VTA calls for work on North East Link

By: Anjali Behl

The proposed road is expected to provide environmental and efficiency boost for heavy vehicles

VTA calls for work on North East Link
RACV public policy general manager Brian Negus (left) with VTA CEO Peter Anderson.


The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) are calling on the Victorian Government to begin work on the much delayed North East Link.

The freeway project aims to provide a direct connection between Metropolitan Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway or the EastLink freeway.

At a Melbourne event, the organisations explained the need to add the "missing link" in Melbourne’s ring road network and why the state government should look at it as a matter of "urgent priority".

VTA CEO Peter Anderson says it has been 15 years since this project was first discussed and it is high time that the state government began work on it.

"Freight operators have an urgent and genuine need for a better connection between the Metropolitan Ring Road and East Link because they need to safely and efficiently move goods between customers and suppliers in the north and south-east of Melbourne," Anderson says.

"What we have now is a dangerous and unsustainable situation where heavy vehicles are forced to navigate residential streets to get between the Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway and on to the East Link because they have no alternative," he says.

The proposed North East Link is expected to carry 100,000 vehicles a day and once built, the road will provide non-stop movement for all vehicles and alleviate the issues faced by freight operators today.

"Successive governments have dragged their heels on this critical road link and Melbournians in the north-east have had enough of the frequent traffic grid lock," RACV GM public policy Brian Negus says.

"Apart from reducing congestion, the North East Link will provide a significant boost to freight productivity by directly connecting the freight centre around Dandenong and the agricultural centres in Gippsland with the Hume Freeway, the new fruit and vegetable market in Epping, and other interstate corridors," Negus says.

Speaking to ATN on the matter of night curfews on trucks on key north-south roads in the areas, Anderson says, the government’s "knee-jerk plan" has made the situation "worse for freight operators".

If the trucks are banned on one particular section, they have to navigate around other roads, which may be equally ill-equipped to handle heavy vehicles, Anderson says.

"We need big trucks on big roads, and therefore we are calling on the government to make those roads available to the public.

"Because of the curfews we are seeing more trucks on these roads during the morning peak, which presents safety risks and adds to congestion," Anderson says.

The night curfew is currently in the mid of a 12-month trial that started in August 2015 and affects heavy vehicles access to nine arterial roads between the Eastern Freeway and the M80 from 6pm to 10am.

VTA estimates that there would be 40 per cent fewer trucks on the West Gate Bridge with a North East road in place.

Taking trucks off residential roads and channelling them across the proposed road would also result in environmental benefits, with heavy vehicles using less fuel on freeways, he says.

"These benefits would flow throw to the general economy over time because more deliveries could be made throughout the day and congestion on inner roads would reduce due to the notable reduction of trucks," Anderson says.

Both bodies are calling on the government to begin with a structured consultation with the local residents, the trucking community, the agricultural sector and local fresh producers to understand the needs of all parties.

There is currently a lot of misunderstanding about the project and its implications, which is a result of lack of proper study of all factors surrounding it, and the government needs to conduct a "proper study" to drum up support for this "vital infrastructure" project, Negus says.

Also present at the event were AusVEG state manager Kurt Hermann and John Francis from the Resolve Rosanna Road resident action group, both of whom support the VTA and RACV in their call for the North East Link.

"Hauling trucks through suburban streets is not ideal for drivers, growers or residents. Having adequate infrastructure is vital to ensure fruit and vegetables going to the markets arrive as fresh as possible, as well as saving growers money in transport costs," Hermann says.

"Considering over 5,000 trucks access the markets every day, with around 3,000 of them potentially travelling back to the eastern side of Melbourne, having a road that makes it more efficient for produce to travel to and from the market, and doesn’t disrupt residents, is vital."

AUSVEG VIC is a leading industry body representing the interests of the state’s 840 vegetable and potato growers.

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