Activist group No WestConnex: Public Transport not Motorways (NOW PT) has called for a halt to the tender and construction processes for WestConnex, including the acquisition of homes and businesses for all stages of the project and demanded the NSW government conduct a full parliamentary inquiry into WestConnex.
"When the Westconnex toll road was first proposed, it was supposed to cost $10 billion,” the group said in a statement. “Within a few years it blew out to $15 billion, then $17 billion. Then further extensions were announced, the F6 and the Western Harbour Tunnel and [Northern] Beaches toll roads, bringing it to $45 billion.
"There are many other associated expenses that are hidden away on other balance sheets. Much is secretive. Does that include acquisitions [of property], court cases, advertising, Goldman Sachs' $16 million fee for setting up the sale [of WestConnex].
"And now we have a $1 billion legal claim from the M5 contractor, and we are supposed to believe everything is on track.
“It's all ridiculous sums of money up in flames on a useless project. We could build a world class public transport system for much, much less."
NOW PT and other anti-WestConnex community groups are circulating a petition that reflects the growing public opposition to this monstrous toll road complex which is threatening to strangle the city of Sydney in vehicle traffic and pollution.
The petition “brings to the attention of the government of NSW the risk of proceeding with the WestConnex toll road when the community consultation process has been inadequate; transport planners and financial analysts alike increasingly condemn the project as incapable of addressing Sydney's transport problems; and Australian and international research indicates WestConnex will fail to deliver the benefits or revenues promised.”
It says: "WestConnex will irreparably damage thriving inner-city communities; subject densely populated areas to increases in air pollution; force scores of families out of their homes and businesses; impose unaffordable tolls on commuters from Western Sydney and expose New South Wales taxpayers to huge financial risk and ongoing costs when the toll road fails.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition state government is reported to be sticking with its July-August date for the privatisation of Westconnex, despite the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) raising concerns that the frontrunner for buying the toll road, Transurban, is "fairly close" to a monopoly over the industry in both NSW and Queensland.
Transurban controls 15 of the 19 toll roads in Australia, and seven of the nine existing concessions in NSW. Of the 99 kilometres of toll road in Sydney, it has a majority stake in, or half owns, 95 kilometres, including the M2, the M7 and the Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels.
ACCC chairperson Rod Simms said: "It is competition for both the building of a toll road and the operation of toll roads that we are looking at. We are taking it very seriously.”
In a further development, Sydney City Council has commissioned a new independent study to protect local streets in the council area from increased traffic from the St Peters Interchange. The council has identified action proposals, including road closures, as part of an integrated traffic plan.