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Victoria unveils $7.5bn ‘no-brainer’ North East Link project

The Australian state says it will not proceed with signing contracts for the ‘missing link’ of Melbourne’s arterial road system before the 2018 elections.

The government of Victoria has pledged to build the North East Link – the missing section of Melbourne’s Metropolitan Ring Road – if the Labor administration is re-elected in 2018. 

With an estimated cost of up to A$10 billion ($7.5 billion; €7 billion), the road project would be funded by government contributions and tolls, though the state says the final funding arrangements have yet to be determined. It would be developed under the same model used to build the Metro Tunnel, the Western Distributor and the removal of the city’s 50 level crossings, three mega-projects undertaken by the state in the recent past. 

Expected to take 10 years to complete, the North East Link would first see A$35 million disbursed to fund preliminary business case development, various consultations and route selection, an initial phase due to complete by 2018. Planning approval and tender processes will also begin that year. A new North East Link Authority, overseen by the Victorian Coordinator General, will be created to spearhead the scheme. 

Premier Daniel Andrews described the project as “the missing link that will connect the city”. Regarded as a top priority by Infrastructure Victoria, the state’s independent statutory authority, the North East Link is expected to reduce travel time on congested roads in Melbourne’s north, south and east, by completing the Metropolitan Ring Road and connecting it with the Eastern Freeway. Traffic congestion in the west is due to be relieved by the Western Distributor. 

“Joining the ring road is a no brainer to take thousands of cars and trucks off local streets and congested freeways – but governments have put it in the too-hard basket for decades,” said Luke Donnellan, Minister for Roads and Road Safety. First proposed in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan, the project was included in 2008 Victorian Transport Plan. The programme then stalled after getting embroiled in political negotiations.