The Smart taxpayers Design

Discover a better alternative for building the North East Link.

We support the SMART Taxpayers Design

There has been widespread support for a N.E. Link project in the local community, with the promise of re-directing through traffic from local roads, thereby returning the Greensborough Rd corridor to the local community to preserve and enhance local amenity. However, it seems NELP’s objectives seem to be focused primarily on delivering another road project. This is exemplified when the NEL Business Case places a zero value on acquiring open & public lands, which greatly conflicts with the Community’s values in this case;
The proposed Reference Design by NELP fails to meet both the local Communities aspirations, and will cause extensive and unnecessary social and economic disruption to the Banyule Community, as well as significant visual damage to the Simpson Barracks Woodlands.
The proposed Contract Bidding structure will stifle the design innovations sought and the Scope of Early Works predetermines the final bid designs and entrenches the Reference Design approach. This short changes the Victorian Taxpaying Community by not encouraging quality innovative design result that reduces future obsolescence and provides best ‘Value for Money’.
Unlike NELP’s Reference Design, the S.M.A.R.T. Taxpayer Design has been prepared with active and meaningful and widespread ongoing Community consultation, and therefore, best reflects the Community’s aspiration for the N E Link project. It shows that the N E Link can be cost effectively constructed along the preferred alignment without compromising the project’s functionality, and without needlessly and irreparably disturbing the natural and visual values of the area, without the needless disruption the chosen construction methods will inflict and without further dividing local communities. By minimising the project’s surface footprint along the Greensborough road corridor, it would better address the objectives of the EES evaluation. It also provides better futureproofing of the road network, not possible with the Reference Design proposal.

Further information can be found below. 

THE S.M.A.R.T.* Taxpayer Design by Community Consultation

In response to the  Community Concerns about the Reference Design north of Lower Plenty Road to the M80, an alternative design has been independently prepared by the local Community to:
  • better address the growing Community Concerns about the Reference Design Proposal and realise their aspirations for the Project along the Greensborough Road corridor; and
  • graphically and clearly convey these aspirations to NELP and decision makers on the project.
Unlike the Reference Design, the Community Design (now labelled S.M.A.R.T. Taxpayer Design) has been prepared and regularly updated with active and widespread interactive Community  Consultation ensure all the Communities concerns are addressed. It has been unanimously endorsed by many consulted Community Members, including residents, Community Groups, School Groups, Sporting Groups and local Traders as their Preferred Design for the project from Lower Plenty Road to the M80.
While maintaining the prosed alignment of the reference Design, the S.M.A.R.T. Taxpayer Design proposes:
  • extending the NELA proposed TBM ‘Bored Twin Tunnels’ north of Lower Plenty Road by 3.2 km, under the Watsonia Hill, and a 0.6km long landscaped open trench under Grimshaw Street, in place of NELP’s Reference Design proposal of 1.2km of ‘cut and cover’ tunnel and 3 km of lined open trench roadway;
  • diverting the north end of Greensborough Road over the rail alignment using a prefabricated concrete structure to re-establish a permanent surface road network without the need for temporary roadworks and avoiding intrusion into existing School & Open Space; and
  • incorporating the structural & planning infrastructure to allow for a future ‘Bored’ tunnel interchange at Lower Plenty Road should the need arise.
*Save My Areas Residences and Trees (S.M.A.R.T.)
 
This S.M.A.R.T. Taxpayer Design best addresses the local Community’s aspirations and would better meet the EES objectives that the Reference Design as follows:
 
  • Social, Business, Land Use and Infrastructure, Landscape, Visual and Recreation Values, Habitat and Biodiversity & Catchment Values.
 This proposal reduces the construction and operational surface footprint of the project north of Lower Plenty Road by over 85%, while retaining much of the Greensborough Road alignment. This will minimise Social, Economic and Physical disruption to the local Community during construction and preserve the area’s established Woodlands, open spaces, natural habitats, the Banyule Creek catchment and hydrology. 
Extensive Road Reserve land will be freed up for future development, Community Facilities & Open Space, including increasing the capacity of the Watsonia Station Car Parking, thereby maximising the future potential of these communities. Creative Urban Design could re-establish Watsonia Village more centrally within the surrounding Community;
 
