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CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT BRINGS CHANGE OF FORTUNE FOR EAST WEST LINK

Denise Napthine signs East West Link consortium contract

Denise Napthine signs East West Link consortium contractThe October-November 2014 issue of Roads and Civil Works Magazine featured this picture of the then Premier, Denis Napthine, signing the contract for the multi-billion dollar East West Link project, but much has changed in the last few months.

The Coalition Government was defeated in the 29 November election held a few weeks after the signing of the contract and the Andrews Labor Government called a halt to works on what was described by Dr Napthine as “a state-shaping project” that would slash travel times and provide a much needed boost to the Victorian and national economy.

East West Link came to a halt in the first half of December when Premier, Daniel Andrews, wrote to the East West Connect Partnership, instructing it to immediately suspend work.

News of the letter was released by the Premier and the MP for the Melbourne electorate of Bentleigh, Nick Staikos, at a level crossing in suburban Ormond – one of 50 level crossings Labor pledged to remove to improve traffic flow.

“I’ve written to the consortium and ordered that works be stopped on this botched and secretive project,” Mr Andrews said.

“The Victorian people made their voices heard loud and clear. They don’t want an $18 billion tunnel; they want 50 level crossings removed.”

Now work is at a standstill on the link, the focus is on the level of compensation to be provided to the consortium – it’s estimated any settlement reached would see hundreds of millions of dollars paid out to cancel the project.

But the Premier has refused to rule out legislation to avoid paying compensation – a move which would be supported by the Greens, according to MP, Ellen Sandell.

“The companies had been on notice for months before they signed the dodgy contracts, and the public at the election sent a strong message they wanted money used for public transport instead.

“We will use our power in both houses to push for public transport, not toll roads,” Ms Sandell said.   

In an associated war of words between Labor and the Coalition over the project, Treasurer, Tim Pallas, issued a statement on 11 February revealing what he called another East West Link fraud committed by the Liberals, costing Victorians almost $100 million.

Mr Pallas said the design of the project, including seven road viaducts, would have left newly built apartments in West Parkville marooned in the middle of an interchange.

The Treasurer said after acknowledging the apartments weren’t eligible for acquisition, the former Liberal Cabinet decided to amend the boundary of the East West Link to include a small sliver of land on the property, and force the acquisition and the expenditure of almost $100 million in taxpayer dollars.

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