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Big three talk shop with ABC live from Carnegie Station

28/06/2018

The CEOs of three major transport infrastructure authorities have spoken together publicly for the first time during an ABC Conversation Hour broadcast from the newly opened Carnegie Station.

CEOs Kevin Devlin, Duncan Elliott and Evan Tattersall of Level Crossing Removal Authority, North East Link Authority and Rail Projects Victoria respectively, spoke frankly about infrastructure planning and politics during the hour-long segment on 18 June.

They were joined by host Jon Faine and University of Melbourne academic Dr Crystal Legacy to discuss how they work together on the biggest transport infrastructure projects in Victoria.

The group agreed that weighing broad community benefit with the interests of the communities in which works take place was a balancing act.

“Building infrastructure and balancing all the competing interests, everything is a compromise,” Mr Devlin said.

“We know we never make all the interest groups happy. It’s our challenge as the senior bureaucrats to try and get that balance right.

“Our role is to give the best advice we can and we use all the expertise we have within the authority and the community. Ultimately the government of the day makes the decision and then we go ahead and implement that.”

Mr Tattersall agreed on the nature of the government-agency relationship.

“It’s important to step back and understand that we are delivery agencies. There’s a lot of work that goes on to work out what’s best before it gets to our sphere,” he said.

The panel also discussed the different types of transport project designs being built in Melbourne – from tunnels to rail above-ground.

According to Mr Tattersall, the cost of tunnels is high.

“Tunnels are in that billion dollar a kilometre range, for twin tunnels. That’s fairly typical of around the world, not including land acquisition and other things like that. But for the sheer cost of tunnels, that’s about what it costs.”

Speaking from under the newest section of elevated rail on the Cranbourne Pakenham line, Mr Devlin said that building a tunnel along the entire eight kilometre length of the project would have caused much greater disruption during construction, and cost significantly more.

“We’d estimate a tunnel, this eight kilometres, would be around $10 billion.”

Speaking about building new stations, Mr Devlin highlighted the flow-on benefits of key infrastructure projects to the wider community.

“We know that stations are safer and encourage greater patronage when they’re activated by people living, working and shopping around them,” he said.

“We’ve tried to find a new generational station precinct and transport hub.”

Similarly, Mr Elliot talked about how his road project could "unlock the benefits" of regions in Melbourne like the La Trobe University precinct.

“There is already a pseudo North East Link in place, the number of vehicles that use those roads is staggering,” he said.

The discussion looked to the future of transport infrastructure planning in the state, including the best option for an airport link and an integrated, statewide transport plan.

The full interview is available for download from the ABC website.

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