General information
Length22 km (14 mi)
OpenedOctober 1999
Maintained byTransurban Limited
Route number(s)
  • (Western Link)
  • (Southern Link)
route number
  • State Route 43 (Toll) (1999-2018) (Western Link)
Major junctions
North end Tullamarine Freeway
  West Gate Freeway
East end Monash Freeway
Highway system
View along CityLink's Western Link, travelling north

CityLink is a network of Tollways in Melbourne, Australia, linking the West Gate, Tullamarine 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, which then formed Transurban.[1] 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.[2] This concession has since been extended, and is now due to expire in 2045.[3]

CityLink was built between 1996 and 2000 and 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.[4] 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.[5]

The Exhibition Street Extension was not part of the initial project, as the project had been promoted as a bypass that would keep cars out of the CBD.[6] Under a contract announced in April 1998, Transurban would operate the road and collect tolls from road users,[5] with the road being opened in October 1999.[7]

Existing freeways

Previously, the city centre was served by four separate freeways:

CityLink saw the widening and upgrading of the inner sections of the Tullamarine and Monash Freeways, as well tolls being imposed, which attracted criticism from road users.

New freeways

Western link

The sound tube in Flemington used as a barrier to reduce noise pollution to nearby community housing towers
Interchange consisting of the Burnley Tunnel entrance, Domain Tunnel entrance, West Gate freeway and Power Street/Kings Way ramps.

The elevated Western Link extends the existing Tullamarine Freeway, lengthening it to terminate it five kilometres further south at the West Gate Freeway in Port Melbourne. It includes a new major bridge (the Bolte Bridge, named after former Premier Sir Henry Bolte) over the Yarra River in the Docklands; 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 Tullamarine Freeway was also widened from Bell Street to Flemington Road, with a transit lane being added in each direction.

This section of Freeway was originally designated in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan as part of the F14 Freeway Corridor.

Southern link

The underground southern link directly connects the ends of the West Gate and Monash Freeways into one continuous through-way. 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. This link also includes a connection to the CBD from the Monash Freeway over a bridge extension of Exhibition Street over the nearby railway lines.

This section of Freeway was shown in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan as part of the F9 Freeway corridor as a surface-level road.

Citylink–Tulla widening (2015–2018)

Project overview

New ramp under construction at Bell Street as part of the CityLink Tulla Widening Project. (2016)

The freeway had extensive upgrades between 2015 and 2018, including the addition of lanes as part of the CityLink Tulla Widening Project.

Original proposal (2014)

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.[8] 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.[9] Work on the original upgrade was expected to commence construction early–mid 2015, and was expected for completion by early–mid 2018.[10] 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).

Final proposal (2015–2018)

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 2 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.[citation needed] The following upgrades started in October 2015 (Stage 1) and May 2016 (Stage 2).[citation needed] The entire project is anticipated to be complete by late 2018.[citation needed]

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.[11] The removal of a tree as part of the Flemington Road intersection upgrade also resulted in public protest.[12]

Stage 1 (Bulla Road to Power Street)

  • Lane use management signs to manage which lanes are open
  • Variable speed limit signs above all lanes
  • Ramp signalling – stop and go traffic lights to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion as traffic enters the freeway from on-ramps
  • CCTV cameras – to monitor for incidents, help response times and minimise disruptions
  • Travel time information signs so people can plan their journey
  • Electronic message signs – to notify road users of planned changes or disruptions
  • Automatic incident detection system – to alert Road Managers incidents in real time
  • 2 Dedicated Lanes Inbound to Bell Street from the Tullamarine Freeway and Calder Freeway
  • New Bell Street to Pascoe Vale Road
  • Improvements To Flemington Road/ Mount Alexander Road Freeway Interchange
  • Additional Outbound Lane Between Moreland and Ormond Road
  • Ramp Widening Between Bolte Bridge and West Gate Freeway
  • One Additional Inbound Lane between Montague Street and Ingles Street
  • One Additional Inbound Lane between Montague Street and Power Street

Stage 2 (Melbourne Airport to Bulla Road)

  • A new structure with dedicated lanes from the Tullamarine Freeway and Mickleham Road to the M80 Ring Road inbound to ease congestion and reduce traffic weaving[citation needed]
  • An extra lane entering the Tullamarine Freeway city bound from Mickleham Road[citation needed]
  • Reconstruction and widening of the English Street overpass and all ramps to increase capacity into and out of Essendon Fields[citation needed]
  • Ramp signals on the city bound entry from Kings Road in Taylors Lakes to the Tulla Calder interchange to regulate the flow of traffic getting onto the Tullamarine Freeway from the Calder Freeway[citation needed]

Extra lanes

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 which sparked major controversy in the public.[citation needed].

Tolling system

e-TAG toll gantries on the Tullamarine Freeway section of Melbourne's CityLink

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 the vehicles' windscreen. 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,[13] as part of parent company Transurban combining their existing retail brands.[14]


As part of the development of CityLink, existing roads were upgraded and expanded, and tolling points were added. Toll charges now apply to the Monash Freeway (between Toorak Road and Punt Road) and the Tullamarine Freeway (south of Bulla Road). These roads did not cost tolls to use before.[15]

Some nearby roads were altered to restrict rat runs to stop people using neighbourhood back streets as short cuts to avoid the toll.[16] Some people have viewed this as local councils 'forcing' people to use CityLink.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19] This can potentially also be applied if the capacity of other roads or rail routes parallel to CityLink are expanded,[20][21] however the contract specifically excludes compensation if the metropolitan rail network is extended to Melbourne Airport.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

