Options released for North East Link in Melbourne

Shorter route gets most promising review in North East Link Technical Summary

Options released for North East Link in Melbourne
A map of the four options


Nearly 50 years of procrastination and major five studies later, Victoria has come up with four options for its Melbourne freeway orbital connection.

Indications from the North East Link Authority’s (NELA’s) North East Link Technical Summary are that the shortest, flatest route needing the least amount of tunnelling will be the extremely attractive to the trucking industry and the state government.

"The four possible corridors have been determined through extensive works spanning the entire north-east, including geo-technical investigations, traffic modelling, environment studies and discussions with community groups, businesses and local residents," the government says.

"Each corridor has been assessed against a range of measures including key local concerns such as reducing congestion and getting trucks off residential roads, as well as the impact on urban areas and the environment.

"Eastern Freeway or EastLink, and all will involve tunnels, new surface roads and bridges."

The state government is expected to determine the preferred corridor by the end of the year, with contracts due to be signed in 2019 and construction starting in 2020.

The report notes industry consultation is crucial.

Option A

This option would use the existing road reserve to link to the M80, follow the Greensborough Bypass south to connect with the Eastern Freeway near Bulleen Road.

"It provides a motorway solution that connects the northern and north-eastern growth areas and activity centres and employment/innovation clusters (particularly La Trobe NEIC) to communities and businesses in the east and southeast," the report states

According to the Victorian Planning Authority, the La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster (NEIC) is one of several strategic action plans aimed at increasing employment by driving economic growth in the suburbs through coordinated public and private investment.

Option A is about 11km in length from the M80 to Eastern Freeway and up to half of that would likely be in tunnel, particularly under significant areas such as the Yarra River and Banyule Flats.

It enables good gradelines to be achieved to accommodate heavy vehicles along the length

of the corridor.

Estimated total number of truck movements during construction phase will make A – at 300,000 and 25 -35 per cent fewer that the other options – the cheapest and least intrusive choice.

"Corridor A is expected to have tunnel portals in close proximity to the Eastern Freeway," the report says.

"This means that the majority of trucks will be able to travel to and from the construction sites without passing along local residential roads."

Option B

This would provide a direct connection from the M80 at Greensborough to EastLink at Ringwood.

It would also provide the functionality of an orbital motorway section that connects the northern and north-eastern growth areas to south-east Melbourne via EastLink, with connectivity to the La Trobe NEIC.

At 24 km, it would involve significant works along the EastLink corridor to provide adequate connections.

Up to 70 per cent of its length would likely be in tunnel, particularly in significant areas such as the Yarra River and achieving good gradelines for heavy vehicles would be "challenging".

Option C

The northern end of this option would connect to the M80 using a previous road corridor that runs

from the Greensborough Bypass/Diamond Creek Road roundabout to Ryans Road.

Its southern end would connect to EastLink at Ringwood. It provides the functionality of a traditional orbital motorway section that connects the northern growth area to south-east Melbourne via EastLink.

Of the 26 km length, up to 55 per cent would likely be in tunnel, particularly in significant areas such as the Yarra River.

Good gradelines would also be challenging.

Option D

It would connect with EastLink south of Ringwood and travel east using part of the proposed Healesville Freeway Reserve and travel east to Lilydale.

It would then turn back and head west to the M80 travelling though Bend of Islands and Kangaroo Ground.

D, at about 40km long and with up to 40 per cent tunnel, provides "a longer distance orbital solution using some existing reservations that connect the northern growth area to south-east Melbourne via an eastward orbital route largely outside the Urban Growth Boundary".


Costs are estimated at $200-$300 million per surface road kilometre and $800 million-$1 billion per tunnel kilometre.

According to the planners, A and C are deemed the best congestion reduction performers, with A the pick of the two.

More importantly for the trucking industry is that A is the pick that best aligns "with existing truck patterns in the north-east, and can accommodate the majority of freight trips, including those originating from south of the Eastern Freeway".

It is also said to provide the most suitable grades in tunnels for trucks, the operational and cost impact of which for trucking companies is acknowledged in the report.

This includes for attracting High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs) as well as others to the route.

Against C is that it fails to "serve truck origins immediately south of the Eastern Freeway.

"The alignment generally meets the standard for trucks except in one location, with some grade issues."

Option A also performs best on a freight efficiency front and is expected to deliver significant travel time improvement between key freight locations in the north-east.

Some potential is seen for integration with the over-dimensional load and placarded load networks.

The other three options rate poorly or very poorly here.

Option A rates an estimated travel time savings between M1 and M80 in 2031 of 16-19 minutes with the rest two-thirds less efficient or lower.

It also rates best for protecting the environment, culture, heritage and open spaces.

Further work is being done to better understand the impact North East Link may have on truck movements in Melbourne’s north-east, including:

  • Refinement of the traffic modelling to better estimate the number of trucks remaining on local roads following construction of North East Link
  • Investigating the outcomes and key learnings of the recent trial of the truck bans in Melbourne’s north-east
  • Analysis of future trends and technologies that will impact on freight trips such as the use of autonomous trucks, the increasing usage of on-line shopping and just in time delivery.
  • Truck surveys to better understand truck origin-destination movements and volumes throughout the north-east
  • Consultation with the freight and logistics industry and community groups to understand issues in the area and future freight needs
  • Further development of the strategic traffic model to replicate the complex truck trip patterns in the area
  • Additional and more refined analysis and research will allow NELA to further analyse the potential benefits provided by North East Link in removing freight movements from residential roads in the north-east.

The technical summary can be found here.

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