WestConnex at Enmore Theatre – a partial response

If this is your problem, this is not your solution.

I’m not going to try to cover everything that was said at last week’s meeting at the Enmore Theatre. But there are a few points I do want to respond to.

It was said that “the percentage of trips taken by car will not change”.  However, Bureau of Transport Statistics show that in the decade to 2012, the population grew by 12%, car driver trips grew only 6%, while trips by bus and train increased by 16% and 23% respectively.

It was said that if the M4-M5 Link is not built, the same amount of traffic “will still find a way through your area”. This flies in the face of research overseas and in Australia which consistently finds that adding extra roads encourages more traffic, while closing roads results in less traffic.

It was said that work will not begin until the Environmental Impact Statement (the EIS) is approved. However, it was also said that contracts for the work will be signed before the EIS is approved.

It was said that the exhaust stacks will be at the St Peters interchange, with all this implies for Sydney Park.

It was said that Stage 3 will include a link to the airport. Up until now, the link to the airport was something that might happen after Stage 3. Up until now, the forecast price tag was $15 Billion dollars. A new major extension has been added to the project, but the forecast price tag is still $15 Billion dollars. It doesn’t add up.

It was said that the cost to the public (you and me) will not be $15 Billion dollars because it will be paid for by tolls. The average toll is forecast to be $4.50. WestConnex is supposed to carry 300,000 vehicles per day. However, up to half of those vehicles will come off the M5,which means that they aren’t paying an extra $4.50, but only an extra dollar or two. The tolls collected won’t be more than $330 million a year. But the interest bill on $15 billion dollars will be more like $900 million a year. And that assumes that the traffic forecasts are accurate, something which has rarely been the case with Sydney tollways.

It was said that the business case does not need to be made public because it will be reviewed by Infrastructure Australia (IA). IA has reviewed a version of the business case. IA has complained that the version of the business case given to them is based on a 50/50 chance of the project coming in under budget – IA normally want 90% confidence of a project meeting its budget. IA has also complained that the traffic modelling assumes that the forecast reduction in travel time won’t encourage more cars onto the road. Ignoring these two limitations, IA has “a high degree of confidence” that benefits will outweigh costs. When these two limitations are considered, IA only has “a degree of confidence” that benefits will outweigh costs.

It was said that there are “no plans” to extend King Street Clearways. But there was no commitment not to develop such plans in the future.

It was said that WestConnex will not “rip up Sydney Park”, the argument being that the 12 meter strip that forms one edge of Sydney Park is owned by the RMS. Obviously, the RMS has the legal right to reclaim this land, but to claim that somehow, this land isn’t part of Sydney Park as it is today, is missing the point. Whoever owns it, turning it into road will reduce Sydney Park, not just by the amount of land removed, but by inflicting car fumes and noise on the whole of the park.

It was asked if adding extra lanes to Euston and Campbell Roads will make any difference, given that both roads will be back to one lane after a few hundred  meters. The answer given was that detailed traffic studies are underway, and have been for 18 months. It was also said that such studies can take months or years, which raises the question of whether the modelling will be complete before the road opens.

It was asked if St Peters was chosen for the interchange because the RMS already had road reservations and land, or because studies fortuitously indicated that it was the best location for the interchange? The answer was that the studies fortuitously indicated that the site was the best location. The follow-up question was: if the studies are done, why are you still doing the studies? There was no answer.

WestConnex Q&A, Feb 23rd, 7:00, Enmore Theatre

WestConnex are having a Q&A tomorrow (Feb 23rd), at 7:00 at Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown.

For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/events/1554561164807291/

No Alexandria Summer Fair this year

We are sorry to announce this, but there will not be an Alexandria Summer Fair this year.

Between responding to WestConnex, Central 2 Eveleigh, and the so called Planning Reforms, all of us volunteers are flat out. We just don’t have the bandwidth to organise the fair as well.

We’re all really disappointed about this, but it was just one thing too many.

We are aiming to hold the fair next year, hope to see you there!

Agenda for February meeting

The agenda for next week’s meeting is:

  • WestConnex – Update and Action
  • Sale of Australian Technology Park (ATP) – Update
  • March State Election – what burning questions should we ask the candidates at our Meet the Candidates forum in March?

The meeting will be at the usual time and place of:

  • 7pm, Wednesday the 11th of February
  • Alexandria Town Hall, 73 Garden St

Prince Alfred Park’s ‘Crystal Palace’ and Exhibition Gardens – talk by Stuart Read

From Stuart Read
Prince Alfred Park, next to Central Station, in 1869 hosted the Agricultural Society of NSW’s first city exhibition in decades. In 1870 it held Australia’s second ‘Inter-Colonial’ Exhibition, a grand affair with a ‘crystal palace’ echoing London’s. This Expo’s bold building and unusually extensive landscaping put Sydney on the international exhibition map. Large crowds arrived by rail, the symbol of the machine age. Continue reading

Alternatives to WestConnex

In 2012, WestConnex was to cost $10 billion dollars, and the estimated benefits were $12. By 2013, it was to cost $11.5 billion dollars. At the end of 2014, it is now forecast to cost $14.9 billion dollars, ($14,900,000,000). All this to move perhaps an extra 100,000 drivers per day.

