The ‘Cheese Stick’, a 70 metre yellow steel beam that welcomes traffic into Melbourne, could be shifted approximately 80 metres north in a last minute change to the city’s East West Link (EWL) design by architects Atelier Red + Black.

This change is part of an alternative proposal developed by the practice in conjunction with the Safety Net for Royal Park community group (Safety Net), which seeks to relocate a proposed tunnel opening along the EWL, as well as save 55 homes, White’s Skink Habitat, Royal Park and Ross Straw Field from the new freeway.


EWL, managed by the Linking Melbourne Authority, is to be an 18km freeway connection extending across Melbourne, from the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood to the Western Ring Road in Sunshine West. It will create a direct cross city connection, which is expected to reduce travel times by up to 20 minutes.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved the multibillion dollar project on June 30, but on the condition that the Authority will:

1.Remove the proposed Elliott Avenue tunnel access;

2.Investigate the inclusion of an off ramp to Flemington Road; and

3.Investigate moving the tunnel opening from the Upfield railway line to Oak Street

While the removal of the Elliot Avenue interchange from the proposal was welcomed, the possible inclusion of a Flemington Road access point has created anger and anxiety within the local community. This even culminated in protests around EWL test drilling sites earlier this year, some of which turned violent.

So far, three options for a Flemington Road access have been proposed – one at Curran Street by TTM Consulting for the City of Melbourne, one at Racecourse Road by the AILA, and one at the Tullamarine Freeway by Safety Net.

“The Tullamarine Freeway option consistently better the alternatives, which indicates that the tunnel opening should be moved to Oak St to accommodate this access point, given that it could not be delivered with the tunnel opening being high up beneath the Upfield railway line (shown as a dotted line in the below plan),” the group said in a media statement.

Other benefits of the plan noted include lesser visual and noise impact for residents, less extra tunnel lengths as compared to the Curran Street and Racecourse Road options, as well as no need for an extra traffic light on Flemington Road. 

Under the Safety Net proposal, there will be no extra tunnelling through the park; instead, the exit will include a tunnel beneath the man-made Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands, west of an Oak Street tunnel opening, which will be re-established after construction is completed.

Aerial view of alternate design by Atelier Red + Black in collaboration with Safety Net + Lexie Dealehr


From an urban design perspective, the plan will see the new overpasses and tunnel entrances integrated into the overall ‘zipper’ composition, and the South bound exit ramps to the new EWL formed as an extension to the yellow sound walls. According to architects Atelier Red + Black, this treatment will be matched by the new Flemington Road access portal.

East-west tunnel to Flemington Road

“The connection with CityLink is crucial given the iconic nature of Melbourne’s ‘Cheese Stick’ Gateway; our proposal has been crafted to respect the unique qualities of this precinct,” Atelier Red + Black director Michael Smith said.

Relocating the ‘Cheese Stick’ north gives the yellow gateway ‘breathing space’ so it is not visually undermined, while the light coloured metallic sound barriers, sculptured to reference the vehicular movements it contains, is visually recessive in comparison with the bold yellow and red freeway architecture.

“The Tunnel Portal at Oak Street will be hidden from view of Citylink traffic and can therefore take on its own identity which responds more to the wetlands than the bold Citylink forms,” the architects also note on their website.

“The architecture responds to the wetlands through the use of sinuous curves and softer finishes.

“Overall it is hoped that through producing this speculative but highly considered design, the worst impacts of the East West Link on West Parkville can be minimised.”

Re-constructed wetlands and east-west link portals (looking east)

Re-constructed wetlands and east-west link portals (looking west)

An investigation is currently underway, with The Age reporting that development plans based on the Planning Minister’s decision will be available in coming months.