West Gate-gate: Andrews drives on with construction despite planning block

Work on West Gate Tunnel restarted on Thursday, despite planning approval being revoked on Wednesday.

Work on West Gate Tunnel restarted on Thursday, despite planning approval being revoked on Wednesday. Photo: Victorian Government

The Coalition and the Greens could again team up to block further construction on the West Gate Tunnel, after work started up again.

Premier Daniel Andrews told State Parliament the government had reissued planning approvals for the project on Thursday, enabling work to restart.

Approval had been revoked in Parliament just a day earlier, forcing workers to put down their tools.

Coalition roads spokesperson David Hodgett said the opposition would not support the same plans for the $6.7 billion project.

“If they just put up the exactly same thing I think we’ll have to vote again and block it,” Mr Hodgett said on 3AW radio on Thursday.

It comes after a truck jackknifed on Thursday morning and blocked all four eastbound lanes on the West Gate Freeway about 7.30am, causing traffic chaos.

All lanes reopened shortly before 9am.

Roads Minister Luke Donnellan argued the crash proved the need for the controversial tunnel.

“If ever there was a time which highlighted why we need a second river crossing it was this morning,” Mr Donnellan said.

“Across the west, all the roads are gridlocked.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said there was “certainly a case for a second river crossing”.

“There’s no doubt about that and I support a second river crossing but you’ve got to have a deal that is good for Victorians. You can’t have the taxpayer being extorted by [toll road operator] Transurban,” he said.

“We support a second river crossing but we support a good deal for taxpayers, not handing over a blank cheque to Transurban for motorists to pay tolls higher and longer than ever before.”

The deal relies on CityLink users, on the other side of the city, to pay tolls for an addition 10 years – until 2045.

“Daniel Andrews is trying to sign Victorian motorists up to a deal where they’re going to be ripped off for years, with motorists paying tolls from the east, south-east and north to pay for a road that they may never, ever use,” Mr Hodgett said.

The opposition spokesperson said taxpayers should pay for the road.

“Don’t commence a project without planning approvals and without knowing how you’re going to pay for it and just bully it through, push it through and expect everyone to fall in behind you,” Mr Hodgett said.

“We’re not saying don’t build a road, we’re saying if you’re going to build a road, built it and built it properly.”

The Greens argued the government should instead fund ample public transport to the west, and accused the government of wanting “the best deal for Transurban”. The minor party called for more public transport to the west.

“The Andrews government is concerned about jobs, but building the public transport solutions the west is crying out for will deliver thousands of them while benefiting people instead of a private toll road company,” Greens transport spokesperson Sam Hibbins said.

“We know what the solutions are; off roads for trucks, truck bans on local streets and better public transport for the west.

“We need action, but we don’t need another toll road forged from a dodgy deal with Transurban that will deliver more congestion to the city, and more profits to their bottom line.”

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and a truck action group have both condemned the Coalition and Greens for blocking approval.

The government argued the tunnel would cut 20 minutes’ travel time from the western suburbs, Geelong and Ballarat, as well as creating thousands of jobs.

“We will not let the Liberal-Green coalition sack these workers, roll back our truck bans and deny everyone who relies on the West Gate Bridge the congestion relief they urgently need – we’re getting on with this vital project,” Labor’s Mr Donnellan said.

-with ABC and AAP

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