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Making the right connections

The extension is being managed by the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA). A WDA spokesperson confirmed that they are still calculating what impact the projected increase in traffic will have on local streets in St Peters, Alexandria and Newtown. In a briefing to City of Sydney Councillors on November 24, WDA Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cliche confirmed plans to reclaim a 12-metre wide section of Sydney Park running the length of Euston Road as part of road-widening associated with WestConnex.

Given that local roads are already overcrowded, residents and resident groups have reacted furiously. Facebook groups such as WestConnex Action Group and No WestConnex have over 2,300 members. More than 1,100 people have already indicated they will attend the “Party Against the WestConnex Motorway”, a Reclaim the Streets event to be held on December 13 at Simpson Park, St Peters.

The Greens want the project cancelled and the funds diverted to public transport. Local Labor MPs and Councillors are opposed to the plan “in its current form” but the Labor Party is yet to state an official position on the tunnel.

Following the briefing for the City of Sydney, Labor Councillor Linda Scott called on the NSW state and federal Liberal governments to come clean with their plans. “Green space in the inner city is precious and must be expanded, not destroyed and turned into privatised toll roads. With increasing numbers of our communities living in apartments and Australian obesity rates on the rise, inner-city green space should never be turned into roads.”

The WDA states that “there is no credible alternative” to the tunnel. Public transport is dismissed on the grounds that “most of the growth in demand for personal and freight transport will be carried on the road network”. However, Bureau of Transport Statistics show that in the decade to 2012, when Sydney’s population grew by 12 per cent, car trips grew by only 6 per cent, while trips by bus and train increased by 16 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

It is not clear if any other alternatives have been considered, such as providing increased parking and “kiss-and-rides” at suburban stations, time-of-day congestion charging, removing surcharges from the airport rail-line, relocating government departments, or encouraging businesses to relocate. If any such alternatives have been considered, there is no information available to explain why they have been rejected.

An extension of the tunnel from the St Peters interchange to the M4 is also proposed, to be completed in 2023, some four years after the opening of the interchange.

The published business case does not contain usage estimates. Estimates of the cost of the project start from $12 billion. The M4 Widening Environment Review forecasts an average toll of $4.50, which means that between 430,000 and 550,000 trips per day would be required just to pay the interest bill, assuming an interest rate of 6 per cent.

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