The Reference Design by NELP (Lower Plenty Rd - M80)

The Reference Design By NELP (North EAST LINK PROJECT)

  • The northern section of proposed Reference Design from Lower Plenty Road to the M80 by NELP fails to meet the local Community’s aspirations.


A. The Reference Design will have a surface footprint of over 31Ha (310,000sqm) along the Greensborough Road corridor.


This will result in:


  • the clearance of almost 11 hectares of mature vegetated land within the Simpson Army Barracks, including several specimens over 100 years old will severely impact the little natural beauty left along Greensborough Rd, and replaces this with a ‘cut and cover’ tunnel with around 1-1.5 metres sandy loam soil profile that cannot support the existing tree species that are to be demolished;
  •  the loss of the Banyule Creek as a natural watercourse which would be routed over the proposed ‘cut and cover’ structure,
  • the ‘cut and cover’ tunnel would impede surface & groundwater flow and greatly reduce the catchment and water quality of the Banyule Creek, that feeds the Warringal Wetlands downstream in Heidelberg;
  • the loss of habitat for the established native land and aquatic fauna to the area, possibly putting stain on animal communities in adjacent natural areas including the nearby Plenty River corridor;
  • severe social & economic disruption during construction by impeding links across the Greensborough Road corridor, detouring traffic through local streets and requiring contaminated spoil to be transported on local roads. The surface excavation proposed will generate years of dust & noise nuisance to adjacent residents & businesses. Watsonia Village shops will be economically impacted by further isolating around 30% of their current customer catchment. Previous experience from the construction of the Watsonia Rail Trench and Greensborough By-pass indicates that isolated customers establish new shopping links during construction and do not return. The same will be true for Watsonia Primary School whose current student catchment straddles the Greensborough By-pass. The proposed Construction Methodology &
Operations may impact Defence activities within the Simpson Barracks;


B. The Reference Design will widen the current surface road corridor by 45 – 80 meters near Lower Plenty Road and by around 30 metres a the north end, including a 30m wide x 8 – 12 metre deep trench. 


This will:


  • Increase cultural, psychological, as well as physical separation of the communities either side of Greensborough Road. People would be reluctant to cross 60 metres of noisy carriageway when alternative may exist on ‘their’ side of the road through an easier & more pleasant route. This would adversely affect the economic viability of Watsonia Village and the Long Term enrolment of Watsonia Primary School, and also would impede the established and growing social & economic links between the Simpson Barracks and Banyule  communities. It may also impact on future Defence activities in the Simpson Barracks;
  • Impede the potential for greater Community integration either side of the roadway, including increased use of the Simpson Barracks Lands in the future, as this will now be restricted to ‘Green bridge’ locations. This will permanently limit the future potential of the Macleod, Watsonia, Greensborough & Yallambie Communities;
  • Greatly reduce the area of the already over-crowded Watsonia Car Park, thereby precluding the possibility of greatly increasing future parking capacity to increase public transport patronage, thereby reducing local network vehicle movements downstream. The Reference Design’s proposal for a multi-level car park may increase parking capacity by 50 cars, but would preclude future expansion. Furthermore, it would visually isolate Watsonia Village from around 30% of their current customer catchment east of the roadway, is block its hilltop views to the Dandenongs, which is currently a valued feature of the Village;
  • Introduce increased light pollution due to increased roadway & signage lighting. Unless properly controlled, this would impact on adjacent properties and remaining parklands;
  • May worsen noise levels to Communities flanking the Greensborough Road corridor due to increased daytime traffic volumes, and especially at night as NEL will not have the curfews for trucks that currently exist;
  • Not greatly improve naturally dispersed exhaust pollution, despite a likely reduction in local traffic congestion and the increased usage of low pollution vehicles, due to increased traffic volumes and the inclusion of slow lanes for trucks due to the Reference Design’s road grades. This will mainly involve larger trucks most of which would remain diesel. Natural exhaust dispersion would mean exhaust gasses would be ejected at ground level in obstructed airflows resulting in more concentrated pollution levels being deposited in properties flanking the roadway. Slow lanes are proposed next to Watsonia Primary School;
  • Greatly degrade the established visual character and open space amenity of the area and especially along the Greensborough Road corridor, which our Community values so highly. This impact is greatest to properties facing the proposed Noise Barriers.


