On Monday the City of Sydney received the independent report into WestConnex which I called for in December.
The report by SGS Economics shows that the $11.5 billion WestConnex project will not deliver for Western Sydney, taxpayers or the travelling public. Instead of 1950's projects like WestConnex, the Government should be investing in public transport.
A project with no credible purpose
WestConnex is Australia's largest transport project and will influence how we use land and how we move around in over half of Sydney. Despite this, the purpose of the project is unclear. There have been three major reasons put forward for this motorway.
The SGS report shows that the project does not deliver any of them. WestConnex was supposed to:
- To connect people in western Sydney with jobs
WestConnex won't increase Western Sydney residents' access to jobs. Only 4 per cent of workers from western Sydney commute to inner Sydney and an overwhelming 90 per cent of them rely on increasingly overcrowded public transport.
WestConnex will have new tolls, including for roads that are not currently tolled. Tolls and parking will cost up to $48 for a single trip. That's $240 per week for a commuter who has no reliable public transport alternatives.
Western Sydney needs more jobs close to where people live, and better transport within and to the key centres in that area such as Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith and Campbelltown-Macarthur.
- To move freight
The original rationale of moving freight from Port Botany and Sydney Airport to Western Sydney is no longer a core part of the project.
In fact there are currently no links from the M4 and M5 to the port and airport. WestConnex does not take into account the second airport at Badgerys Creek, as the Federal Government's commitment to a second airport was made after WestConnex was announced.
This on its own is sufficient to warrant a review of the merits of WestConnex. There are better ways to move freight than trucks, and infrastructure is already being delivered to improve freight rail for Sydney including the Port Botany Rail Freight upgrade and the Moorebank Intermodal terminal.
- To renew Parramatta Road
WestConnex will not deliver urban renewal for Parramatta Road as the route has been moved away from this area.
Congestion is likely to continue to destroy amenity along the road. No traffic forecasts have been released to justify how this busy road will become any safer, healthier or more liveable, compared with a 'do nothing' scenario. Parramatta Road needs high quality public transportâ€” the only real solution to congestion.
WestConnex does not align with the Metropolitan Strategy and squanders limited infrastructure funding that is needed for effective transport solutions for Sydney.
The State Government's Metropolitan Strategy ('A Plan for Growing Sydney') sets out a multi-centre strategy, focused on making it easier for residents to move between work and home. The plan aims to transform western Sydney centres (Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and the Campbelltown-Macarthur region) through growth and investment.
Auditor General's report
The project has not been subject to proper governance and independent assurance. The Auditor-General has raised serious concerns around the process used and the quality of reviews (WestConnex: Assurance to Government, December 2014).
The report found that the Government did not implement its own Major Projects Assurance Framework. The Auditor-General's Report found that the preliminary business case had many deficiencies and fell well short of the standard required for such a document.
Impact on City of Sydney
WestConnex will deliver substantial additional traffic to neighbourhoods around the planned St Peter's interchange, including Newtown, Erskineville, Alexandria, Waterloo and Redfern.
WestConnex traffic could destroy King Street, one of Sydney's most successful main streets, which could lead to clearways and destroy businesses.
It will affect Green Square, which will have 53,000 residents by 2030, and already has serious congestion because of state government failure to plan and build adequate public transport for the biggest urban renewal project in Australia.
Part of Sydney Park will be carved off to widen Euston Road and the park will be isolated by fast moving traffic, making it harder to access.
This project will clearly not be good for Sydney. I urge the Baird and Abbott Government's to read the SGS report and reconsider their investment in WestConnex.