Labor promises rail not roads – delivers strikes not action


When the Victorian Liberal Party started floating the idea to build a tunnel under the inner north of Melbourne to connect the Eastern Freeway with CityLink and the Princes Freeway, the majority of Melbournians and Victorians nodded in silent agreement. A few, this author included, jumped in delight. It just seemed to make sense to connect two of the busiest and most important freeways / tollways in a city, to ease congestions from some of the city’s major thoroughfares in Alexander Parade and Hoddle Street, improve air quality in the inner city by the removal of said congestion, and of trucks, and build a major piece of infrastructure to boost economic development.

It makes the same kind of sense as constructing a dam in times of scarce waterfall, so that when the floods return, you can store more water to reduce the impact of floods, and reduce the impact of droughts when they inevitably return.

imageBut predictably, the NIMBY socialists of the inner city rose up en pushbike to demand “rail not roads,” – as if there were any ever disagreement that “por qué no los dos. ” That this could be the start of a grand project of transforming Melbourne’s transport system into one of the best and most extensive of the 21st century, appeared lost on that mob. Imagine a Melbourne in which all its major freeways and tollways are connected, seamlessly, just like nearly every other modern city in the world of comparable size. And in addition, a Melbourne where all its rail lines, which currently run like spokes to the CBD, were all connected by two or three circles of rail.

But lacking in any vision of foresight, the North Fitzroy foodies subjected us to starry eyed fantasies of the Doncaster rail line – a great idea, but how is it going to help me get a fridge from Braybrook to Blackburn? An industrial dispute with Victoria’s ambos led to the downfall of the Victorian Liberal government after just one term, but it didn’t stop Labor making the specious argument that it had won the mandate to cancel the contract for the East-West link.

In place of a plan which would see forced acquisitions of houses to make way for a tunnel to remove the congestion on Hoddle Street at its source, the Labor government has proposed a plan to force the acquisition of houses to ease the congestion of Hoddle Street by making room for all the traffic downstream, perhaps because they know that the residents down that way are less organised. Meanwhile, the most direct route between the Eastern Freeway, CityLink and the Princess Freeway continues to struggle, via multiple major traffic intersections, down from three lanes to two, and then two lanes to one!

It is a testament to the patience and forbearance of motorists that they do no hop out of their stationary cars to start dismantling, brick by brick, the beautiful period homes of Brunswick and Fitzroy, or start hacking away at the old gums which line the road through Royal Park, to help set the foundation to widen the road to at least two lanes, from its current, ludicrous, one.

And the Andrews Labor government, which promised “rail not roads,” will take the rest of us by surprise if it manages to achieve either. I encourage you all to meditate on this while you sit in your cars over the next few days, weeks, or perhaps months, as Melbourne’s transport system goes on strike. When labor proposes to bring rail not roads, what it really means is strikes, not action.