WestConnex ground slippage another headache for Berejiklian

Yellow indicates ground movement along the WestConnex M4 tunnel route. Photo: Otus Intelligence Group

Satellite imaging analysis released for the first time on March 13 shows much greater ground settlement and potential property damage from WestConnex tunnelling than predicted by the NSW Coalition government and the environmental impacts statements for the project.

The data from tech start-up Otus Intelligence Group shows tunnelling for the controversial toll road has damaged homes and land up to 300 metres away from construction sites. Previously the government claimed the zone of influence was only 50 metres.

Of particular concern is the land beneath the gas tanks at Sydney Airport’s international terminal, which has subsided 4.9 centimetres. The WestConnex Planning Approval conditions only allow maximum ground movement of 20 millimetres for sensitive properties.

This comes after dozens of homeowners in Beverly Hills, Homebush, North Strathfield and Haberfield have suffered severe cracking after WestConnex tunnelled under or near their homes. The joint venture contractor CPB Samsung John Holland has refused their claims for compensation.

The situation is set to get worse. The most expensive and technically challenging stages of WestConnex have not yet started. In order to cut costs, the private contractors propose that part of the motorway project would be bored just 12 metres below houses. These areas include the Stage 3 tunnel from Haberfield to St Peters and the Rozelle interchange, areas with a high proportion of heritage-listed and older homes. If the radius of impact is increased to the 300 metres as is likely necessary, well over 20,000 homes may be at risk of damage.

NSW Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker said: “This data now opens the floodgates in terms of potential cost to government, but also the contractors and insurers.”

The Coalition Against WestCONnex is demanding a halt to the project and that the satellite data be provided by the government free of charge to all property owners within the 300-metre zone either side of tunnelling. Such technology is commonly used overseas, such as in the London Crossrail project, and in mining.

It should not be forgotten that these unacceptable impacts are not the unfortunate side-effects of an otherwise worthwhile project that would reduce congestion and “get the trucks to the port”. Not one single independent transport expert has recommended WestConnex. Decades of experience of urban motorway development has shown that building more roads merely induces more driving. WestConnex is totally unnecessary and will make the problems it purports to fix even worse.

On the same day as this satellite data was released, Sydney Trains chief Howard Collins came out saying an upgrade to the signalling system could increase Sydney’s rail network capacity by 40% for only $3 billion. This is a mere fraction of the near $20 billion cost of WestConnex, a toll road that is all pain, for no gain.

[Andrew Chuter is the convenor of Fix NSW.]

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