Transport infrastructure and electoral cycles, they go hand in hand like beer and burgers, wine and cheese and the Labor and Liberal parties. Well maybe not the last pairing but infrastructure projects are inherently the play-things of political parties when it comes to election time and with the news reports today on the ALP's shift in stance on the East-West link, the merry-go-round looks set to continue.
According to a piece by The Age's state political editor Josh Gordon and state political reporter Henrietta Cook, the ALP have received legal advice that if it forms Government after the State election in November, it will use a court case brought on by Moreland and Yarra councils to render the contract for the eastern section of the East-West link invalid.
The East-West Link and Melbourne Metro tunnel projects are a by-product of the Eddington report into East-West travel across Melbourne, with the previous Brumby government had prioritising the rail component higher than that of the freeway project.
With the change of Government, priorities were then suddenly turned around and what appears to be in response to the sustained backlash across the inner Melbourne community, we learnt at the last State Budget announcement the powers that be on Spring Street had altered the path and rebranded the rail component as the Melbourne Rail Link.
The cynic in me says the current Government are employing a scorched earth policy in the event they don't win the November election yet on the other hand it is completely understandable that the legitimate Government of the day wishes to lock in one of its headline projects before the care-taker period.
It's no secret I don't view commuter-based freeway projects with any high degree of favour simply because we already have an auto-centric city/economy and we have a great imbalance in our transport mix to start with. If balance in our transport mix is the actual goal, then Governments need to discriminate in favour of public transport and non-motorised transport infrastructure options.
In saying that, proper independent studies into the economic and, more importantly, social return of grand transport projects need to be conducted and made public upon completion, not near the end of an electoral cycle.
And we as urbanists should prepare for and accept that building rail lines ad nauseam is not necessarily going to always be the best option for dragging us into true balance in the way we transport ourselves around the city.
Should this new ALP stance pay off and allow them to form Government post November 29th, one of the first commitments the ALP should make, other than carrying out their policy of stopping the East-West Link, is to do a data dump.
Releasing all pertinent information the Victorian Public Service has on the transport projects in the various departments and continually keeping the public informed with regularly updated and published infrastructure plans - not to mention the decision-making process taken along the way - will also be critical.
Not undertaking an open approach is only going to cast any new Government in the same dim light the current one is shrouded in; the transport infrastructure and electoral cycle merry-go-round is rusty, decrepit and in sore need of replacing.
Lead image credit: flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0