The $15 billion WestConnex toll road project is the largest transport project in Australia's history. Despite this, the NSW Government has still not released traffic modelling, Environmental Impact Statements or a business case for the road project.
While the NSW Government has kept its own modelling confidential, new, independent and publicly available transport modelling by SGS Economics & Planning and Veitch Lister Consulting has found that despite the multi-billion dollar cost, the overall positive impact of WestConnex will be relatively minor. Sydney's notorious congestion (currently costing $5 billion and projected to increase to $8 billion by 2021) will continue to worsen at the same rate with or without WestConnex - and the project carries some damning side-effects.
The report found:
- WestConnex will increase congestion on Parramatta Road: The reintroduction of tolls on the M4 will increase traffic volumes on Parramatta Road by 25 per cent. Diverting such large volumes of traffic onto Parramatta Road will undermine the original objective of WestConnex to revitalise this major transport artery.
- Traffic volumes will have major impacts on Green Square and Ashmore: The City's major urban renewal areas at Green Square and Ashmore will be seriously affected by increased congestion. By 2021 over 31,000 vehicles a day will be dumped into the inner city via the St Peters interchange, increasing to 55,000 vehicles by 2041.
- Low growth in users means it is unlikely there will be sufficient demand to ensure the various WestConnex toll roads are viable: As with recent toll roads such as the Cross City Tunnel, there is a high risk of financial failure with taxpayers saddled with a loss-making tollway.
- WestConnex potentially locks Sydney into a series of large-scale road projects: The ultimate cost of WestConnex is likely to be far greater than $15 billion as it potentially locks Sydney into more large scale road projects to generate traffic to try and make WestConnex financially viable, such as the recently announced northern extension and southern extension.
The report confirms that investment in public transport, better use of the existing road network by alleviating bottlenecks, and introducing pricing mechanisms to reduce peak loads would be a more effective solution to traffic congestion.
The NSW Government should halt the tender process, release information on the business case and traffic modelling and begin a full assessment of alternative infrastructure projects.