Western Link at the Footscray Road interchange, West Melbourne on 1 March 2019
|Length||21 km (13 mi)|
|Maintained by||Transurban Limited|
|North end|| Tullamarine Freeway|
|South end|| West Gate Freeway|
Port Melbourne, Melbourne
|West end|| West Gate Freeway|
|East end|| Monash Freeway|
CityLink is a network of tollways in Melbourne, Australia, linking the Tulla, West Gate and Monash Freeways and incorporating Bolte Bridge, Burnley Tunnel and other works. In 1996, Transurban was awarded the contract to augment two existing freeways and construct two new toll roads – labelled the Western and Southern Links – directly linking a number of existing freeways to provide a continuous, high-capacity road route to, and around, the central business district. CityLink uses a free-flow tolling electronic toll collection system, called e-TAG. CityLink is currently maintained by Lendlease Services.
The first mention of a southern and western inner city bypass was in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan. The plan advocated for reservations and set aside sinking funds for the new inner city freeway system. It was one of the few freeways connecting to the inner city (along with the Eastern Freeway to Clifton Hill) which was not later abandoned.
The proposal to build CityLink was first announced in May 1992 and received the State Government's formal approval in mid-1994. The contract was awarded in 1995 to a consortium of Australia's Transfield Holdings and Japan's Obayashi Corporation, named Transurban Consortium. Transurban was formed in March 1996 to operate CityLink when completed. The total value of the project was estimated in 1996 at about $1.8 billion, and the concession to operate the road was initially due to expire in 2034. This concession has since been extended, and is now due to expire in 2045.
CityLink was built by the Transfield Obayashi joint venture under contract to Transurban between 1996 and 2000. The design and construction of the Western Link was subcontracted to Baulderstone Hornibrook, and the supply of the electronic tolling system was subcontracted to Translink Systems, a company jointly owned by Transfield and Transroute of France. The ongoing operation and maintenance of City Link was subcontracted by Transurban to Translink Operations, also jointly owned by Transfield and Transroute, which would manager the performance of CityLink assets. In May 1999, the operations were reorganised, with Transurban taking over the customer service operations from Translink Operations, who would retain responsibility for management of the tolling system, roadside assistance and maintenance.
The CityLink project was eight times larger than any other road project in Melbourne of that time. Toll plazas for manual tolling were deemed impractical, and delays associated with plaza operations would have decreased the advantages of using the new road. The decision to use only electronic toll collection was made in 1992; at a time when there was little practical experience of such systems. The first of the sections opened to traffic in August 1999, with tolling commencing on 3 January 2000 before final completion occurred on 28 December 2000 with tolling commencing the same year.
When CityLink opened in 1999, the Southern Link was signed as M1 and the Western Link was signed as State Route 43. State Route 43 previously terminated at the Tullamarine Freeway/Calder Freeway interchange but it was extended along CityLink to end in Port Melbourne. Whilst National Route 79 officially remained part of the Western Link from the opening until 2013 (as the previous Tullamarine Freeway carried this designation from Calder Freeway to Flemington Road), CityLink signage did not show any National Route 79 signage and was exclusively signed as State Route 43. With Victoria's conversion to the newer alphanumeric system in the late 1990s, State Route 43 slowly began transition to M2 and was finally replaced with M2 in 2018. Despite this, a number of State Route 43 shields remain visible to this day.
The passing of the Road Management Act 2004 granted the responsibility of overall management and development of Victoria's major arterial roads to VicRoads. CityLink is a privately-owned and operated tollway, but in June 2004, VicRoads became responsible for managing the CityLink concession contract and the state's assets (such as physical infrastructure including roads, bridges, tunnels and the tolling system operated by CityLink, due to be transferred to the state at the end of the concession period) under that contract, in an effort to improve the integration of CityLink with the rest of the road network. Later in 2004, it re-declared the Tullamarine Freeway to terminate at Mount Alexander Road (sign-posted as Bulla Road) in Strathmore, south of Essendon Airport: CityLink's Western Link officially begins east of this interchange in Strathmore, and ends with its interchange with West Gate Freeway in Port Melbourne. At the same time, VicRoads also re-declared the West Gate Freeway to terminate at Princes Highway East (today Kings Way) in Southbank, and the Monash Freeway to commence in Kooyong: CityLink's Southern Link officially runs between these two points at Southbank and Kooyong.
