North East Link set to be largest transport project in Victoria

Cost for Melbourne’s mega-road scheme could hit $12.5bn and may be partly procured as a PPP.

The North East Link is gearing up to be the biggest transport infrastructure project in Victoria’s history, with early cost estimates of up to A$16.5 billion ($12.5 billion; €10.5 billion), according to the state government.

The Victorian government confirmed the route for the “long-overdue completion” of the ring road in Melbourne last Friday. It noted that the business case for the road project has yet to be finalised, which may change the project’s estimated cost. Following that, the project will start procurement and secure the required approvals in 2018, with a preferred bidder to be selected in 2019. Construction is due to start the following year.

When the Victorian government announced the project in December 2016 – pledging to build the scheme provided the Labor administration is re-elected in 2018 – it said it would be developed under the same model used to build the Metro Tunnel. The latter was broken up into a series of packages, some of which were procured using the PPP model. Revenue-wise, the project will be funded using a mixture of government contributions and tolls on certain stretches of the road, the state government previously said.

The road project will begin on the Eastern Freeway at Springvale Road, where capacity will be doubled with six extra lanes to ease traffic congestion. “The expanded Eastern Freeway will remain toll-free under the Andrews Labor government,” said Daniel Andrews, the state premier.

The mega-freeway will then connect to a new six-lane, 5 kilometre tunnel which travels beneath the Yarra River, while the project’s endpoint connects to the M80 Ring Road at Greensborough. Users of the new road connecting the Freeway to Greensborough will be charged.

Travel times between the north and south of Melbourne will be cut by up to 30 minutes in each direction, especially for those who travel to Melbourne Airport from the south and east, the state government claims. The project aims to remove up to 15,000 lorries a day from local streets, and more than 9,000 vehicles from hotspots such as Rosanna Road.