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VICTORIANS have been challenged to accept up to 10 years of disruption, and higher taxes and charges to allow an $18b Melbourne transport plan to go ahead.
A major city road tunnel, an underground rail link and a new western suburbs rail line costing $18 billion are the key projects required to get Melbourne moving again.
But Victorians could be slugged with a property tax, congestion tax, higher tolls and increased public transport ticket costs to pay for it.
And the projects could take at least a decade to build.
International transport expert Sir Rod Eddington today released his much-anticipated East West Needs Assessment report.
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The two big ticket items identified as critical are;
A new 17km rail tunnel linking Melbourne's fast-growing western and south-eastern suburbs - from Footscray to Caulfield. It would be Melbourne's first `metro' style passenger line.
A new 18km cross-city road corridor, possibly a tunnel, running from the Eastern freeway to the Tullamarine freeway providing a much-needed alternative to the West Gate Bridge.
And third, a new rail line linking Werribee and Deer Park in the western suburbs would be critical to the expansion of Melbourne's rail network.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Sir Eddington challenged Victorians to swallow the pain of "extremely expensive and disruptive" projects against the long-term gain.
He warns Melburnians to expect and accept short-term pain while the multi-billion dollar projects in inner-city suburbs such as Footscray, Caulfield and Clifton Hill are built.
"Melbourne has to ask can we afford not to make these investments … the costs of doing nothing are even greater," Sir Eddington said.
"While most of these impacts are temporary, Melburnians need to make some critical decisions about whether they are prepared to endure this short-term disruption for the long-term benefits these projects will deliver,'' he said.
In it, he details 20 recommendations he considers critical for Melbourne's growth and calls on the State Government to act immediately.
He denies taking a "road versus rail'' approach and says he considered a combination of the two to get Melburnians across the city.
He said two major problems to first address were ending the reliance on the West Gate Bridge, and tackling congestion on the rail network.
"The Victorian Government also needs to make critical funding decisions if it is to meet growing community demands for improved transport, particularly public transport.
Taxes and tolls were identified as the best sources of cash to pay for the proposed projects, he said.
He questioned the State Goverment's existing policy of not tolling existing roads.
"A future road toll in inner Melbourne could reasonably include an element of time-of day pricing with higher tolls in peak hours,'' he said.
He said an annual levy could be imposed on all Melbourne-registered vehicles to raise money for the road projects.
Levies could also be imposed on all ratepayers in the City of Melbourne, or all ratepayers in the metropolitan area.
"A rate levy (is) a logical and practical revenue option that warrants further consideration by government,'' he said.
The massive public transport projects could be paid for by a levy on tickets, such as that used to fund the City Loop in the 1970s.
"A ticket levy (is) a logical and practical revenue option that warrants further examination,'' the report said.
Sir Rod also canvassed the idea of keeping tolls on CityLink and EastLink, once their private-sector operators hand them back to the Government.
"The evidence is clear, doing nothing is not an option.
"The evidence is also clear that a failure to take action will undermine Melbourne's future prosperity and reduce the benefits being generated by the city's growth and development.
"Yes, the cost of improving these transport connections is substantial - but the cost of inaction is far greater.''
Sir Eddington said Melbourne needed these projects to allow a "successful, prosperous and liveable city".
And he said the development would allow Melbourne to cope with massive population growth and changing work patterns.
Sir Eddington has already reacted to predicted criticism that his plan would be bad for the environment by boosting traffic growth with new road links and a cross-city tunnel.
He said there was "compelling evidence" that improving fuel and car efficiency was the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report identifies car travel as the biggest transport source with more than 10 million trips made across the city every day.
About two million trips are in the morning peak and 78 per cent of Melburnians use their cars to get to work.
And the demand for car travel is forecast to grow 30 per cent by 2031.
This compares with just 11.3 per cent of trips on public transport during the morning peak.
He stressed authorities should not allow extra cars into the CBD.
The priority should be using public transport to get people into the city, he said.
Up to 165,000 cars cross the West Gate Bridge every day and 320,000 people travel across the Maribyrnong River.
The report shows Melbourne desperately needs an alternative to the West Gate Bridge.
And Sir Eddington described 20,000 trucks a day thundering through the western suburbs as "unacceptable and untenable".
Trips across the West Gate are forecast to rise 42 per cent to 235,000 by 2031 and 440,000 peole are expected to be crossing the Maribyrnong.
Sir Rod said the cost of congestion, ranging from delays, unreliable trip times, rises in vehicle costs, business costs, air pollution, noise and amenity impacts, would rise significantly to an estimated $3 billion a year.
Herald Sun Newspaper
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