Previously, the city centre was served by three separate freeways:
CityLink saw the linking of all three of these freeways: extending both the South Eastern and Tullamarine Freeways to join the West Gate Freeway. This also subsumed an existing portion of both the South Eastern and Tullamarine Freeways into the new project: while these portions were widened and upgraded, as part of the CityLink project they were also tolled, attracting criticism from road users.
The elevated Western Link extended the existing Tullamarine Freeway, lengthening it to terminate it five kilometres further south at the West Gate Freeway in Port Melbourne, for a total distance of 12.9 km. It included a new major bridge (the Bolte Bridge, named after former Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte) over the Yarra River in the Docklands district; a long elevated section over Dudley Flats and Moonee Ponds Creek and a tube-like sound barrier in Flemington where the road passes close to a number of community housing towers. A short distance to the north of the sound tube, a massive sculptural work was placed, called the Melbourne International Gateway, consisting of a giant yellow beam hanging diagonally across the road (nicknamed the "Cheesestick") and a row of smaller red beams alongside the road (the "Zipper", or "rack of lamb"). The existing portion of Tullamarine Freeway between Flemington Road and Bulla Road was subsumed into the Western Link, and was also widened, with a transit lane being added in each direction between Flemington Road and Pascoe Vale Road.
This section of Freeway was originally designated in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan as part of the F14 Freeway Corridor.
The underground Southern Link directly connects the ends of the West Gate and Monash Freeways into one continuous through-way, for a total distance of 8.0 km. This link comprises the Burnley and Domain Tunnels which pass under the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Yarra River, each tunnel channelling traffic in different directions. The existing portion of South Eastern Freeway between Toorak Road and Batman Avenue was subsumed into the Southern Link, and was also widened.
This section of Freeway was shown in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan as part of the F9 Freeway corridor as a surface-level road.
The Exhibition Street Extension – not a part of the initial project, as it had been promoted as a bypass that would keep cars out of the CBD – consisted of a new four-lane, divided road extending south from the intersection of Flinders and Exhibition Streets in the CBD and spanning the Jolimont rail yards to connect with Batman Avenue near Melbourne Park Tennis Centre. Construction was managed by VicRoads on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure and began in November 1997, for a total distance of 1.9 km completed to coincide with the opening of CityLink. The alignment of Batman Avenue, previously following the northern bank of the Yarra River north of Swan Street to terminate at Swanston Street just north of Princes Bridge, was re-routed to follow this new road; the route 70 tram, previously using this alignment, was also re-routed to run on a dedicated median behind the Melbourne Park complex and re-join the new road before it crossed the rail lines, commencing along this new route from 7 June 1999. It was officially opened as Batman Avenue on 1 November 1999; the former alignment is now a pedestrianised walking track. Costing $30 million, the access road was built as part of CityLink and therefore attracts tolls.
The freeway had extensive upgrades between 2015 and 2018, including the addition of lanes as part of the CityLink Tulla Widening Project.
The original project was announced in April 2014 by then-Premier Denis Napthine as an unsolicited proposal by Transurban, with Transurban providing the bulk of the funds for the upgrade. The original design would have involved the widening of the entire Western Link of Citylink up to Bulla Road (Stage 1) and the Tullamarine Freeway from Bulla Road to Melrose Drive (Stage 2). In addition, Transurban's tolling concession was extended by a year, to 2035. Work on the original upgrade was expected to commence construction early–mid 2015, and was expected for completion by early–mid 2018. The original project was designed to complement the former East West Link project which was cancelled after Daniel Andrews won government at the State election in November 2014. This led to the original project being postponed, scrapped and modified (with no provisions for the now defunct East West Link).
