened Whitehall St and then crossing the Maribyrnong River at Shepherd’s Bridge. It was not a freeway and was not tolled.
What is MTAG’s position?
MTAG exists for one reason only, to get trucks off our residential streets in the inner west. What we experience here is environmental injustice. It is one of the worst and longest running examples in Melbourne, the world’s so called most liveable city.
However, there is no one magic solution to the problem. Solutions needed include: a direct freeway link to the port, freight on rail, cleaner trucks and huge improvements in freight efficiencies.
We have never asked for a major toll road, or for a privatised road. We also have never advocated for the problem to be moved onto another community. MTAG can only respond to what the latest government plan is and attempt to influence it to get the best outcome possible for our community.
Freeway links are a standard piece of infrastructure that every major port around the world has. We need one. But we strongly argue that we also need:
Additional truck bans on Williamstown Rd in Yarraville/Kingsville and Millers Rd in Altona/Brooklyn. Steps must be taken so that trucks are not encouraged onto these residential roads. This could be done by providing alternative routes such as the upgrading of Grieve Parade and Paramount Road. A better solution could be to relocate container yards to locations better accessed by the freeway.
In March 2018 MTAG held a protest on Williamstown Rd calling on the government to implement truck bans on once the tunnel opens. This led to the formation of Save Willy Rd, a group of concerned residents solely advocating for truck bans on Willy Rd.
Following on from concerns expressed in the during the WGTP EES process, the government announced the formation of a Millers Rd and Williamstown Corridor Study. Run by VicRoads, this group appeared to be more focussed on making it easier for trucks to use these roads, rather than looking at solutions. The Terms of Reference were grossly inadequate and did not seriously look at health or amenity. The study group was terminated in early 2020 without producing a final report or a single recommendation.
Filtration on the ventilation stacks to reduce our already alarming high levels of pollution. MTAG’s EES submission highlighted the fact that the EES’s recommendation to not install filtration failed to look at road tunnels around the world that were successfully filtering tunnels to protect the surrounding air quality and used out of date data and research.
The need for tunnel filtration has been backed up strongly by health experts from The Lung Health Research Centre at Melbourne Uni, the Director of Respiratory Medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Lung Foundation of Australia, the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre and the Public Health Association of Australia.
The Government appointed Inquiry and Advisory Committee assessing the project’s Environmental Effects Statement recommended that pollution control equipment be installed in the tunnel from the outset however was rejected by the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne. In 2018 the State Government set up the Inner West Air Quality Community Reference Group to give the community and local councils the opportunity to provide insight and recommendations on ways to improve air quality in the inner west. The Terms of Reference state that one of the key roles of this group is to “Provide advice and recommendations for government consideration including feasibility and relative importance of any actions to address air quality issues in the inner west, including in relation to tunnel filtration for the West Gate Tunnel Project.” MTAG are represented on this committee.
Legislation to lock in the truck bans to minimise the risk of any future government removing them.
Removal of the Brooklyn Tottenham local exemption on Moore St when the 24/7 truck bans come into place. The current night and weekend curfew on Moore St is only around 30% effective due to this exemption. Government have verbally promised us that this exemption will be removed but we are yet to see it in writing.
Better public access to the WGTP air monitoring data and for the EPA to have access to this data.
Where can I get more information?
- The Government’s West Gate Tunnel Project website
- The West Gate Tunnel Project Wikipedia page
- The West Gate Tunnel Project Environmental Effects Process including all submissions, expert witness report, the IAC Report and the Minister’s Assessment
- MTAG’s submission to the Environmental Effects Statement
- MTAG’s response to the approval of the project
- The Save Willy Rd website