Inquiry into disastrous WestConnex begins

More than 500 written submissions from councils, residents and advocacy groups have criticised the project.

Early submissions to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impact of the WestConnex Project, which began on October 9, have already exposed the disastrous environmental and social effects of the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway.

More than 500 written submissions from councils, residents and advocacy groups have criticised the project.

The Inner West Council reiterated its “strong opposition”, and said there had been “no accounting of the significant health and other costs imposed on communities and the equity impacts of tolls”.

The City of Sydney said WestConnex “should be scrapped” because it would  boost congestion, reduce air quality and swallow green space. It argued there had been “a shocking lack of due diligence and rigour associated with this massive investment of public funds”.

The Rozelle Community panel, Annandale and Leichhardt residents, Mary Court from the Penrith Valley Community Unions (PVCU) and the No M4 Tolls group presented their evidence on the first day, along with transport expert Dr Glen Searle.

Peter Hehir, speaking for Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW), told the inquiry that “WestConnex is the southern hemisphere’s biggest preventable unnatural disaster” and “a massive waste of taxpayer funds”.

He said experts agree it will only worsen traffic congestion. “Both the benefit cost ratio and the construction cost have been grossly misrepresented, with the true cost estimated independently by SGS Economics at $45 billion.”

Hehir criticised the NSW government’s lack of scrutiny, saying the transport analysis company AECOM should have been barred from the project on the grounds of its appalling track record in the business cases for the failed Lane Cove Tunnel, the Cross City Tunnel, and the Clem7 Tunnel in Brisbane.

“These bankruptcies have involved staggering sums, with the costs subsequently borne by the taxpayer”, Hehir said.

“In NSW, over $1 billion has been paid to the operator of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel because of the failure to attract the patronage projected.”

Hehir argued that any contract that guarantees to reimburse the operators for less than projected usage, or that precludes an alternate or competing transport corridor, is not in the public interest.

RAW wants the inquiry to call for a royal commission into WestConnex. It also wants it to recommend that no further contracts be signed until the commission has tabled its findings.

[For more information on the campaign against WestConnex visit westconnex.info.]