In August 2015 a new proposal to widen the Citylink and Tullamarine Freeways was put into action by the recently elected Premier Daniel Andrews. The project consists of two stages which would increase the road's daily capacity as well as shorten trips between Melbourne Airport and the CBD during morning peak and afternoon peak times. The following upgrades started in October 2015 (Stage 1) and May 2016 (Stage 2). The entire project is completed by late 2018.
The upgrade involves the construction of a new lane in each direction from Melbourne Airport to Power Street, upgrades to the Bell Street, Flemington Road, English Street and Mickleham Road intersections, and the creation of a dedicated lane between the Calder and Tullamarine Freeways to Bell Street, to reduce weaving. Speed limits will be lowered on parts of the freeway during construction work, and after construction, as a result of lane narrowing. The project will also install an electronic freeway management system, involving CCTV cameras, a variable speed limit, and electronic message signs.
Controversy has arisen due to the proximity of Strathmore Secondary College to the new ramp at Bell Street. The removal of a tree as part of the Flemington Road intersection upgrade also resulted in public protest.
Part of the upgrade is adding more lanes between Melbourne Airport and the West Gate Freeway. Between the Citylink (Western Link) and the West Gate Freeway, one additional lane in each direction will be added consuming the current emergency lanes as well as lower the current speed limit from 100 km/h down to 80 km/h.
See also: e-TAG
There are no toll booths along the entire length of the system, so traffic flow is not impeded.
CityLink uses a DSRC toll system called e-TAG, where an electronic transponder is mounted on the inside of vehicles' windscreens. Gantries constructed over each carriageway record registration plates and detect the e-TAGs, and deduct toll amounts automatically from the account linked electronically to each tag. Where a tag is not detected, the vehicle's registration is recorded using an automatic number plate recognition system and checked against a database. For infrequent use of the system one can buy a Daypass – by phone, online, at any Australia Post outlet or at participating service stations. A Daypass can be bought in advance or afterwards (until midnight three days later). If payment has not been made, the vehicle's registered owner will be sent a late toll invoice in the mail, and if the late toll invoice is then not paid a fine will be issued by Civic Compliance Victoria.
In 2018 CityLink tolling accounts were rebranded as Linkt, as part of parent company Transurban combining their existing retail brands.
The concession period held by Transurban is due to end in 2045, after which the ownership of the road will be transferred to the state. It was originally due to end in January 2035, but was extended as part of a deal with Transurban to build the West Gate Tunnel project.
Multiple toll points are located along the CityLink, with each toll point charging a fixed fee. The CityLink toll points also include the toll point at the Exhibition Street extension (Batman Avenue). The total toll incurred per trip is the smaller of the trip cap or the total price of toll points passed through.
The entry and exit ramps of CityLink (excluding West Gate Freeway) have been constructed in a way that travelling on any section of CityLink will always pass through at least one toll point. The only exception is eastbound travel between Punt Road and Church Street, which does not pass through a toll point and hence does not incur any tolls.