  • Transport Capacity, Connectivity and Traffic Management.
The SMART Taxpayer Design retains the required functionality of the NEL, while freeing up surplus Road Reserve Land. This provides greater opportunities to better integrates connection with Watsonia Rail Station by facilitating increased car parking capacity and incorporating space for a transport interchange, re-establish Community Links across the Greensborough Road Corridor, including the provision of safer, more attractive cycling and pedestrian connectivity.
The removal of the Lower Plenty Road interchange would not diminish the functionality of the NEL, would improve the project’s Business Case and would simplify traffic patterns and encourage only local servicing freight to use local roads. The simplified layout encourages M3-M80 traffic to use NEL, then offers greatly increased parking the Watsonia Station to discourage ‘Rat-Running’ to retain the surface network for local traffic.
The SMART Taxpayer Design also details upgrading Greensborough Road to a landscaped divided Boulevard to improve the visual amenity of residents and provide turn lanes for smoother traffic flows without impacting on local habitat, open space and woodlands. The now available surface land would even provide space to readily increase the surface road network capacity without major intrusion, thereby offering futureproofing for the road network, not possible with the Reference Design proposal.
Traffic management during construction will be simplified as the existing road network would continue to operate without the need for expensive & intrusive temporary roadways, with any upgrade to Greensborough Road done after the NEL tunnels are operating;
 
  • Health, Amenity & Environmental Quality
 Placing much of the through traffic below surface level will eliminate local noise and light pollution and allow for controlled exhaust venting to unobstructed airflow heights to better disperse exhaust ventilation. Ventilation structures would be located remotely in open space areas.
By facilitating safer, more cycle and pedestrian linkages for short trips along & across the Greensborough Rd corridor would improve personal wellbeing.
The use of a tunnelled road offers motorists a consistent road environment from the M3 to M80 and eliminates the possibility midday glare issues to north travelling drivers. As surface excavation works will be minimised and remote from businesses & residences, construction nuisance from noise & dust would be minimised;
 
  • Greenhouse Gases
 Minimising the need for early works and demolition and reinstatement, using a simplified, more automated Construction methodology and more prefabrication means less on-site plant, which would not only reduce construction costs, especially if the Lower Plenty Road interchange is deleted, but would reduce the project’s construction carbon footprint and embodied energy.
Furthermore, extending ‘Bored’ Twin tunnels north of Lower Plenty Road would maintain a consistent low grade that eliminates the need for slow lanes. This means lower fuel use for large trucks as well as cars further reducing the projects operational carbon footprint.
Providing greatly increased parking capacity and a transport interchange at Watsonia Station would encourage southbound motorist to use Public Transport options, and by facilitating safer, cycle and pedestrian linkages for short trips would reduce the Community’s carbon footprint.
Retaining the established mature woodlands along the Greensborough Road maintains an established carbon sink;
 
  • Waste Management
 The SMART Taxpayer Design extends the TBM ‘Bored’ twin tunnels to within 500 metres of Grimshaw Street. This means the constant flow of large trucks transporting tunnel spoil and other construction waste can gain direct access to the M80 without need to travel on local surface roads. This will greatly assist Traffic management during construction and will enable construction operations to proceed continuously without affecting the local residents and businesses.
 
  • Land Stability
 The extended ‘Bored’ Twin tunnels would travel from Lower Plenty Road under the Watsonia Hill to an open trench north of the rail line. The tunnel’s horizontal alignment will broadly follow the existing Greensborough Road alignment and be clear of all property lines, while the vertical alignment will provide clear depths of 15-40metres. The geology is ‘rippable’
Silurian Mudstone and Sandstone, which is similar to that south of Lower Plenty Road, so there should be no impediment to maintaining land stability to an extended ‘bored’ tunnel and surface vibrations during construction.
 
  • Simplified Construction Methodology
 This proposal for this section of the project would involve fewer trades and simplified staging than the Reference Design. The broad staging would be:
  1. Construction of Greensborough Road diversion over the rail alignment to maintain the existing road capacity during construction without the need for temporary roadways. (This would involve around 500 metres of ‘bridging’, compared to the Reference Design’s 100 metres of culvert extension. Both would involve some disruption to Rail Services, however, the use of prefabricated components in the Bridging of the Rail trench would reduce time frames for this component);
 2. The Excavation of a 600metre long x 80 (max) metre wide x 30 (max) metre deep tapering open trench at the Grimshaw Street end of the Roadway and the construction of an acoustic roof to accommodate the TBM assembly, if required,and spoil trucks;
 
  1. Construction of the Grimshaw Street Interchange;
 
  1. The construction of the TBM ‘Bored’ Tunnels, either by continuing the ‘Bored’ twin tunnelling from the south or by commencing tunnelling from the north or from both ends to expedite the tunnelling process.
(Due to the minimal surface construction footprint, work can continue continuously with minimal disruption to the local community)
 
  1. Construction of improvements to surface infrastructure, including improvements to Greensborough road and Watsonia Rail Car Parking, Cycle Paths, etc.
(Several of these ‘stages’ could occur concurrently)
 
