Prime Minister Tony Abbott has slammed the Andrews government and called it “absolutely crazy” for dropping the East West Link.
The Victorian premier dumped the proposed $8 billion road linking Melbourne’s East to the West this week and in the process cost taxpayers $339 million.
Also gone is the $1.5 billion worth of Commonwealth funds promised to the then Napthine government to build the East West Link.
Premier Daniel Andrews has promised he will lobby the federal government to allocate those funds on other transport projects.
In the wake of dumping the East West Link, the premier green-lit the long promised $9-11 billion Melbourne Metro project.
The rail link will connect North Melbourne to South Yarra but in the process rip up most of Swanston Street and cause huge disruptions to city traffic and businesses.
Mr Abbott has agreed to come to the table and offer the funds to other road projects that will ease congestion but has been immovable about funding public transport projects.
Mr Andrews says his government will be announcing further “significant and exciting infrastructure announcements in coming weeks” in the hopes of reaping back the billions promised.
Victorian shadow treasurer Michael O’Brien says the state can’t afford to sideline one piece of infrastructure for another.
“We can’t choose between better roads or better public transport,” Mr O’Brien told a multicultural media conference this week.
“We need to build to keep pace with population growth.”
Victoria’s population is set to grow to 10 million by 2051, with 2.8 million of that coming from net migration.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy says the actions of the Andrews government in tearing up signed contracts and slugging taxpayers with millions on a road that will never be built will hurt them in the long run.
“I think the government’s behaviour is going to cost jobs and building projects in the future,” he told a multicultural media conference. “If you trash your reputation on one project, you trash your reputation on all of these projects.”
The dumping of the East West Link is a relief for many Greek Australian residents of Melbourne’s northern suburbs, who were at risk of losing their homes.
Residents from Ballarat Street, Gold Street, and Bendigo Street in North Collingwood had received letters of acquisition, while others faced the prospect of falling house prices if the neighbourhood became connected to the major freeway.
One-hundred-and-two properties were compulsorily acquired and another 46 were purchased on a voluntarily basis in October last year.
Many residents are fighting for compensation, with law firm Slater and Gordon saying they are representing an estimated 70 individual parties whose properties have been acquired as part of the East West Link.