Sydney Council: WestConnex cost could spiral to $45 billion

An anti-WestConnex protest at NSW state parliament on April 6. Photo: Peter Boyle
April 22, 2017

The total cost of building the controversial WestConnex tollway, plus necessary connecting roads, could reach $45 billion, according to an analysis by the Sydney City Council. The council's analysis adds the estimated $29 billion cost of building and widening new and existing roads to support traffic flows from the 33-kilometre project, to the $17 billion cost of WestConnex itself.

"Every extension of the toll network, every exit and every entrance associated with WestConnex generates hundreds of millions of dollars of publicly funded road upgrades required to funnel traffic to the tollway and to take traffic from it," Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

"Just one exit from WestConnex in St Peters, for example, will require more than $1 billion of publicly funded road upgrades to manage the extra 30,000 cars that will pour into the area daily."

The council estimates that the northern extension of WestConnex, in the form of a western harbour tunnel to the city's north shore, which is planned to connect to a "Beaches Link" motorway to the northern beaches, would cost a further $14 billion.

The council also questions the government's lack of information on how WestConnex will link up with Sydney Airport and Port Botany — essential issues facing the entire project.

Meanwhile, as the NSW Coalition government pushes ahead with its plan for privatised road tollways, it is intending to cut rail services to Sydney's western suburbs. Documents obtained by the ABC on April 19 reveal proposals to cut peak-hour train services to Penrith, Kingswood and Werrington, as part of the development of the $20 billion Metro privatised rail project, while increasing rail services to the Northern line in Liberal Party heartland.

"It is clear the government wants to force more people into their cars to pay WestConnex tolls by removing public transport alternatives for Western Sydney," anti-WestConnex campaigner Chris Kerle commented.

At the same time, Blacktown and Penrith mayors Stephen Bali and John Thain called for the capping of costs and the standardisation of road tolling when they spoke to the NSW Upper House inquiry into road tolls in Penrith.

Bali said that in the past 12 months, toll prices rose by 4%, well above the Consumer Price Index and national wage growth, of 1.5% and 1.9% respectively. "It's not unreasonable to ask a weekly cap to be applied ... it should be no more than $40," he said.

For Penrith, the reintroduction of the M4 toll, which was abolished by the previous Labor government in 2010, was a "hot topic". Due to begin this year, Thain said the toll would cost residents $6500 a year, on top of their petrol and registration costs.

"A community with poor public transport services and low job density should be compensated," he said.

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