Ignoring the facts on WestConnex

It's a sad fact that many politicians in Australia ignore evidence-based research, so I'm not surprised Penrith MP Fiona Scott has made claims before looking at the data.

The information I quoted about how many people from the west travel into the CBD comes from independent experts SGS Economics & Planning. Their work on WestConnex is the only evidence based research about the project that is publicly available.

What they found was damning and they aren't the only ones raising concerns.

The NSW Auditor-General has criticised its poor business case, conflicts of interest and the lack of transparency surrounding the project. And Infrastructure Australia warned that the NSW Government needed to review its business case to include negative impacts of traffic flows caused by the project.

When the Government is hiding information and the experts are ringing alarm bells, it's time to demand answers.

Western Sydney desperately needs $15 billion invested in transport, but WestConnex is a costly mistake.

The NSW Government says WestConnex will get people from the west to Sydney's CBD; connect Sydney Airport and Port Botany with Western Sydney; create opportunities for urban renewal on Parramatta Road; and relieve congestion.

SGS warn that WestConnex will not achieve any of those objectives. Their report conclusively shows that WestConnex doesn't work for Western Sydney.

The report found that only about 7 per cent of western Sydney workers travel to Sydney CBD, and an overwhelming 89 per cent use public transport. These commuters need more frequent and less crowded public transport - not new toll roads.

Once it's built, WestConnex could mean the price drivers pay to get to the city and find a park could rise to a shocking $240 per week.

People shouldn't have to pay to commute for hours to get to work. Western Sydney residents need more local jobs in Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown. The Premier, who is also Minister for Western Sydney, should be investing in public transport projects between and within these centres to deliver investment and jobs growth, not slugging drivers who have no choice but to drive to the city for work.

The Government also argues that WestConnex is needed to link Western Sydney with Sydney Airport and Port Botany, but as a twenty-four hour airport, Badgerys Creek, will become the natural choice for Western Sydney. By the time Badgerys Creek is operating, anyone looking for a faster drive from the west to Mascot will be going to the wrong airport.

New roads don't help reduce congestion - cities need a range of options. Public transport is already the mode of choice for most Western Sydney residents who commute to the CBD. Make that a better and faster service and it will make life easier for tens of thousands of people, including those who have no choice but to drive.

Before any more contracts are signed without proper scrutiny, the Government must release their business case otherwise WestConnex will eat up transport funding for decades and rob NSW of the chance to build a proper 21st century transport network.

This opinion piece first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

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