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.

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

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.

Everything you didn’t want to know about WestConnex

The plan

The State and Federal Governments are proposing spending $15 billion dollars (more than $3,000 for every man, woman and child in Sydney) extending the M4 and M5.  They are doing this based on a business plan that contains no hard numbers on traffic volumes. Simply to pay the interest on that much money would require half a million vehicles a day to use the new tunnels – more than double the patronage of the current M4 and M5 combined.

From 2019 and 2023, at least, the M5 extension is to end at Sydney Park – as if the surrounding roads were not already at capacity. No modelling on the impact of the additional traffic has been released. There will be widening of the roads immediately next to the park, at the cost of up to 80 houses and a good chunk of Sydney Park, but not the roads they feed.

The government appears to have dismissed public transport out of hand, even though kilometres driven per person are falling, while usage of public transport, cycling and walking are all increasing.

There is no information about where the exhaust stacks will be, or whether they will be filtered.

Sample letters

We encourage you to write to your local MPs, and to one or all of the State Upper House crossbench MPs who hold the balance of power [Click here for contact details].

We don’t want to encourage form letters. Any letter is better than no letter, but a short letter saying what your personal concerns are is is worth more than a long form letter.

To help inspire you in writing your own letter, here are some letters that people have been sending:

Upcoming events

WestConnex Development Authority have upcoming information sessions at:

  • Saturday 22 November, 10am to 1pm
    Unit B2, 238 Princes Highway, St Peters
    St Peters Town Hall (upstairs)
  • Tuesday 25 November, 10am to 12pm
    and 4.30pm to 7.30pm
    39 Unwins Bridge Road, Sydenham

There are a number of rallies planned. This is not an exhaustive list:

  • Stand up for Sydney!: WestConnex, Planning, Towers, Bay Precinct, CSG, etc.
    27th November, 12:00, in the Domain near Parliament house
  • WestConnex Community Day of Action
    A fun day for all opposed to WestCONnex: action groups, residents, concerned friends from all over Sydney to come together. Planned in partnership with our friends at Reclaim The Streets Sydney”
    13th December, 13:00, Simpson park, Campbell street, St Peters

Action Groups

Reference Documents

CSG – the NSW Chief Scientist’s report

For those with an interest in Coal Seam Gas, Stop CSG Sydney will be looking at the NSW Chief Scientist’s report into CSG, and what it means for their campaign:

Sunday November 30, 3-5 pm
Seaview Community Hall, Seaview Street, Dulwich Hill.

The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer released her much anticipated report in October. The Coal Seam Gas industry says it give it a ‘green light’ for increased CSG production. Activists point to the report’s warning of ‘unintended consequences’.

Dr Stuart Khan, from the University of New South Wales, who contributed to the report’s findings on the management and risks associated with produced water from CSG mining, will be the forum’s guest speaker.
Dr Khan, who was also an expert reviewer of the final report, will present his perspective and its implications for the CSG industry and affected communities.

For more information, contact Elle on 0414 540 591

Glow in the Park

916776_thumbnail_280_Glow_In_The_Park_An_Event_By_Alexandria_Vet.v1On Saturday 22nd November, Alexandria Vet is hosting the annual “Glow in the Park” in Alexandria park. Glow in the Park is a charity event that raises money for Fetching Dogs (a dog re-homing charity).
The aim is for owners to bring their dogs and dress them up in glow / lights. There will be glow items for sale for pets (and kids) professional pet-Santa photos by Fuzzy Beast (a pet photography business in Alexandria), a bbq, prizes for best dressed, a raffle and 80s music. It goes from 6.30pm to 9-9.30 pm. Kids and families without a dog are welcome to come along.

100,000 extra cars? Community meeting.

WestConnex are planning to extend the M5 to Sydney Park, next to the border between St Peters and Alexandria. The new 6 lane tollway could put 100,000+ extra cars into our streets every day – as if they weren’t already close to gridlocked much of the time.

Alexandria Residents group will be discussing how we can respond as a community , at:

  • Alexandria Town Hall, 73 Garden St
  • 7:00pm, Wednesday the 12th of November

Everyone with an interest in preserving the suburbs we live in is invited to attend.

Guest Speakers:

  • Mehreen Faruqi, Greens Transport spokesperson
  • Matthew Hounsell, EcoTransit Co-Convenor

Hope to see you there. Please help spread the word.