Questions asked and answered in February and March 2018 workshops. For up to date project information please visit

People are going to use NEL to commute to and from work with only a small percentage going into the city. How will NEL assist those commuters?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • How do we accommodate the community travel to other places? (ie. not the CBD)

That is correct, about 75% of the traffic connecting to the Eastern Freeway from North East Link would be traveling east away from the city. This project is an opportunity to overhaul the Eastern Freeway to provide commuters, including those heading away from the city, with new lanes and new technology for a faster trip. NEL will also reduce the traffic on many local roads in the network, creating a faster commute for those travelling locally. As part of our project we’ll also be looking at improving cycling connectivity throughout the entire north eastern network as well as launching the new Doncaster Busway system with dedicated bus lanes for faster public transport along the Eastern Freeway.

How much does the urgency for the project and the cost of the project affect the end result?

Although there is urgency for the project as it is greatly needed for a growing Melbourne, this will not adversely affect the quality of its outcomes. We have been engaging with communities earlier than what is typical and are also required to undergo extensive studies into environmental impacts through the Environment Effects Statement (EES). This early and extensive engagement means, although we are moving rapidly to get the project underway, it is getting done right. The Urban Design team’s role is to understand the local character, how communities are using the space currently and to advocate for better local outcomes. 

Will NELA be doing anything about the old Bulleen site (an eyesore) as it does seem to be close enough to this project to be incorporated?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Will NELA work towards a better environment based on the drive in site?

This sounds like a fantastic urban design opportunity and the type of idea the team wants to hear about. We're interested in how the former Drive-In site, and the project can integrate with the adjacent Yarra River parkland. We are already talking to Melbourne Water and Wurundjeri to learn how we can enhance and integrate our project with the parkland. For example, we’d be looking for local suggestions for how to fix current issues such as lack of access to parkland from certain areas.

How will connectivity be maintained or enhanced across NEL (e.g. the Watsonia Shops and Greensborough)?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Will existing crossings (road) between the east and west sides of the Greensborough Highway e.g. Elder St (from housing on the east side of the highway to the Watsonia station car park on the western side), be maintained for local residents to access public transport, shops, services, etc?
  • If it is a trench alongside Greensborough is there a guarantee that it will be deep enough for comprehensive system of land bridges?
  • How will you ensure driver connectivity from Greensborough to Watsonia at Elder St?
  • Can the Greensborough interchange be done first?

The theme of connectivity is a consistent one we’ve heard lots about across the entire corridor. Improving connections and access for residents and businesses are two of our key project objectives that underpin all of our work. From an urban design perspective, we aspire to maintain and enhance connectivity where possible across the project area. For example, can we use wide vegetated land bridges to link Greensborough/ Yallambie and Watsonia across North East Link rather than relying on narrower pedestrian bridges or crossings.

At this stage, the trench alongside Greensborough Road will be designed to be deep enough for a number of wide land bridges.

Local connections such as the Elder Street connection will be maintained using a series of local roads running parallel to North East Link with crossings at various locations. More information on how these will function will be released in our next design update in the coming months. Watsonia Station and shops will be accessible from across North East Link.

As we are in the early design development phase and a preferred builder will not be chosen until 2019, it is too early to determine the timing of construction and which sections of North East Link will come first.

Why doesn't the project consider the area north of the northern ring road, which is the fastest growing area in Melbourne (plans for the E6 freeway and land acquisition happening already)? How is the E6 going to be connected? Why is the project restricted to the 9km area (Greensborough to Bulleen)?

Addressing growth in the northern corridor of Melbourne is one of the key reasons North East Link is so needed. However our project is intended to complete the missing link in Melbourne’s ring road, via a connection to the Metropolitan Ring Road (M80). The area north of this is not part of our project area. VicRoads is responsible for progressing with the Outer Metropolitan Ring/ E6 project. You can learn more about it here or by contacting VicRoads:

How is freight congestion being taken into account?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Do you think the land acquisition is going to be enough to implement and enhance urban design outcomes (cycle tracks, etc.)?
  • What homes will be either acquired or effected by the extra 7 lanes of Eastern Freeway?

One of our four key project objectives is to improve freight efficiency and industrial growth. Our early work for North East Link includes looking at both how freight moves across Melbourne’s north east and south as well as the optimal interchanges and places trucks need to access places.  We’ve been collecting extensive traffic data to help understand current traffic movements and problems as well as consulting with the freight industry to confirm our findings.

