A toll road spiderweb is spreading across Sydney, with the cost of vehicle journeys set to rise substantially in coming years.
In a recent public discussion, campaigners against WestConnex — the huge motorway and tunnel project in Sydney — were challenged to sum up their case against WestConnex in three sentences. “Start with what the proponents of WestConnex say will be the benefit of the project then say what is wrong with it.”
There were half a dozen seasoned anti-WestConnex activists in the room and each came back with much more than three sentences.
Burrowing under the metropolis, winding through neighbourhoods and consuming green spaces, kilometres of bleak bitumen motorways provide the superstructure for the outdated combustion engine to travel further.
According to University of Technology Sydney, vehicles are traveling 25% further, which equates to 25% more pollutants and 25% more impact on communities and the environment. “Induced traffic” is the phenomenon that when roads are built people switch from public transport to roads and, in the age of climate change, roads congest, choke and gridlock Australian cities.
Early one morning last month, the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) Lucy Turnbull — a lifelong resident of the city’s most privileged suburbs along the south-eastern edge of the harbour — quietly slipped across to Sydney’s inner west where she was taken on tour by a WestConnex manager of the M4 East tollway tunnel corridor. There she presumably saw for the first time the gigantic construction sites in Haberfield where scores of heritage homes, businesses, gardens, parks and trees stood until a few weeks ago.
The NSW Greens have slammed reported plans by the state government to build a new privatised western Metro train line from the city centre to Parramatta.
Commenting on a September 1 Sydney Morning Herald report that planning is under way for a new rail line between the CBD, the Bays Precinct around Rozelle and Parramatta, with possible future extensions to Maroubra in the south-east and Badgerys Creek airport in the west, Greens NSW transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi asked, “Will this government ever understand what good integrated transport planning looks like?”
WestConnex is a $17 billion, 33 kilometre toll road proposed by the New South Wales government and backed by the federal government. Its tunnels, multi-layered interchanges and four to six lane highways will cut a swathe through the inner west of Sydney.
Pauline Lockie is a spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group, one of the groups opposing the project. This is an edited version of a speech she gave at the Rally for Fair Fares in Sydney on June 21.
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The Victorian budget, presented by Treasurer Tim Pallas on April 27, is in surplus, due largely to a big increase in stamp duty revenue, to a record $6 billion a year.
This revenue is a result of Melbourne's real estate boom. House prices have been rising rapidly. But the number of homeless people has also been rising rapidly. There has been a marked increase in the number of homeless people begging on the streets.
A recent study, led by Victoria University and West Justice Youth Office, has revealed that students from low socioeconomic families cannot afford to travel on public transport, or pay the fines they incur for travelling without a valid myki card.
West Justice chief executive Denis Nelthorpe said: “Up to 80,000 Victorian students a year were unable to pay fines, resulting in many of them skipping school.”
Many Victorians had hoped the election of a state Labor government signaled an end to the East West Link and the dawn of a new age of public transport projects, with the Andrews government committing to start building the $11 billion Metro Rail Project in 2018.
Now, federal Liberal MPs from Melbourne’s outer east are trying to resuscitate the East West Link. On August 8 they held a small rally with the demand “Build the Link”.
A new front in the battle against WestCONnex has opened up with the beginning of preparatory works at the Alexandria Landfill adjacent to Sydney Park in the inner west suburb of St Peters.
The landfill was chosen last year to be the site of a WestCONnex interchange, spewing anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 cars a day into congested inner south-west streets.
Nearby residents are in uproar when they found out last week that asbestos would be removed. This is despite the Environmental Impact Statement not having been released, or approval granted, for that stage of WestCONnex.