WestConnex leviathan moves north of the harbour

February 11, 2017
NSW Government is set to resurrect the extension of the Warringah Freeway which was abandoned after community opposition.

A map sent to the group No WestConnex: Public transport, not motorways by an insider has revealed plans for Stage 4 of WestConnex. Beginning with the Western Harbour Tunnels, this $11 billion, 22 km tunnel system is being readied before the planning has finished on Stage 2 and without any connection to Sydney Airport.

The new plans show WestConnex tunnelling under the harbour from Rozelle to the Lane Cove tunnel followed by further tunnels under Northbridge, Middle Harbour and to Balgowlah, with another tunnel via the Mosman Peninsula, under the Spit and also connecting to Balgowlah.

The map indicates that the NSW Government is set to resurrect the extension of the Warringah Freeway which was abandoned in 1976 after fierce community opposition, led by the Castlecrag Progress Association. This is through new Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s electorate of Willoughby and Jillian Skinner's electorate of North Shore, which after her resignation is soon to have a byelection.

In 2012 Infrastructure NSW concluded that this Northern Beaches Link is a lower priority for government support because of "the lower traffic volumes, the lack of through traffic, limited population growth on the Peninsula and the limited role of Military Road in the freight distribution network."

But by 2014 the member for Manly was premier and taxpayers' hard earned money was being spent to design Mike Baird's pet project.

The leaking of these plans comes as Berejiklian has vowed to listen and address community concerns better than the government did under Baird.

No WestConnex: Public transport, not Motorways spokesperson Andrew Chuter said: "With the discovery of these plans, Premier Berejiklian should respond to community concerns that each stage of WestConnex is designed to lead to hugely expensive extensions.

“WestConnex is now extending toll road tentacles north and south. The only people to benefit will be the roads lobby and toll road operators such as CIMIC and Transurban. The original justification to connect Western Sydney has been lost. Communities and commuters will pay a terrible price.

“Around the world, governments have moved away from motorway building and are focusing on public and active transport. This would reduce car dependency, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while improving mobility. If the Berejiklian government extends Baird’s destructive toll road legacy, it can expect community resistance at every step.”

Meanwhile, Transurban, the corporate giant of Australia's privatised tollways, is eyeing off a bonanza from the controversial WestConnex project, when the Berejiklian Coalition state government eventually moves to sell it. Transurban is the favourite among big business infrastructure companies to buy the $17 billion WestConnex road tunnel scheme.

Transurban CEO Scott Charlton said WestConnex would be like a mini-network, making it cheaper to operate than a single toll road. "It's more like a business in its own right as opposed to just one single standalone asset," he said on February 8.

Already, the pre-tax profits from Transurban's six toll roads in Sydney have soared by more than 10% to $351 million in the six months to December last year. Toll revenue from the M7 in western Sydney climbed by more than 17% to $196 million in the first half of the year and for the M5 in the south west and the M2 in the north it rose by 9% and 7% respectively.

Transurban gains more than 40% of its total toll revenue from roads in Sydney. The company's pre-tax profits soared almost 14% to $769 million in the first half of last year.

Transurban is waiting expectantly for a slice of the pie if new US President Donald Trump actually moves on his talk of a US$1 trillion program to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the US. In addition to roads in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Transurban already runs two major expressways in the Greater Washington DC area that account for about 9% of its revenue.

At the same time, the community campaign against the environmentally and socially destructive WestConnex project continues. Opponents have highlighted the complete lack of transparency and public accountability in the secret discussions over the business case for WestConnex.

According to anti-WestConnex campaigner and journalist Wendy Bacon, "WestConnex has taken more than 380 individual homes; has forced more than 1000 people out of their homes; has forced over 110 businesses to close or relocate, many without compensation" and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 trees have been destroyed, so far.

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