Victorian government picks preferred bidder to build East West Link

Guardian: Victorian government picks preferred bidder to build East West Link. Gay Alcorn (9 September 2014)

Melbourne’s controversial East West Link is one step closer, with the Victorian and federal governments announcing the preferred bidder to build the $8bn first stage.

The federal assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development, Jamie Briggs, Victoria’s treasurer, Michael O’Brien, and minister for roads, Terry Mulder, said the East West Connect consortium had been selected to enter final negotiations. Contracts are expected to be signed next month.

The consortium includes property company Lend Lease, infrastructure fund manager Capella Capital, Spanish construction company Acciona and French builder Bouygues. It was chosen over the Inner Link Group, which included Transfield Services and Macquarie Capital.

The link is a proposed 18km toll motorway linking the east and west through the inner northern and western suburbs at a total cost of about $18bn. The first stage, the eastern section, comprises a 4km tunnel close to the CBD with an estimated price tag of $6bn to $8bn.

The project is proving controversial for the Napthine government due to its high cost and questions over whether it is value for money compared with less disruptive projects. Labor, the Greens and community groups argue the government should delay signing the contract to build the link until after the 29 November election.

Labor is opposed to the link, but says it will honour contracts if they are validly signed before the poll.

“The East West Link will create thousands of new jobs, slash travel times for motorists and unlock the economic capacity of Victoria’s transport network, which is why we are providing $3bn towards both stages of the project,” Briggs said.

O’Brien said the state government would not delay the project until after the election “because we were elected to govern, we were elected to fix the problems … building the East West Link is about building for Victoria’s future. We’ve got massive population growth in this state and we can’t afford to sit on our hands.”

He acknowledged there were still planning issues to resolve before the project was ready to proceed.

Andrew Herington, a spokesman for the community group Residents Against the Tunnel, called on the consortium to release its full design for the project so the public could judge it before the election.

He also questioned whether any contract signed would be binding if outstanding planning issues remained and if legislation enabling the project was not passed in the final two weeks of parliamentary sittings before the election.