Melbourne’s aborted East-West Link – the massive, multi-billion-dollar inner-city toll road project that promised to knit Melbourne closer together-was divisive from the start. Intense picketing and protests, multiple court challenges, breathless media coverage and bitter politicking consumed the Victorian parliament for years. The link brought the downfall of the single-term Baillieu-Napthine Liberal government; its cancellation cost the state half a billion dollars, and it lives on in infamy – a byword for brinkmanship, waste and politicisation of infrastructure. But where did this notorious megaproject come from, and what explains its fate? Was it a project hand-picked by state premiers who miscalculated its electoral value? Was it foisted on the government by cunning roads bureaucrats, unprepared for the public backlash? Or was it simply that opponents of the project succeeded by turning it into an election issue? James C Murphy explores the saga from competing vantage points, detailing the layers of politics that saturate infrastructure policymaking in Australia.
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