In some sort of sick joke, residents of the inner west suburbs of St Peters and Haberfield have been sent earplugs by WestConnex after complaints to it about the incessant and loud noise caused by the construction of this controversial $17 billion tollway.
Residents have labelled the “earplugs solution” as “insulting” and want the Inner West Council to push for a mandatory curfew on the disruptive night works. For months, the construction work has included continuous drilling, jack-hammering and concrete cutting.
Only some of the affected residents have been offered alternative accommodation. But if they do not meet the official criteria, they are being offered other, largely ineffective, mitigation measures.
Homeowners living in Crown Street, St Peters, a narrow street near a major WestConnex construction site, are fearful for the safety of children, pedestrians and local drivers as heavy traffic, caused by road diversions, is being funnelled down the one-way street.
Meanwhile, a report in the October 29 Sun Herald said the state government’s potential legal bill from compulsory acquisitions had soared to more than $650 million. This is in part due to owners using the courts to challenge the Roads and Maritime Services’ (RMS) compensation estimates, which they say are undervalued.
“Since 2012 the value of court cases — expressed as a potential liability in the agency’s financial statements — has increased from $52 million to almost $658.9 million last year.”
At the same time, according to new Domain Group data, house prices have fallen dramatically in those suburbs affected by WestConnex.
The median house price in Haberfield and St Peters has fallen by 17.2% and 9.2% respectively in the past six months. By contrast, across the whole inner west, the median house price grew by 3.2% over the same period.
The dubious economics of the WestConnex project was highlighted again on October 30 by John Fairall of Position magazine who said that, like a number of other recent tollway tunnel projects, WestConnex may well become bankrupt.
“It is little surprise that modelling has placed WestConnex under a cloud. [Sydney City] Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a trenchant critic of the project, cites transport modelling by SOS Economics and Veitch Lister Consulting that shows traffic volumes will be insufficient to pay the interest on the loan incurred by the operators of the motorway, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.
“Their analysis also shows the motorway will overload city streets. Overall, critics claim that while it will move the traffic jams about a bit, it will do almost nothing to ease Sydney's congestion.”
A paper released by the WestConnex Action Group suggests the real problem with WestConnex is that modelling and evidence-based data do not form the basis of the decisions being made about the project.
“The stated objectives for WestConnex were contrived to fit the project after it had already been announced. Its objectives have no associated targets by which their achievement can ever be determined,” the group stated.