Exits and Interchanges

MorelandPascoe Vale South00.0 Tullamarine Freeway (M2) to Hume Freeway, Bendigo, Melbourne AirportWestern Link's northern terminus: continues north-west as Tullamarine Freeway
Pascoe Vale Road (State Route 35) – Strathmore, Glenroy, Broadmeadows, Moonee PondsNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
Pascoe Vale South–Brunswick West boundary21.2Moreland Road – Coburg, EssendonNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
Moreland–Moonee Valley boundaryBrunswick West–Moonee Ponds boundary42.5 Brunswick Road (State Route 38) east / Ormond Road (State Route 38) west – Brunswick, Moonee PondsSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
Moonee Valley–Melbourne boundaryTravancoreParkvilleFlemingtonNorth Melbourne quadripoint53.1 Flemington Road (State Route 60) south-east to Eastern Freeway / Boundary Road south / Mount Alexander Road north-west – North Melbourne, Geelong, FlemingtonNorthbound entrance, and southbound exit to only Flemington and Boundary Roads
Flemington–North Melbourne–Kensington tripoint63.7 Racecourse Road (State Route 83) to Eastern Freeway Parkville, FlemingtonNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
MelbourneWest Melbourne74.3 Dynon Road (State Route 50) – Melbourne City Centre, FootscraySouthbound exit and northbound entrance
West Melbourne–Docklands boundary85.0 Footscray Road (State Route 32) – Melbourne City Centre, Footscray, Docklands
Yarra River95.6Bolte Bridge
MelbournePort Melbourne106.22 Kings Way (Princes Highway, Alternate National Route 1) / Montague Street (State Route 30) – St Kilda, Frankston, DocklandsSouthbound exit only
1 West Gate Freeway (M1) – Melbourne City Centre, Dandenong, Warragul, Geelong, Avalon AirportWestern Link's southern terminus at trumpet interchange; signed as Exits 1E and 1W
Gap in route
MelbourneSouthbank138.1 West Gate Freeway (M1) – Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Melbourne and Avalon AirportsSouthern Link's western terminus: continues as West Gate Freeway
Yarra RiverBurnley Tunnel eastbound / Domain Tunnel westbound
MelbourneMelbourne159.3E1Batman AvenueWestbound exit only, and eastbound entrance via Batman Avenue Extension
Melbourne–Yarra boundaryMelbourne–Cremorne boundaryE2 Punt Road (State Route 29)Westbound exit only, and eastbound entrance via Harcourt Parade (to Batman Avenue Extension carriageway)
YarraCremorne–Richmond boundary169.9Church StreetEastbound exit from Batman Avenue Extension carriageway only
Burnley1711E3Burnley Street / Barkly AvenueWestbound entrance and eastbound exits only
Batman Avenue Extension eastbound carriageway merges with Burnley Tunnel eastbound carriageway
1811 Yarra Boulevard (Tourist Drive 2)Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
StonningtonKooyongMalvern boundary2113E4 Monash Freeway (M1) south / Toorak Road (State Route 26) – Dandenong, Warragul, Burwood, ToorakSouthern Link's eastern terminus at single-point urban interchange: continues south as Monash Freeway
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ Andrew Nette. "CityLink and Nam Theun 2: Infrastructure for private profit" (PDF). Retrieved 17 July 2008.[dead link]
  2. ^ Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (October 2006). Report on private investment in public infrastructure (PDF). p. 63. ISBN 978-0-9758189-1-6. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  3. ^ Willingham, Richard (20 February 2019). "Government introduces laws to extend CityLink tolls until 2045 to fund West Gate Tunnel". ABC News. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  4. ^ M. G. Lay and K. F. Daley (July 2002). "The Melbourne City Link Project". Transport Policy. 9 (3): 261–267. doi:10.1016/S0967-070X(02)00020-3.
  5. ^ a b VicRoads. "Project Overview : CityLink". Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  6. ^ Public Transport Users Association. "Myth: The purpose of freeways is to bypass congested areas". Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  7. ^ "Exhibition Street Extension Opening" (PDF). 26 October 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  8. ^ Johnston, Matt; Campbell, James (7 November 2014). "Victorian election 2014: $250m Tullamarine Freeway boom". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  9. ^ Willingham, Richard (28 April 2014). "Tullamarine Freeway, CityLink to be expanded under $850m plan". The Age. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  10. ^ Cowie, Tom (5 October 2015). "CityLink and Tullamarine Freeway $1.3 billion widening to start". The Age. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Strathmore school says CityLink Tulla project a risk to health and safety". The Age. 7 February 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  12. ^ Allaoui, Therese; Savino, Natalie (26 July 2016). "Parkville lemon-scented gum tree on Flemington Road set to be chopped down".
  13. ^ "Transurban Linkt brand identity". Behance. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  14. ^ "ABC Radio 'The World Today' – 'Melbourne drivers object to CityLink' – Wednesday, 14 June". Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  15. ^ "Minister of Transport media release – 'DATA SHOWS IMPROVEMENT IN CITY LINK TRAFFIC FLOW'". 21 September 2000. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  16. ^ "Inquiry into Managing Transport Congestion by Moonee Valley City Council" (PDF). 4 January 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  17. ^ CityLink – Types of Passes Archived 17 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Minister of Transport media release – 'TRANSURBAN CLAIM OF $35 MILLION'". 1 March 2001. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  19. ^ "The Age – 'Tollway buyback would save money and ease traffic'". Melbourne. 3 February 2005. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  20. ^ "The Age – 'Bracks' freeway folly will cost us dearly'". Melbourne. 29 April 2004. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  21. ^ PTUA: Myth: We can’t have airport trains because the Citylink contract forbids it
  22. ^ Transurban – Media release issued 5 Dec 2002 Archived 3 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ CityLink – Tunnel Brochure
  24. ^ CityLink – Using Water Wisely Brochure

External links

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