Labor split on East West Link road plan

State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews faces internal dissent over Labor's decision not to support the western stage of the East West Link.

Six months before the Victorian election, some MPs have questioned the move, fearing it could cost votes, not just in the party's western heartland but in sensitive regions such as Geelong and Ballarat, which could benefit from less traffic heading into Melbourne.

Until recently, Labor supported an alternative river crossing to ease congestion on the West Gate Bridge, with Mr Andrews accusing the government of playing politics by choosing to build the eastern section of the controversial road before the western side.

''I think a second river crossing, an important redundancy for the West Gate Bridge and a link direct into the port, is a stronger project,'' he said in his first major speech to the Melbourne Press Club in October 2012. ''West to east is how this project should be viewed.''

Labor now not only opposes the first stage of the road - a 6-kilometre connection from Clifton Hill to Flemington - but the second stage to join the Tullamarine Freeway to the Western Ring Road through a new arterial.

Insiders admit the shift has confused the opposition's message, leaving some MPs unsure how to sell Labor's transport agenda. As one source told The Age: ''Having spent so long presenting compelling arguments for the western side, it puts our critique of the East West Link in a very strange place.''

Mr Andrews and his team will now head to November's poll spruiking the so-called ''West Gate Distributor'' as the solution for congestion in the west, along with the original version of the Metro Rail Project and the removal of 50 level crossings. The $500 million West Gate Distributor involves building on and off-ramps along the West Gate Freeway, which Labor claims will take 5000 trucks off the road each day and provide better access to the port.

''Tony Abbott is providing Denis Napthine with $1 billion to build a road that costs a lot but doesn't do very much … at the same time that he's ripping that, and much more, out of schools and hospitals,'' Mr Andrews said last week.

But Dr Napthine has seized on Labor's position. ''They've literally kicked sand in the face of the people of the western suburbs who have been clamouring … for a second crossing,'' he said.

The story Labor split on East West Link road plan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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