Surely, for that much money there have to be better options. And there are. There are a number of things that could be done that would, collectively, do more to relieve congestion, for less money, and without the pollution and all the other downsides.

Roads are an inefficient means of moving people. Estimates vary, but during morning peak hour under Sydney conditions, a motorway lane is typically considered to move between 2,000 cars per hour – with 1.1 to 1.2 people per car, that’s somewhere between 2,200 and 2,400 people per hour. A single dedicated bus lane can move perhaps 3,500 people per hour. Depending on the configuration, a single light rail line can move around 10,000 people. Whereas a single line of heavy rail can move up to 20,000 people an hour, the approximate equivalent of 9 or 10 lanes of cars.

Ecotransit Sydney, a public transport advocacy group, has been investigating alternatives:

- For less than $2 billion the government could build a light rail loop that connects Balmain to Marrickville, thence Botany, continue to Randwick, enter the CBD, go back to Balmain via Victoria Road. As well, light rail could be built from Strathfield down Parramatta Road and into the CBD.

- Light rail to Parramatta and up Victoria Road might each cost another $1.5 billion. Either would move a good percentage of the capacity of the entire WestConnex project, and could be built for a fraction of the cost and time of WestConnext.

- A new train station could be added to the airport rail line at Doody St, midway between Mascot and Green Square, for perhaps $75 million.

- To take traffic off the M4, a Bus/train/park-and-ride interchange could provide an express service to the CBD from the former site of Pippita Station, on what was once the Abattoirs Branch line, now the Olympic Park line. A similar facility could be build at  Kingsgrove, to do the same for the M5, and for less than $100 million each.

- Any number of existing roads in and out of the city could easily, quickly and cheaply have one lane converted to bus only or to T2/T3 lanes. Such measures will reduce the number of cars but increase the number of people carried.

- A more dramatic alternative would be to reclaim two lanes of Sydney Harbour Bridge for rail, as envisaged by the original design. The consequence would be 6000 fewer motorists per hour and up to 50,000 extra rail passengers – for a fraction of the cost and time that building WestConnex will take.

Public transport will not suit everyone. It doesn’t have to. Many commuters are flexible, they switch between public and private transport as circumstances change. For example, when the M5 Cashback was introduced, congestion on the M5 increased significantly. Conversely, taking even small volumes of traffic off the road means that the remaining traffic moves far more quickly. Consider school holidays: reduction in the volume of traffic is small, the increase in the speed of traffic is significant. A nearly full road still moves quite quickly. A completely full road does not.

And has the Government considered these alternatives?  You guessed it, they haven’t. Or if they have, they haven’t released the result publicly.

Lord Mayor’s WestConnex Minute

Last Monday, Clover Moore moved a WestConnex Minute by the Lord Mayor. It’s contains an excellent summary of the project, and its problems.
The minute concludes:
It is resolved that Council:
(A) note that, based on the inadequate information currently available about the proposed WestConnex project, the stated objectives of the project – additional freight capacity and urban renewal – will not be achieved;
(B) note that the project as currently configured and funded will have unacceptable impacts on the City of Sydney, including:
(i) massively expanding private vehicle traffic flowing into already congested inner west streets; and
(ii) destroying sections of Sydney Park, an important and much loved regional park;
(C) request that the Lord Mayor write to the Premier and the Minister for Roads informing them that, for the reasons outlined above, Council opposes the WestConnex project in its current form and requests them to:
(i) revisit the configuration of the project in the context of its stated objectives;
(ii) defer any moves to finalise tenders or contracts for the project until standard planning and approvals processes are complete;
(iii) publicly release all relevant information associated with the project including the full business case, all traffic modelling and impact assessments, and the proposed locations of portals and ventilation stacks;
(iv) release information on any further potential road widening, clearways and changes to signalised intersections within the City of Sydney; and
(v) establish an ongoing working group consisting of the WestConnex Delivery Authority and the City of Sydney to share information, resolve identified problems and develop alternative solutions where necessary; and
(D) request the Chief Executive Officer prepare an independent assessment of the impacts of the proposed WestConnex project on the City of Sydney, including traffic modelling and the feasibility of alternatives such as rail freight linking Port Botany and Sydney Airport to the western suburbs.
From an ARAG member:
I attended the Council meeting on Monday night.
Councillors Scott, Doutney & Vithoulkas made great impassioned speeches in support. Kemmis made a strong supportive statement, Mant made detailed supportive comment, Green made short supportive comments, Kok did not speak.
Mandla made a long rambling statement focussing on his accusation that the Mayor’s behaviour embarrassed him at the briefing by WestConnex to Councillors. He believed she attacked the head of WestConnex for which he later made personal apology to WestConnex.
I don’t think he actually addressed most of the issues in the minute.
He did argue against Recommendation D stating the Council’s CEO could not prepare an assessment that was “independent”. He was advised by the Mayor that normal procedure would be that CEO would actually engage an independent consultant to do this type of work.
Forster agreed with Mandla, spoke disdainfully and said it was just nimbyism.
Other Councillors stated they did not see it as an attack.  Vithoulkas went on to congratulate the Mayor on her strong and totally appropriate comments and questions at that meeting with WestConnex.
All Councillors except Mandla & Forster supported the recommendation.