This table is an excerpt from Toll roads in Australia
|Toll road||Toll section or toll points||Maximum toll price per trip||Toll increase||Toll concessionaire||Expiry of toll concession|
|Cars||Motorcycles||Light Commercial Vehicles||Heavy Commercial Vehicles
|CityLink||Between Moreland Road and Brunswick Road||$2.79||$1.40||$4.47||$8.38[a]||Quarterly on 1 January, 1 April, 1 July, and 1 October||Transurban||13 January 2045|
|Between Racecourse Road and Dynon Road||$2.79||$1.40||$4.47||$8.38[a]|
|Between Footscray Road and West Gate Freeway
|Batman Avenue north of Olympic Boulevard
(Exhibition Street Extension)
|Batman Avenue entry south of Olympic Boulevard
|Batman Avenue exit south of Olympic Boulevard
|Punt Road exit
|Between Church Street and Burnley Street
|Between Yarra Boulevard and Toorak Road / Monash Freeway||$2.79||$1.40||$4.47||$8.38[a]|
|Moonee Valley||Essendon Fields–Essendon North–Strathmore tripoint||0.0||0.0||12||Tullamarine Freeway (M2) – Tullamarine, Melbourne Airport||Western Link's northern terminus: continues north-west as Tullamarine Freeway|
|Bulla Road (State Route 37 south) – Essendon, Moonee Ponds|
|Moreland||Strathmore||2.0||1.2||11||Pascoe Vale Road (State Route 35) – Glenroy, Moonee Ponds||Northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|Pascoe Vale South||2.6||1.6||Bell Street (State Route 40) – Coburg, Heidelberg, Doncaster||Southbound exit and northbound entrance|
|Pascoe Vale South–Brunswick West boundary||4.4||2.7||10||Moreland Road – Coburg, Essendon||Northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|Brunswick West||5.2||3.2||Toll Point|
|Moreland–Moonee Valley boundary||Brunswick West–Moonee Ponds boundary||6.8||4.2||9|| Brunswick Road (State Route 38 east) – Brunswick|
Ormond Road (State Route 38 west) – Moonee Ponds, Maribyrnong
|Southbound exit and northbound entrance|
|Moonee Valley–Melbourne boundary||Travancore–Parkville–Flemington–North Melbourne quadripoint||8.3||5.2||7|| Flemington Road (State Route 60) – Flemington|
Boundary Road (south) – North Melbourne
|Flemington–North Melbourne–Kensington tripoint||8.6||5.3||6||Racecourse Road (State Route 83) – Parkville, Flemington||Northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|Melbourne||North Melbourne–Kensington boundary||9.4||5.8||Toll Point|
|West Melbourne||10.4||6.5||4||Dynon Road (State Route 50) – Footscray, West Melbourne||Southbound exit and northbound entrance|
|West Melbourne–Docklands boundary||11||6.8||3||Footscray Road (State Route 32) – Footscray, Docklands|
|West Gate Tunnel – Port of Melbourne, Werribee, Geelong, Avalon Airport||Southbound exit and northbound entrance, under construction as part of West Gate Tunnel project|
| Montague Street (State Routes 30/55) – South Melbourne, Docklands|
Kings Way (Alt National Route 1) – St Kilda, Frankston
|Southbound exit only|
|Cook Street – Port Melbourne|
Salmon Street – Port Melbourne
|Northbound entrance to the east only|
|1||West Gate Freeway (M1) – Laverton North, Southbank||Western Link's southern terminus at trumpet interchange; signed as Exits 1E and 1W|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
|Melbourne||Southbank||13||8.1||West Gate Freeway (M1) – Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Melbourne and Avalon Airports||Southern Link's western terminus: continues west as West Gate Freeway|
|W2||Kings Way (Alt National Route 1) – St Kilda, Frankston||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance only|
|W1||Power Street – City||Westbound and eastbound exit only|
|Yarra River||Burnley Tunnel eastbound / Domain Tunnel westbound|
|14.8||9.2||Toll Point (westbound into Domain Tunnel only)|
|Melbourne||14.9||9.3||E1||Batman Avenue – City||Westbound exit from and eastbound entrance to Batman Avenue Extension carriageway|
|Toll Point (westbound exit and eastbound entrance only)|
|Melbourne–Yarra boundary||Melbourne–Cremorne boundary||15.1||9.4||E2||Punt Road (State Route 29) – St. Kilda, Richmond||Westbound exit only, eastbound entrance via Harcourt Parade to Batman Avenue Extension carriageway|
|Toll Point (westbound exit only)|
|Yarra||Cremorne–Richmond boundary||15.5||9.6||Cremorne Street – Cremorne||Eastbound entrance to Batman Avenue Extension carriageway only|
|16.1||10.0||Church Street – South Yarra, Richmond||Eastbound exit from Batman Avenue Extension carriageway only|
|Richmond||16.5||10.3||Toll Point (eastbound on Batman Avenue Extension carriageway only)|
|17.0||10.6||Toll Point (eastbound out of Burnley Tunnel only)|
|Burnley||17.1||10.6||E3||Burnley Street (north) – Richmond|
Barkly Avenue (east) – Burnley
|Westbound entrance (via Gibdon Street) and eastbound exits only|
|Batman Avenue Extension eastbound carriageway merges with Burnley Tunnel eastbound carriageway|
|17.8||11.1||Yarra Boulevard (Tourist Drive 2) – Richmond, Kew||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|Stonnington||Kooyong–Malvern boundary||21.0||13.0||E4||Toorak Road (State Route 26) – Burwood, Toorak||Single-point urban interchange|
|Monash Freeway (M1) – Chadstone, Dandenong, Narre Warren, Pakenham||Southern Link's eastern terminus, continues southeast as Monash Freeway|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
Batman Avenue is entirely contained within the City of Melbourne local government area.