Minimising impacts on communities and environmental and cultural assets are two of our guiding principles. This means that despite aiming to implement urban design outcomes such as cycling tracks, ensuring the project requires as little land acquisition as possible is of greater importance.  There are many urban design opportunities that can be achieved within the project area while minimising acquisition.

We are aiming to keep upgrade works to the Eastern Freeway within the existing road reserve to minimise effects on nearby residential areas and open spaces. Where it is not possible to remain within the road reserve, some public open space such as part of the Koonung Creek Linear Park will likely be required to avoid acquiring homes on both sides of the freeway.

While it is too early to define the area of impact in square meters, a focus of the design development will be to minimise impact on Koonung Creek Parklands and all public open space along the Eastern Freeway.

Has the federal government decided to sell the land to NELA (Watsonia Army Barracks)? What safeguards will you put in place for sustainability for the area (e.g. long term, federal government)?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Why have no security experts been consulted as part of planning proposals? (i.e. security, impact of freeway next to major defence facility). This is a long-term security implication not only for residents, but also for all of Australia.

The detailed arrangements regarding land at Simpson Barracks are unknown at this point, but we are already working closely with Simpson Barracks and will continue to do so throughout the design process.

Appropriate safeguards will be put in place together with federal government.

What impact will the project have on Banyule Flats and Warringal Parklands? How can you assure the public who value those parklands that they will not be impacted without conducting an ESS?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • How do you ensure no impact on the natural environment e.g. Banyule Flats and Warrigal Parklands
  • How do you save and enhance the 700 year old Eucalypt tree at the Caltex SS of heritage importance?

North East Link will be tunnel under the Banyule Flats and Warringal Parklands. Based on tunnelling standards, we know that impacts at surface level including in these areas will be minimal. The tunnels will be at least 15 metres below surface level and the Yarra River bed, where it will be at its deepest.

We are at the start of the EES process which is the robust and transparent planning and approvals process used to assess existing conditions in these sensitive environmental areas as well the potential impacts of North East Link. It compares the existing conditions of the project area to the potential conditions if the project were to go ahead based on the reference design. This will help us to determine the potential impacts on the natural environment. This information will be put on display as part of the EES process in early 2019.

We are currently assessing the eucalypt tree as part of the EES Process and will know and share more details as the assessments progress.

When does NELA report back on the process?

NELA will report back on what we hear from communities throughout the project. For example, we will be posting all the questions and answers from our February and March forums in March on our Join the Conversation website. More formally, we will share results of our community engagement process via reports in our Publication page. The Environment Effect Statement (EES) will include a report on Community and Stakeholder Engagement. 

What’s the purpose of tonight? What do you want to get out of it?

The purpose of the February and March 2018 small group forums was to get early feedback and local knowledge from community members about what they value in their neighbourhoods. We wanted to grow our understanding of what the community sees as the opportunities and challenges in their local area and their early input about what the project should consider or aim to improve in relation to urban design, walking and cycling connections and the environment within which communities live (noise, air quality, and visual amenity). This input will be fed back into NELA’s technical and planning teams to help with early design work, and will also be used to help us plan future sessions.

When does the next design update come out?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Is there a baseline to start off with what’s possible rather than wishful thinking?
  • How can local communities understand the range of opportunities available where we don't have any technical knowledge and experience, in order to participate/involved in the discussion?

We will share an update on our design work in the coming months. You’ll be able to view maps and concept drawings for key elements and talk to our specialists at drop-in sessions as well as get involved on our website.

Later in 2018 we will display a more refined project design, including how community feedback has shaped the project so far.

Through community events such as the February and March 2018 workshops, we are aiming to share more information about our urban design principles, best practices and examples of successful urban design from other major infrastructure projects. We encourage interested community members to read more about our project on the North East Link website to increase their baseline knowledge of the project scope.

Our upcoming design update will also demonstrate the opportunities and constraints within the project area to help communities understand what’s possible.

Regarding accessibility, it seems there will be a gridlock with cars getting onto North East Link near Bulleen Road? Local road access must be maintained so we aren't competing with cars getting on to NELA.

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Will amenity be impacted by the roads that feed onto NELA?