C. We also have additional concerns about the Reference Design (Lower Plenty Road – M80)


  • The layout, especially north of Lower Plenty Road, does not discourage ‘Rat-Running’ of through traffic through local roads, and does not encourage diversion onto the Public Transport at Watsonia where the N.E. Link crosses a major rail line.
  • The road profile for the NE Link carriageway in the Reference Design is unnecessarily undulating with some steeper grades necessitating the inclusion of slow lanes for trucks. This will increase transport operating costs and increase localised noise & pollution as the truck accelerate up the grades.
  • The inclusion of 5no 60m wide ‘Green bridges over a trenched roadway may cause midday glare issues to north travelling drivers;
  • The design unnecessarily complex and employs many construction methods. This will be reflected in increased project management and construction costs, because of the increased plant and workforce required, the resultant increased construction footprint of the project and complex interfaces between different construction processes;
  • The use of ‘Cut & Cover’ tunnel construction is unnecessarily invasive. It not only adds construction complexity and costs to the project, but greatly increases the surface footprint of the project, which has caused many of the local Community’s aforementioned Economic, Environmental & Social disruption issues. Extending the BM ‘Bored’ Tunnel construction beyond NELP’s proposed Lower Plenty Road limit would address many concerns and easily meet EES objectives by greatly reducing the projects surface footprint north of Lower Plenty Road. It would a greatly simplify construction methodology thereby and according to the BabEng Report, as prepared for the City of Banyule, be cost competitive. Interchanges could be constructed using ‘bored’ or ‘mined’ tunnel access ramps as is currently being used on the Tokyo Ring Road Twin “Bored’ Tunnel project and was done in the underground Rail Loop;
  • NELP has claimed that the Lower Plenty Road Interchange would attract 30,000 vehicles/day. But this claim cannot supported by the VicRoads Traffic Volume figures, which broadly concur with the validated traffic flow figures in Appendix B of the VLC Traffic Modelling Report in NELP’s Appendix R ‘Traffic Modelling Report’ in their EES submission. To achieve such volumes would require a substantial increase in traffic volumes along Lower Plenty Road from Eltham to the east and  Heidelberg/Rosanna to the west over what NELP has predicted. This could only occur if Eltham was greatly ‘intensified’ or if Melbourne’s North East Boundary was expanded beyond St Andrews, which is counter to the State Government’s Stated Planning Policy. Established driver patterns drivers from Eltham & Rosanna already use more direct routes to access the M80 & M3 than use the Rosanna/Greensborough Road corridor. Furthermore, the complicated layout of this interchange proposed in the Reference Design makes it difficult & expensive to construct and further dissuade use by motorists, especially when toll costs are factored in. Hence the Business Case to include this interchange in the project is highly questionable at best.


Deleting this interchange would: 


  • Greatly simplify the design & construction of the project, thereby greatly reducing the projects capital costs and is likely to greatly improve the project’s overall Business Case;      
    • Not diminish the functionality of the NE Link project for motorists;
    • Provide the opportunity to easily extend the TBM ‘Bored’ twin tunnels from Lower Plenty Road to north of the Hurstbridge Rail alignment as proposed by BabEng Option A2, and at with considerable cost savings to the current Reference Design with the interchange, based on the BabEng Report findings.
    It may be preferable to incorporate the structural infrastructure to allow for a future ‘Bored’ tunnel interchange should the need arise;
    • NELP has claimed the Reference Design marked a ‘minimum standard’ for the final designs as prepared by the tenderers to exceed and improve. However, this is contradicted by NELP’s stated intention to divide the project into 3 distinct packages:
    • Early Works
    • Tunnel Works (as prescribed from the M3 to Lower Plenty Road & not beyond)
    • Surface Works (including works north of Lower Plenty Road and through the Simpson Army Barracks & Watsonia Communities)
    Such a prescriptive contract bidding structure would stifle such design innovation by locking in the Reference Design concept.


Furthermore, if the Early Works Contract is let before a final design concept is developed, it may either lead to wasteful, unnecessary and costly abortive work and/or may further entrench the flawed Reference Design concept. 


A competitive tender based on a Performance Based Specification Contract with an open brief to link the M3 & M80 along the preferred route would promote the design and methodology innovations sought. Tenders could also be required to test the business case of various components of the project. Such a Contract could prescribe resolving the issues raised by the affected Communities, and better addressing EES objectives. Tenders could then be Value Managed to achieve the Best Quality Design, thereby providing best ‘Value for Money’ for the Victorian Taxpayer;
  • The Reference Design is unnecessarily complex to build & use, unnecessarily invasive & disruptive to the local Community, proposes Contract Methodology that discourages innovation to achieve the best quality design and represents poor ‘Value for Money’ for the Victorian taxpayer in general and the Banyule Community in particular.

We support the building of the North East Link but strongly believe that there is a better way to design and build the Link without dividing Banyule, destroying the local environment or impacting on businesses and homes.