March 25 2014

More Roads for Melbourne? East/West Link or Tunnels Debate

Melbourne’s leaders have recently been at war with each other over plans to redevelop the city’s transport network for the east to west areas of the city. It is no secret that the city is currently facing many troubles in coping with the high passenger rates at peak hours, with around 440,000 passengers all scurrying towards their varying jobs and engagements. The debate has been focused on the two main plans, one being a new underground rail line to link the two sides, the other a new tolled road made to do the same. Because of the obvious case of funding, only one can be built.

Part of the public transport system in Melbourne, Australia

Just one piece of the puzzle to Melbourne’s transport woes

The debate started within the previous government, back in 2008, when authorities started to fear the worst for their rapidly growing city and have since not been able to deliver. Public outcry has been their main opposition, with thousands actively fighting on both sides of the fence.

It is quite astonishing to consider that a city like Melbourne, known for being one of the most liveable city’s in the world, would favour an extended road network over rail. In this dim future where we can expect to see the price of fuel increase weekly, environmental damage, oil wars, etc., one would think these “visionary” urban planners would be aiming for more shared sources of transport, ones that could help alleviate such heavily resource dependent forms of transport – mainly cars and trucks.

Brunswick Town Hall makes a statement, Melbourne, Australia

A local town hall makes its thoughts known on the topic.

The unfortunate culprit here could be the economy, and once again the environment must take a bashing to feed the ever growing economy. It is much more economically sound to build a road than rail because the government can seek private investment for construction of the road. It is also more profitable to build a road due to the freight industries and smaller factories that would benefit. A third point of view, which may not be economic but nevertheless still a good point, is that politicians cannot relate to public transportation users. The prime minister himself has been quoted numerous times, downplaying the importance and relevance of public transport.

From some people’s perspectives, the eight billion dollar expansion of the rail network would force people to rely more on public transport systems, as road networks are rapidly becoming too congested to deal with on a daily basis. This in turn would relieve some of the pressure from the road network as more users turn to the public system and as a bonus, fewer emissions would be emitted from vehicular traffic.

If Melbourne authorities can overcome the temptation to buy into economic values in the short term, the rail network could be a stepping stone to a more sustainable Melbourne. Shortly, Melbourne may start looking like Los Angeles with its myriad of roads and have to start considering an electric car industry sooner than necessary; an industry that would otherwise cost the taxpayers billions in the future. Finally, just to bring everything into consideration, think about the government’s position in all of this once again. When big industries are involved in the creation of transport networks, how can we, as the public, ever be sure that what our governments is doing really benefits us and not big industry?

Credits: Images by Kunal Matikiti. Data linked to sources.

Kunal Matikiti

Originally from Zimbabwe, Kunal ventured to Australia to study architecture. After completing his Masters in 2012 at Deakin University, Kunal started working in Melbourne as a graduate architect at a small residential firm and has since moved to a bigger, and more commercially focused firm. With a keen interest in African Architecture, Kunal manages a small blog,, where topics range from art and culture to architecture and fashion in Africa. Kunal is looking forward to earning valuable experience in Australia’s booming architectural sector and develop the skills and thought processes required to resolve some of the issues facing the unestablished creative sector in parts of Africa. Understanding of culture is an important element of Kunal's work and this forms a major element in his endeavours. Writing for The Grid is an exciting challenge and Kunal hopes to give a different and interesting perspective to an already established city.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 at 9:28 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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