Could WestConnex be Berejiklian’s downfall?

A rally of many groups opposing WestConnex last December. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

An ever growing number of Sydneysiders are now aware that WestConnex will not solve Sydney’s traffic problems — instead it will only worsen the chaos.

Many also see that its $16.8 billion budget has been seriously underestimated: it is more like the $45 billion that SGS Economics, the private contractor engaged by the City of Sydney indicated. This figure includes the additional work needed to connect the tollway with local road networks, costs that were deliberately excluded to downplay the project spend.

Then there’s the huge bill that the NSW Gladys Berejiklian government and joint venture contractors will ultimately be forced to pay to the many thousands of home owners who are absolutely livid about the structural damage to their homes, should they be successful in the class actions that will inevitably follow.

We now know that hundreds of tonnes of carcinogenic diesel exhaust will be emitted from the unfiltered stacks each year, which will wreak havoc on the health of adjacent communities.

Increasing numbers of commuters will refuse to sit in the slow-moving traffic approaching the tunnel exit portal as they suck in the poisoned air estimated to be 50 times more polluted than the open air.

Huge cost blow-outs have plagued every government infrastructure project as far back as the Sydney Opera House.

About $1 billion has been paid by taxpayers to the operators of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel over the past 16 years as actual usage fell well short of what the government had promised the private operator.

The neoconservatives in government must be getting a little worried about the public’s reaction, given that the Cross City Tunnel went belly up twice and had to be bailed out each time using millions of our tax dollars.

They might also be worried about what the WestConnex parliamentary inquiry exposed: that governance of WestConnex was non-existent and that multinational contactors AECOM and CIMIC were engaged while under investigation for corrupt dealings overseas.

People are angry that public transport alternatives to WestConnex were not just ignored but deliberately excluded. Sydneysiders know that our public transport system could be drastically improved.

Forcing people living in Western Sydney, who do not have reasonable access to public transport, to buy a vehicle, earn another $10,000 a year to pay the tolls, and pay about the same again in fuel, servicing and on road costs so they can get to work, is a despicable act.

The inner-west realises that rat running will have a detrimental impact on the local road network: King Street and the Anzac and Iron Cove bridges cannot cope with peak hour traffic now, let alone if they have to deal with the additional 10,000 trucks a day the business case says can be expected once the WestConnex project is completed.

The major parties are beginning to realise that we know they have put our money on a dead dog.

WestConnex, along with the stadium upgrades, NorthConnex, the F6, the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Northern Beaches Link, should be relegated to their rightful place — the garbage bin.

WestConnex will undoubtedly be a significant factor in the state government’s expected poor showing in the March 23 state election.

Join the Fix NSW Rally at the Domain North on March 3 at 1pm to help make this a reality.

[Peter Heir is the convenor of Rozelle Against WestConnex.]

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