One of our four key objectives for the project is to improve connections and access for residents. This means that all of our design work is undertaken with this priority in mind. Bulleen Road would be maintained as a local road with local connections and North East Link would have separate on ramps from the Eastern Freeway. This would ensure that local roads would not compete with vehicles getting onto North East Link. In fact, our traffic modelling shows a reduction in traffic on local roads near North East Link because much of the through traffic that currently uses local networks to move south-north and vice versa will use North East Link.

We don't do Infrastructure in Australia well at all, but if you look at places like Scandinavia they integrate the urban design. What is the give-get? There will be impacts on amenity, so what will we get back from this freeway?

North East Link will have tremendous benefits including increased amenity in local communities due to eased congestion on local roads – in fact, our modelling shows that this project would get 15,000 trucks off local roads a day.

Beyond the faster trips and eased congestion, this project includes new and upgraded walking and cycling links all the way from the M80 down to the Eastern Freeway and Yarra Trail. We are working with communities to help shape these new links.

We will be adding new noise walls and improving existing noise walls for the Eastern Freeway, M80 and North East Link.

From an urban design perspective, we will create an urban design strategy which will provide design guidelines for  North East Link. The development of the strategy includes liaising with local community groups, key stakeholders and the Wirundjeri to integrate community, historical and cultural heritage considerations into the urban design strategy. 

Are you considering water sensitive urban design? This would go against all the information that was provided to the Federal Govt, which indicated Banyule and Koonung Creeks will be barrelled and polluted by the project.

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • How do you protect Banyule/Koonung Creeks so they are not barrelled/polluted?

The design teams is exploring opportunities to incorporate water sensitive urban design within the project area including stormwater treatment such as wetlands, raingardens and swales; as well as water harvesting and reuse ideas.

The EPBC referral seeks a decision from the Australian Minister for Environment as to whether the North East Link Project will require assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). While it does indicate the scope of work for the project, the detailed impacts on areas such as Banyule and Koonung Creeks are still unknown as the design work is still ongoing.

All the roads around here are already saturated, so why are you not building a road where there is less development (i.e. outside of a residential area)?

The North East Link corridor was selected through a detailed assessment of potential benefits and impacts of numerous options. The corridor best meets the project objectives and provides the best opportunity for connections to the existing road network that respond to travel demand through, in and out of the north east of Melbourne. This means that this corridor attracts the most through traffic to the new link and therefore reduces demand on local arterial roads. You can read more about why this corridor was selected in the Corridor Assessment Summary.

How will NELA make decisions about what environmental elements get saved/ protected? How can we get involved and have a maximum voice for the things we care about?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Are the public able to provide feedback on the scope of the EES?
  • How will it be worked out how to 'save/protect' important aspects/heritage (man-made and natural)?

One of our project principles is to minimise impacts on environmental and cultural assets and this principle has helped guide how we plan and design North East Link from the beginning. Environmental impacts of design ideas are vetted through rigorous processes, including the Environment Effects Statement (EES), a robust Victorian planning and approvals process which communities can get involved in. You can read more about this process here: .

The scope of the EES is determined by the Minister for Planning and will be set out in the Scoping Requirements for the project.  It is possible for interested parties to provide feedback on the Scoping Requirements by submitting comment on an initial draft that will be publicly exhibited in the coming months. After consideration of the comments received on the draft, the Minister for Planning will publicly release the final Scoping Requirements. This is expected in mid-2018.

Given public transport will be more important into the future, what are you doing about access? People will need to bus to the freeway to get to the city.

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Future proofing: Interlinking buses from between the freeways on to the freeway to city/hubs
  • Do NELA have a public transport plan re: bus network, airport link (from Frankston to Tullamarine)

As part of North East Link, we will launch the Doncaster Busway system which includes dedicated express bus lanes, separated from other traffic along the Eastern Freeway from Doncaster Road to Hoddle Street.  The existing bus routes that currently use the freeway will use the proposed Busway.

As part of the design process we will work with Transport Victoria to consider how buses access the Busway and potential passenger interchange between bus routes using the Busway and current and future feeder bus services.

Transport for Victoria is working with us to develop the plans for how people would use the Doncaster Busway system, locations for access points and how this new system would function, as we are responsible for providing the infrastructure but not designing the wider public transport network.

As part of North East Link, we will launch the Doncaster Busway system which includes dedicated express bus lanes, separated from other traffic along the Eastern Freeway from Doncaster Road to Hoddle Street.  The existing bus routes that currently use the freeway will use the proposed Busway.

