West Gate Tunnel project — Environmental planning and approvals

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The West Gate Tunnel is a major freeway project designed to: relieve congestion on the M1 corridor; provide a much-needed alternate river crossing to the West Gate Bridge and a direct freight link to the Port of Melbourne; and remove trucks from residential streets in Melbourne’s inner west.
The project has three components, outlined below.
West Gate Freeway — upgrading and widening the freeway from 8 to 12 lanes, including new express lanes between the M80 and the West Gate Bridge to reduce weaving and merging that currently leads to traffic congestion.
A new tunnel — extending from the West Gate Freeway to the Maribyrnong River, the new tunnel takes motorists and trucks underground, and off of residential streets.
Port, CityLink and city connections — a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River and an elevated road along Footscray Road provide direct links to the Port of Melbourne, CityLink and an extended Wurundjeri Way.


AECOM was engaged by Transurban as technical advisor (encompassing engineering and environmental planning and approvals services), to assist with the project’s development through each stage of this market-led proposal. Transurban’s proposal led to discussions with the Victorian government and key stakeholders, followed by the preparation of a business case by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) to test the merits of the project and extensive joint development work undertaken by Transurban and DEDJTR. This work culminated in the preparation of a reference design for the project.
Our role as environmental planning and approvals advisor involved:

  • providing planning and design advice to assist in the development of the market-led proposal (submitted to the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance)
  • providing planning and design advice during the multi-criteria assessment, concept design and reference design development phases
  • scoping and management of specialists for 15 impact assessments, including for air quality, noise and vibration, contaminated soil and spoil management, groundwater, ecology, and business and social impacts. The impact assessments provided a comprehensive assessment of the potential environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the project review of the impact assessment reports, including existing conditions, risk assessment, impact assessment and environmental performance requirements outputs developed by the specialists
  • stakeholder engagement and participation in stakeholder events and community information sessions
  • leading preparation of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) for the reference design, in conjunction with the Victorian government
  • supporting the Victorian government through the Panel Inquiry process
  • supporting the Victorian government in obtaining the additional necessary planning and environmental approvals, including a Planning Scheme Amendment, Works Approval and Cultural Heritage Management Plan.

Outcomes and value

This project was unique in that it involved a partnership between the Victorian government and Transurban, where these partners further developed and sought approval for the project together. AECOM was instrumental at the interface between the various parties to achieve the approvals goals.

The approach of integrating planning approvals, including the preparation of an EES, with the procurement of the design and construct contractor, was a first for Victoria and provided many benefits. In particular, it enabled approvals to be obtained more quickly and key environmental risks to be addressed through innovative design as part of the ‘design and construct’ tender process for contractors.

The EES was able to demonstrate that through the adoption of the environmental management framework and environmental performance requirements the West Gate Tunnel Project was able to achieve its project objectives, while minimising environmental impacts. The EES process enabled all of the key planning and environmental approvals to be obtained.

Construction commenced on the West Gate Tunnel in January 2018 and the tunnel will be open to traffic in 2022.