|Melbourne||0.0||0.0||Exhibition Street – City, Carlton||Western terminus of road: continues north as Exhibition Street|
|Flinders Street (State Route 30) – Docklands, Richmond|
|0.1||0.062||Hurstbridge, Mernda, Lilydale, Belgrave, Glen Waverley, Sandringham, Frankston, Pakenham and Cranbourne railway lines|
|0.4||0.25||Tennis Centre Access Road||Access to Melbourne Park only|
|1.0||0.62||Olympic Boulevard (State Route 20) – Southbank, Burnley||No right turn northbound into Olympic Boulevard eastbound|
|1.9||1.2||Toll Point (at both westbound entrance and eastbound exit)|
|CityLink (M1) – Kooyong, Chadstone, Narre Warren||Eastern terminus of road: continues southeast as Southern Link's Batman Avenue Extension carriageway|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
As part of the development of CityLink, portions of existing roads were subsumed into the CityLink project: while they too were upgraded and expanded, tolling points were also added. Toll charges now apply to the former Monash Freeway between Toorak Road and Punt Road, and the former Tullamarine Freeway south of Bulla Road. Previously public roads, they did not incur tolls to use before.
Some nearby roads were altered to restrict rat runs to stop people using neighbourhood back streets as short cuts to avoid the toll. Some people have viewed this as local councils 'forcing' people to use CityLink.
CityLink account holders can, if they make multiple trips in a day, pay more to use the road than a casual user. A 24-hour Pass, for example, is charged at a flat rate, but an account holder pays per trip. Account holders who make multiple trips in a single day may pay more than a pass customer would. However, CityLink recognises this and account customers can remove their e-TAG device and buy a pass for the day: just like casual customers. However, there is a limit to the number of passes that can be bought each 12 months. This limit applies to account holders and casual users.
The contract between the government and CityLink's owner Transurban has protections for both parties. One of these is the ability for Transurban to make a claim against the state government if the state government does something that reduces the number of cars that could use CityLink. In 2001 Transurban commenced legal proceedings against the State of Victoria over the construction of Wurundjeri Way through the Melbourne Docklands. It was alleged that this 'free' road was competing with CityLink and causing it to earn less revenue. This can potentially also be applied if the capacity of other roads or rail routes parallel to CityLink are expanded, however the contract specifically excludes compensation if the metropolitan rail network is extended to Melbourne Airport.
CityLink received negative media coverage when it was wrongly claimed that CityLink account holders' credit card details were stored on Transurban's public webserver and that someone had broken into the system and stolen tens of thousands of customers details. Customer details were stolen, not by an intruder via the web, but by a former employee who had misused access to the secure IT systems.
The two CityLink tunnels have regularly featured as discussion points on talkback radio, firstly for air quality. In the early days of operation, the air quality in the tunnels appeared smoggy. CityLink worked a way around the problem by adjusting the venting system which improved quality and dispersed exhaust fumes more effectively. The second issue was regarding the use of massive quantities of fresh drinking water pumped into the system to stabilise the tunnel environs. After some time, CityLink sought and obtained approval from the State Government to build a water recycling plant which meant they could rely primarily on recycled, and not drinking, water.