Banyule was divided into two by a road project in the past, NELA is an opportunity to address that, but how do you intend to address all 8 of the urban design principles?

That’s right – North East Link is a massive opportunity to improve urban design in the area, while maintaining the spirit of the places communities currently love. We agree that there is an opportunity to improve connectivity across Banyule and other areas along the project corridor which are currently divided.

The 8 urban design principles will to be used to evaluate and assess options and proposals throughout the design process through to delivery.

How can you design noise barriers to minimise visual impact?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Can we use noise barriers as solar panels?

Noise walls minimise impact of sound by blocking the direct travel of sound waves from the freeway to the adjacent areas by forcing the waves over the top or around the barrier. The noise walls will be designed to be high and long enough to block these waves, but in a visually appealing way as per the urban design strategy and design by the successful bidder. There are many examples of noise walls that also take visual appeal into account throughout Melbourne.

Noise walls that double as solar panels have been used overseas and in a section of the Tullamarine-Calder Freeway noise walls. These kinds of ideas are what we are looking to explore through these conversations with community and to potentially feed into our urban design strategy.

Questions asked and answered online from February and March 2018 workshops. For up to date project information please visit

What reference can be made to the 'Heidelberg School' and Heide Museum?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Any sculpture/decoration to be relevant to Heidelberg School and local artists?
  • Have important items such as Heritage (Aboriginal, European) and points of interest to be considered?

One of our urban design principles is ‘Identity’. A well-defined identity and sense of place add to people’s experience and understanding of a place. We will be working with communities to ensure that opportunities relating to important cultural and historical icons like Heide Museum, Heidelberg School are built into the urban design strategy. We are also working directly with Wurundjeri to ensure that the Aboriginal heritage of the local area influences the urban design and other elements of the project.

Our community forums and current technical work will help us build an understanding of what’s important to communities, then these will influence the development of our urban design strategy. This strategy will then provide design guidance to the preferred builder who will be responsible for incorporating the requirements of the strategy into detailed design elements.

Why don't we have tunnels to protect Watsonia/Simpson Army Barracks?

The length of the tunnels has already increased significantly since our first community consultation – in response to what we heard. We’re now building Victoria’s longest road tunnels and we’re still working to refine the design.

While the design is still being refined and the Environment Effects Statement existing conditions investigations (currently underway) will inform our decision-making, it is likely that tunnelling in the project area north of Lower Plenty Road would not be feasible due to ground conditions.

If you replace 1 tree with 3, where are they planted?

We don’t know at this early stage where tree planting would go, however we would seek to plant as many trees as practical along the freeway corridor including across the land bridges, adjacent to paths and walls, and at the interface with the Yarra River Parklands.

Can air from the tunnel be used to generate power?

There is some interesting international research that suggests that it may be possible to generate electricity by capturing wind energy in rail and road tunnels.  While we’re at this early stage of the project, our team is interested to hear ideas from around the world that we can be inspired by.  In particular, we want to identify opportunities to contribute to innovation in renewable energy and sustainability. Given that this research is in its early days though the technology may not be available in time for us to utilise this opportunity.

Is the widening of the Eastern Freeway part of the project?

Yes, the Eastern Freeway upgrades and widening with additional lanes are all part of the North East Link Project and would be delivered by the authority.

How prescriptive will the Reference Design be to the market (e.g. aesthetics, detailed alignment/ramps, environmental aspects, hard/soft landscaping, arts/creative Victoria)

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • What is the 'reference design' is that available for review?

The reference design is completed prior to commencement of the Environment Effects Statement. It includes functional design elements such as alignment as well as construction type (e.g. tunnel, cut and cover, ramp, etc.) It is not advanced enough to include detailed aesthetics, environmental aspects, landscaping or creative design elements, as many of these elements will be developed through the EES process and beyond with community input. The reference design will be available for public review during the EES display sessions in early 2019.

When the EES process has been completed in 2019, the findings have the potential to inform design considerations and potentially alter certain aspects of the link. 

How will you ensure safe and direct access to Greensborough from Watsonia train station for pedestrians?

 *We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • How will connectivity be maintained and enhanced crossing in Watsonia region (ie Elder Street)

  • How do I enter Bulleen from Golden Way?

At minimum, a new pedestrian bridge will link locals to Watsonia Station and the shopping area. This is a great example of an urban design opportunity to improve safe and direct connectivity between Greensborough and Watsonia Station, taking community input into account. We want to hear more ideas from local community about how we can improve the amenity and connectivity in this space.