  • Capital Costs
 
Based on figures documented in the BabEng report prepared for the City of Banyule, a longer ‘Bored’ tunnel would provide an economy of scale. This report estimates that the excavation, structural & preparation costs of a ‘Bored’ Twin Tunnel, including the Tunnel Boring Machine, Personnel & Materials at $45,700/m. Therefore the broad excavation and structural costs of this proposal could be as follows:
  • Excavation, Structural and Preparation Costs (6400m x $45,700/m) say $300mill
  • G’borough Rd Bridging over Rail (500m x 30m x $3000/sqm) say $150mill
  • Design Variable (15%) say $ 50mill
 
$500 mill
Assuming the cost of roadway paving, landscape works, lighting & ventilation are comparable between the SMART Taxpayer Design and the Reference Design; this figure would need to be compared to the Reference Design costs for:
  • Property Acquisition & Relocation (not required in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Early Works for Services Relocations, etc (minimised in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Site Establishment Costs (higher land area & costs due to more trades & equipment required)
  • Surface Demolition and Reinstatement (greatly reduced in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Temporary Roadways (not required in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • 3.5km Trench Excavation and Retaining Walls
  • 1.1km Cut & Cover Tunnel Excavation and Structure
  • 5 no Green Bridge Structures
  • Reconstruction of the Surface Road Network (G’borough Rd) (not required in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Additional Traffic Management
  • Additional Construction Area management
  • Additional Construction Trade and Personnel management
  • Additional Complexity and Capital Cost of constructing the ‘questionable’ Lower Plenty Road Interchange
 However, the BabEng costings used above should be compared with historic cost data from recent similar projects such as Westgate twin tunnels in Victoria, the Lane Cove twin tunnels in NSW and the Brisbane Airport twin tunnels on Qld. This data puts the total construction costs of such tunnels, including all roadway paving, landscape works, lighting & ventilation costs, at around $180,000/m for each bored tunnel and $225,000/m for each ‘mined’ tunnel.
This would put the total cost of the SMART Taxpayer Design as follows:
  • Bored Twin Tunnels (6400m x $180,000/m) $1,150mill
  • Mined Tunnels provision for Lower Plenty Rd I/C (1200m x $225,000/m) $ 270mill
  • G’borough Rd Bridging over Rail Trench (500m x 30m x $3000/sqm) say $ 150mill
  • Grimshaw Street I/C Bridges (2400 sq m x $3000/sqm) say $ 10mill
  • Open Trench (Tunnel Portal-Kemston St) (42,000 sq m x $1500/sq/m) $ 60mill
$1,640mill
  • Design Variable & Sundries (say 15%) $ 250mill
say $1,900mill
  • Mined Tunnels to complete Lower Plenty Rd I/C (if req) (1800m x $225k/m) $ 405mill
  • Design Variable & Sundries (say 15%) $ 65mill
say $2,400mill
 
This means that the broad total capital cost of the SMART Taxpayer Design may be ~$1.9bn including provision for a possible future Lower Plenty Rd I/C plus ~$0.5bn to complete the Lower Plenty Rd mined tunnel I/C.
(incl. 15% or $315mill Design Variable Contingency & Incremental Costs)
 It should be noted that these capital costs for the SMART Taxpayer Design would be partially off-set by the realised sale of excess surface land along the Greensborough Road Corridor.
This opportunity is not possible in the Reference Design due to its large surface footprint.
While these figures are broad and would need to be verified by a qualified Cost Consultant, possibly during the Tender process; they should be compared to the total capital cost of procuring the Reference Design from Lower Plenty Rd to Kempston Street, including all costs for the Grimshaw Street I/C and all roadway paving, landscape works, lighting & ventilation; as well as all the aforementioned items listed above. (Without explanation, none of these cost estimates have been provided by NELP despite many Community Requests to do so).
 Given all these factors it is very possible that the total cost of the SMART Taxpayer Design and the NELP Reference Design may be comparable (even favourable if the Lower Plenty Rd I/C is provisioned for possible future completion as suggested in the SMART Taxpayer Design).
 
