The $11.1 billion Public Private Partnership contract for Victoria’s North East Link Project has been awarded, alongside news that the tunnels will be 1.9km longer than originally planned, which will allow for more parklands, with the tunnelling package alone set to create 8,000 jobs.

The Spark consortium has signed the PPP contract, subject to financial close, that locks in a 25-year deal to build, operate and maintain the tunnels, with tolls to go back to the state.

The North East Link project will deliver a longer tunnel to Watsonia, a new tree-lined boulevard for Greensborough Road and more than 50 MCGs of new, revived and reconnected parklands.

The North East Link Program will overhaul the Eastern Freeway with six express lanes from Chandler Highway to Middleborough Road.

It will also deliver Melbourne’s first dedicated busway, complete the Ring Road in Greensborough and build a North East Trail with more than 34kmof walking and cycling paths.

The North East Link tunnels will be 1.9kmlonger than originally planned, reducing disruption during construction and creating more room for parklands and wetlands including a ten-hectare community park along Banyule Creek in Yallambie.

After four years of consultation with the local community, the longer tunnel paves the way for Greensborough Road to be transformed into a tree-lined boulevard, forming a green gateway to Watsonia with new multi-level train station parking and new community spaces.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said, “This design released today is the result of extensive community consultation and delivers the project people have asked for – with a longer tunnel, quality design and community and environmental outcomes.

“Half a million Victorians live within two kilometres of a North East Link interchange. The tunnels are just one part of a massive investment in the north east – this project will change the way people move around Melbourne and deliver the road, bus, walking and cycling upgrades.”

In Bulleen, a new Yarra Link green bridge near the Eastern Freeway interchange will connect the Koonung Creek Trail to Bulleen Park and a new cultural precinct along the banks of Birrarung (the Yarra River).

Revitalised wetlands will re-establish a landscape of significant importance to the Wurundjeri people and create a new cultural space.

The tunnelling package is expected to generate 8,000 jobs, with thousands more jobs for the rest of the North East Link program. 

As construction begins the project will continue to work closely with the community, with opportunities for locals to comment on local elements of the design for their area when local plans are exhibited from next year.

A Voluntary Purchase Scheme will also be offered to homes most impacted by construction and design with further details to be released as the project progresses.

North East Link will connect the M80 Ring Road to an upgraded Eastern Freeway, providing an efficient connection for up to 135,000 vehicles each day, slashing travel times by up to 35 minutes, taking 15,000 trucks off local roads, and skipping 18 traffic lights on a trip to the airport.

North East Link is jointly funded by the Australian and Victorian Governments. Early works are underway, and the project is expected to complete in 2028.

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