As our engineers and planners are currently working on early ideas for the North East Link design, it is too early to confirm every design detail, however Bulleen Road would be retained for local use in this area which includes retaining the connections from Golden Way. 

We can't just keep building more and more roads for cars. Think about how these new roads can also be utilised for public transport, bike paths, WSUD, energy harvesting, etc.

North East Link is part of an integrated transport network and is being planned as such. While rail, public transport and cycling paths are all important aspects of that network, this road is necessary as a complementary component of a wider network. Trucks are an essential part of the freight network and this project will take up to 15,000 trucks off residential roads by accommodating the vast majority of trucks currently using arterial roads.

As we build North East Link, we are also using this opportunity to implement new cycling paths and on road cycle lanes, upgraded and new pedestrian paths, water sensitive urban design infrastructure, additional landscaping and green bridges. We are also looking at public transport improvements with Doncaster Busway, Melbourne’s first dedicated busway, to provide an express trips along the Eastern Freeway.

How will the railway to Doncaster interact with the widened freeway? Will there be an easement set aside?

While the North East Link project will continue to maintain space along the Eastern Freeway corridor for a potential future Doncaster Railway, this project will introduce Doncaster Busway, Melbourne’s first dedicated busway, providing an express journey between Doncaster Park and Ride and Victoria Park precinct. Doncaster Busway does not exclude a future Doncaster Rail, but it is the approach recommended by Infrastructure Victoria to meet increased demand while improving reliability of services. 

Are the traffic lights at Bulleen Road and Freeway going to be removed? (to allow easier flow of traffic travelling along Bulleen Road to Doncaster Road) this was overlooked when Bulleen Road was built

As our engineers and planners are currently working on early ideas for the North East Link design, it is too early to confirm design details such as this. At this stage, the design idea is to maintain Bulleen Road for local access with the existing traffic lights in place. However, North East Link would be connected to the Eastern Freeway to the west and east via seamless connections with no traffic lights.

How are interchanges being designed? (i.e. considerations, public impact (Bulleen Road to Eastern Freeway)?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • Why aren't interchanges shown on indicative plans?
  • How can local community be enabled to understand the range of possibilities and options that can be on the table at this critical early stage of the project?
  • Need details of structures e.g. access to exit and entry point, to know what effects on environment.

Our engineers and planners are currently working on early ideas for how the interchanges could work and connect with existing roads. While we develop the design, we are also considering how to create high quality urban design outcomes, public space and parklands, and walking and cycling connections.

The community engagement (forums, what we hear online, one on one conversations with stakeholders, etc.), traffic and other technical studies we are conducting throughout 2018 are all helping us to understand the big picture: how people use the existing roads and what impacts different design options would have.

More details about how the interchanges will work, entry and exit points and more will be shown in our upcoming design updates in the next several months. We will then be running more drop ins, forums and online engagement to get more specific feedback and ideas from communities.

Future benefits and options to grow with the community?

*We grouped similar questions together, including...

  • 2046 Melbourne will have 2.8m more people. Does this project cater for that?
  • What is the life expectancy of NEL project?

North East Link will have enormous future benefits, fully realising the benefits of previous investments in road infrastructure, diverting traffic away from congested arterial roads and linking key growth areas in Melbourne’s north and south-east.

We are planning North East Link with forecast population growth in mind. Our traffic modelling takes into account Melbourne’s population growth into 2046 to determine that traffic volumes in local community areas will still be reduced as a result of North East Link even with significant population growth into the future.

What is the project program and where does this session fit within it?

We are currently still early in the project and these small group forums are a way to get big picture community ideas and knowledge about the project area to help us with early design ideas and the Environment Effects Statement (EES).

The EES is starting now with existing conditions studies, and it will continue until mid to late 2018. In early 2019 the EES will be put on public display along with a reference design for the project. Preferred builders will be selected in 2019.

How is travel demand going to be managed to fit available space?

As travel demand increases in Melbourne’s key growth areas, North East Link is projected to provide a route for 100,000 to 120,000 vehicles per day. As well, the overhaul and modernisation of the Eastern Freeway will provide a more efficient trip for travellers heading east-west. Travel demand will be managed to fit the available space by building North East Link and upgrading the Eastern Freeway using smarter systems - more lanes, dedicated express lanes and technology such as ramp metering.