  • Project Duration
 As detailed in the aforementioned Construction Methodology, the SMART Taxpayer Design would involve fewer trades, greater automation and simplified staging than the Reference Design. It would have a shorter site establishment period and would require simplified Construction Management. Stages 1, 2 & 3 detailed above could occur concurrently but would need to be completed prior to either:
  • the completion of the Bored Twin Tunnels from the south, or
  • the commencement of Bored Twin Tunnels from the north.
Based on information documented in the BabEng report prepared for the City of Banyule, Tunnel Boring Machines require around 14 months for the assembly & commissioning of 2 TBM’s and the tunnel excavation and lining would progress at around 15 metres/day. The speed would be restricted by the speed of moving the tunnel assembly line that follows the ‘cutter head’.
If only 2 TBM’s are used from the south portal in Bulleen that the time to bore and line the additional 3.2km of twin tunnels would be around 210 days or 7 months. Assuming the project construction periods for the roadway paving, landscape works, lighting & ventilation are comparable between the SMART Taxpayer Design and the Reference Design over this proposed additional 3.2km length (say 12 months); this figure would need to be compared to the Reference Design time for:
  • Early Works (minimised in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Demolition (minimised in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Construction of Temporary Roads (not required in the SMART Taxpayer Design)
  • Excavation and lining of the NE Link Trench and 5 no Green Bridges
  • Construction of the Cut and Cover Tunnel Structure
  • Reconstruction of Surface Road Network (Greensborough Road)
  • Reinstatement and Landscape Works
(Without explanation, none of these time frames have been provided by NELP despite many Community Requests to do so).
It should be noted that the proposed excavation & lining of mined tunnels provision for a future Lower Plenty Rd Interchange would be done after the TBM’s will have passed through the junction areas and could therefore be done concurrently as the TBM’s progressed further along. Hence, this work would not be on the project timeline’s ‘Critical Path’ and affect the project duration. This could also be the case for the cross passage tunnels between the main Twin Tunnels.
If 2 TBM’s are used from each end then each set of TBM’s would bore 3.1km and meet under Lower Plenty Road. If this was done concurrently from each portal, then the time to bore & line the twin tunnels would not increase over the tunnelling time of the Reference Design.
Furthermore, a 3.2km section of the Reference Design north of Lower Plenty Rd, including the ‘Cut & Cover’ tunnel, trenched roadway, green bridges and new surface road network, would not be required, resulting in a possible reduction in project duration.
Also, regardless of tunnelling duration, it should be noted that unlike the Reference Design, the SMART Taxpayers Design’s minimal surface footprint means that the modified existing surface road network along Greensborough Road would continue to operate unimpeded during construction, so the tunnelling work could proceed 24/7 with minimal disruption above.
Furthermore, the extended tunnel alignment under Greensborough Road would avoid existing structures, and should be deep enough to avoid vibration issues.
Stage 5 detailed above could be done concurrently and would not be on the project timeline’s ‘Critical Path’.
 
Summary
  • There has been widespread support for a N.E. Link project in the local community, with the promise of re-directing through traffic from local roads, thereby returning the Greensborough Rd corridor to the local community to preserve and enhance local amenity. However, it seems NELP’s objectives seem to be focused primarily on delivering another road project. This is exemplified when the NEL Business Case places a zero value on acquiring open & public lands, which greatly conflicts with the Community’s values in this case;
  • The proposed Reference Design by NELP fails to meet both the local Communities aspirations, and will cause extensive and unnecessary social and economic disruption to the Banyule Community, as well as significant visual damage to the Simpson Barracks Woodlands.
 
  • The proposed Contract Bidding structure will stifle the design innovations sought and the Scope of Early Works predetermines the final bid designs and entrenches the Reference
Design approach. This short changes the Victorian Taxpaying Community by not encouraging quality innovative design result that reduces future obsolescence and provides best ‘Value for Money’.
 
A better, more interactive public consultation process, as was used in past projects including the current Westgate Tunnel project by Transurban, may have addressed many of the Community Concerns, and we suspect greatly improved the projects credentials against the objectives of the EES Evaluation;
 
  • Unlike NELP’s Reference Design, the S.M.A.R.T. Taxpayer Design has been prepared with active and meaningful and widespread ongoing Community consultation, and therefore, best reflects the Community’s aspiration for the N E Link project. It shows that the N E Link can be cost effectively constructed along the preferred alignment without compromising the project’s functionality, and without needlessly and irreparably disturbing the natural and visual values of the area, without the needless disruption the chosen construction methods will inflict and without further dividing local communities. By minimising the project’s surface footprint along the Greensborough road corridor, it would better address the objectives of the EES evaluation. It also provides better futureproofing of the road network, not possible with the Reference Design proposal.
 
  • Furthermore, if it is corroborated that the business case for the Lower Plenty Road interchange is questionable, then the S.M.A.R.T. Taxpayer Design without the Lower Plenty Road Interchange (or with provision for a future less intrusive interchange as detailed), would not only greatly reduce construction costs and improve the Business Case for the project as a whole and ensure the project not only fully complied with its infrastructure objectives, but would fully satisfy the Community’s objectives and the objectives of the EES evaluation and offer the Victorian Taxpayer better ‘Value for Money’ than the Reference Design.

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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.