New study recommends rolling back West Gate Tunnel project

Academic researchers raise concerns about Melbourne’s $5.5 billion project

New study recommends rolling back West Gate Tunnel project
The front page of the report.


Victoria’s transport planning and infrastructure may have "overstated" the benefits of the West Gate Tunnel project (WGTP), a new study indicates.

West Gate Tunnel: Another Case of Tunnel Vision suggests the state government should roll back the project and instead focus on "strategic road investment in Melbourne’s inner west" through the $500 million West Gate Distributor project.

While the latter "addresses access to Port Melbourne and trucks on inner west roads", the $5.5 billion tunnel project "will not meet" three of its key objectives and only partially meet two, team behind the research states.

The report raises concerns about:

  • overreach and overstatement of project benefits
  • poor planning process and lack of overall strategy
  • lack of transparency in the market-led proposal.

The report states that the project will only "partially" meet its objective of improving freight access to the Port of Melbourne, adding that the proposed ban on trucks will only "slightly" improve community amenity and local streets in Melbourne’s inner west. 

"Increasingly large container ships will favour Webb Dock due to navigation constraints on the Yarra," the report notes.

"By 2031, Webb Dock is expected to cater to most container movements.

"While the WGTP will improve access to Swanston Dock, it does nothing to improve access to Webb Dock.

"Furthermore, the improvement in access to Swanson Dock is of a similar order to that which could be achieved from the original WGD.

"Because the WGTP fails to improve freight access to Webb Dock, it is only a partial solution to the problem of improving freight access to the Port of Melbourne and to greater Melbourne."

The report suggests the tunnel project will not be able to improve transport capacity on Melbourne’s M1 corridor or reduce reliance on the West Gate Bridge.

The project could "worsen" road congestion on local streets in Fishermans Bend, Port Melbourne and South Melbourne, it states.

"The project’s massive $5.5 billion budget will severely limit options available to future governments to create better public transport, and to meet demands for investment in health, education and regional development," co-author Dr Ian Woodcock notes.

Meanwhile, co-author Dr Crystal Legacy recommends the development of the 2014 West Gate Distributor project instead of WGTP.

"For too long, Victoria’s transport planning and infrastructure investment has occurred in a policy and planning vacuum," Legacy states.

"We therefore call on Parliament – and all sides of politics – to support urgent action for the preparation of an integrated Victorian Transport Plan, as required by the Transport Integration Act 2010.

"This can be done through transparent, strategic and vision-led infrastructure planning, based on an appropriate evidence-based assessment process."

The report, a joint publication by the RMIT University and the University of Melbourne, has been prepared by six leading planning academics including: RMIT Centre for Urban Research’s Dr Ian Woodcock, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University’s Dr Sophie Sturup, University of Melbourne’s Dr John Stone, University of Melbourne’s Nathan Pittman, University of Melbourne’s Dr Crystal Legacy, and RMIT Centre for Urban Research’s Professor Jago Dodson.

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook