Minister for Planning Richard Wynne in December signed off on the rigorous Environmental Effects Statement (EES) for the landmark Metro Tunnel Project. The $10.9 billion ($8 billion US) Metro Tunnel will give three of the busiest train lines their own tunnel through the central business district, freeing up space in the City Loop to run more trains, more often to the suburbs and regional Victoria.
As a result of the EES, 119 fewer trees will be lost, Fawkner Park will no longer be used for the project and property acquisition in Kensington has been reduced from 22 to one. The Minister has also requested further action from the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) to minimize impacts on the community, businesses and surrounding heritage.
The MMRA is also required to set up new stakeholder groups along the alignment to work with communities during construction of the project. A business disruption plan, a traffic and transport work group and new guidelines for construction noise levels have also been requested in the final EES.
The draft EES was released earlier in 2016 for consultation and 379 submissions were received. Submissions focused on noise and vibration from tunneling, changes to traffic and transport, loss of trees, impacts on open space, heritage and the impact on communities and businesses around the works. An independent committee sat for 33 days between August and October, hearing from 115 parties, before making recommendations to the minister.
The independent EES panel assessed proposals to build a deeper Domain Station and determined that the shallow station provides the greatest benefit for the 40,000 passengers who will use the station each day. Now that the EES has been finalized, planning controls can be put in place for the project to go ahead.
“The Metro Tunnel is the biggest Victorian infrastructure project since the city loop was built in the 1980s and it will generate decades of benefit to public transport users,” Wynne said. “While there will be significant impacts over the construction period, plans will be in place to minimize the disruptions and we will keep working with the community along the way.”