A banner protesting the building of the WestConnex road; calling for public transport instead (image: V. Simpson-Young)
A banner protesting the building of the WestConnex road; calling for public transport instead (image: V. Simpson-Young)

Murray Jewell writes: There is growing community opposition to the WestConnex road project which is fast becoming an issue in the run up to the State Government elections due on 28 March. The project is a multi-billion dollar tollway (now estimated to cost $15 billion) running from the M4 in the west to the M5 in the south of Sydney. Under the latest State Government proposal, Stage 3 will involve a bored tunnel which will duplicate the City West Link. It will dump east and north bound traffic onto the approaches to the Anzac Bridge and Victoria Rd and is likely to result in increased traffic volumes in and around Glebe. This tunnel will link with another bored tunnel running south under Annandale and Camperdown and exiting at St Peters. Exhaust stacks will be built along the surface of the tunnels venting toxic vehicle fumes from the tunnels. The State Government has announced that Stage 3 is to be completed in 2023 with community consultation to take place in late 2015 and construction to begin in 2018.

There is a groundswell of opposition across Sydney to WestConnex, in part because it will divert public funds away from investment in public transport. In addition it appears to be based on a flawed business model and has the potential to degrade local communities, particularly around St Peters and Newtown. In preparation for construction the State Government has already been drilling sites in St Peters and in Leichhardt, Ashfield, Summerhill, Earlwood, Haberfield, Strathfield and Concord and has begun the compulsory acquisition of properties in some of these areas.

WestConnex was proposed by Infrastructure NSW in its report to the State Government in October 2012. Since its adoption by the State Government, the project has been dogged by a number of problems: uncertainty about and changes to the route of the tollway; an ever-expanding budget; a damning report from the NSW Auditor General released in December last year; no proper Environmental Impact Report and growing opposition from community groups in Ashfield, St Peters, Newtown and in the inner west.

There is a growing appreciation that the project represents an outdated solution to the problem of urban transport. Many cities around the world are now investing in public transport infrastructure as opposed to motorways to solve their transport problems. History shows that building new motorways ultimately adds to traffic congestion and so doesn’t solve the problem.

The Glebe Society opposes the construction of further motorways as a solution to Sydney’s transport needs. Our view is that more investment should be made in Sydney’s Public Transport Infrastructure, including in an extension to the light rail network.

Various community groups under the banner of “No WestConnex” and “NOW Public Transport” have lobbied State Government and have arranged well attended protest rallies in Ashfield, St Peters and Annandale in opposition to WestConnex. They are suggesting that residents write to their local member about their opposition to WestConnex and that they join one of the No WestConnex action groups and get involved in the campaign. These community groups can be contacted at http://westconnex.info.