Residents slam NSW government’s changes to WestConnex plan

A WestConex protest in Newtown on November 7.

The WestCONnex Action Group (WAG), one of the main residents' groups opposing the NSW Coalition government's $17 billion WestConnex tollway, has slammed the government's latest changes to the controversial project.

Under new plans announced on November 10, the tollway's Camperdown interchange will be scrapped, and the M4–M5 Link tunnel widened and moved further west.

“These latest changes show yet again that the Baird government’s so-called ‘planning’ for WestConnex is a complete farce,” said WAG spokesperson Pauline Lockie.

“[Premier] Mike Baird and [roads minister] Duncan Gay are making up their disastrous WestConnex tollway as they go along, and wasting billions of our taxpayer dollars as they do so.

“Anyone could see that putting a WestConnex interchange next to RPA [Royal Prince Alfred Hospital] and the University of Sydney, which would have dumped 36,000 cars onto Parramatta Road, was always going to be a stupid idea.

“But the WestConnex interchanges at St Peters, Rozelle and Concord are just as stupid. They’ll also cause massive amounts of destruction, traffic and pollution — and see drivers from western Sydney pay huge tolls to drive straight into inner-city traffic jams.”

Lockie said the sudden removal of the Camperdown interchange also raised huge questions about the viability of the overall WestConnex project.

“Duncan Gay promised us that the WestConnex M4–M5 Link would be the ‘magic tunnel’ that turned Newtown into traffic ‘nirvana’,” said Lockie.

“But now drivers who go through the WestConnex St Peters Interchange will have to exit there if they want to go to the city. That’s going to dump more traffic into Newtown, not less.

“Residents around Rozelle will also have to deal with thousands of extra cars coming out of WestConnex onto the already gridlocked Victoria Road and Anzac Bridge.

“The WestConnex business case was based on there being an interchange at Camperdown. So what happens now that there’s one less exit for toll-paying drivers to use?

“And how can the M4-M5 Link tunnel change so much without changing the cost of WestConnex? The Baird government is treating the public with contempt if it expects us to swallow that.

“It’s outrageous that the Baird government has wasted billions of our taxpayer dollars on WestConnex when it knows this tollway will never work. WestConnex should be halted immediately and a full inquiry held before more of our money is wasted, and more of Sydney destroyed.”

Lorrie Graham, another activist against WestConnex, told the ABC on November 10 there were some winners from the new plan. She said residents in Arundell Street, Glebe, whose houses had been earmarked for forced acquisition for an exit ramp, would now be spared.

She also said RPA and Sydney University would benefit from not having a tunnel built beneath them.

Glebe resident Tanya Dus agreed the "area has dodged a bullet. We have been saved. Just like the green bans of the 1970s."

The decision to spare houses in Glebe and nearby represents a partial win for the residents who have been campaigning strongly against WestConnex over recent months. Attempts by WestConnex to set up test drilling sites in Newtown and Rozelle have been picketed by protesters several times in the past two weeks.

These protests are clearly having an impact on the government, which has been on the back foot over a number of issues recently. The campaign against WestConnex is planning further protest actions in coming weeks, including a demonstration outside the NSW Major Projects Conference at Doltone House on the morning of November 15.

The main organising base for the anti-WestConnex campaign is currently the Save Sydney Park camp being maintained around the clock at the corner of Euston Road and Campbell Street, St Peters. Supporters of the campaign are welcome to visit at any time, and urged to join the roster to help staff the camp.

[For more information, visit WestCONnex Action Group on Facebook.]

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