Melbourne East West Link: Federal Government confirms $1.5b spending on road project
Photo: The East West Link is an 18km project that would connect the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road. (ABC News)
The Federal Government has confirmed it will contribute $1.5 billion towards the second stage of Melbourne's East West link road project.The Victorian Government's road project is an 18-kilometre underground tunnel joining the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road.
The Commonwealth has already promised $1.5 billion for the first stage of the project - expected to cost around $8 billion - connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway.
Stage two of the project, which runs through the western suburbs, is likely to be more expensive.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told Fairfax Radio that the money comes with conditions.
"The Victorian Government has got to give us a business case, it's got to satisfy a cost-benefit-analysis study," he said.
"I'm confident that that will in fact be doable and they need to start work on it by the end of next year."
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said in December he would seek more federal funding for the project to combat the loss of manufacturing jobs in state.
He says the second section is a vital development for Melbourne.
"It'll link the port to those important road systems," he said.
"It'll take pressure off the Westgate Bridge and the Monash and it will take the trucks out of Yarraville, Seddon and Footscray."
The construction of the western section of the link is expected to create more than 3,000 jobs.
The acting secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Frank Leo, says the announcement is good news.
"I think it will be important because a lot of people have been sitting on the sidelines since losing their jobs and I think that they'll finally see that their is some light on the horizon," he said.
But the president of the Public Transport Users Association, Tony Morton, says the timing of the announcement is strange.
"It's not clear at all that there is any economic justification for investing so much money into the East West Link [when] we're seeing the Government telling everyone to tighten their belts, to cut pensions, to cut services," he said.
"We really have to question what the Government priorities are for transport investment given that survey after survey of the general public has expressed a clear preference [for] investment in public transport over new roads.
Last month, Prime Minister Abbott told ABC local radio he was committed to the project as a job-creation initiative and wants to see the East West Link get started as soon as possible, despite a number of protests held by Victorians late last year.
Between September and December, several demonstrators took part in pickets across Melbourne in an attempt to disrupt the testing of drill sites needed for the first phase of the project.