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Tunnel vision must come with more answers if it is road map for future


Choose your adjective: city-changing; retrograde; transformative; overdue; ignorant; wasteful; visionary.

Whatever you think of it, the O'Farrell government's WestConnex, if it is built, will be one of the biggest things to happen to Sydney for many a decade.

But beyond that it is hard to know what to make of a project that at this stage is little more than a line on a map, unless you happen to work for one of the myriad investment banks or consulting firms to whom it has already become a gravy train.

The former premier and head of Infrastructure NSW, Nick Greiner, was fond of saying people needed to ''get religion'' on WestConnex. The project was not a motorway, he said, but a catalyst for urban development and regeneration.

This sounds fine. But will it actually happen, for instance, on the four-kilometre stretch of Parramatta Road between Ashfield and Strathfield under which a tunnel will be dug as one of the first stretches of motorway? If the motorway is put below the ground, what will emerge above the surface to give the community a return on its $3 billion to $4 billion investment on the road underneath?

Sydney doesn't have enough good quality housing linked to good quality public transport. What guarantee is there a motorway under Parramatta Road will trigger the construction of the type of housing people will want to live in near the types of transport they want to use?

Then there are the traffic issues. For instance, what will happen to motorists when they drive east off the three-lane WestConnex at Ashfield onto the two-lane City West Link to the city?

What sort of toll will motorists be asked to pay? If you don't want to pay the toll, how much longer will your trip be than it is now?

These are the types of questions that emerge simply from news that the first part of the 33-kilometre and $13 billion WestConnex motorway will be built to Ashfield.

When the government eventually gets around to releasing its expensively assembled business case into the project, it best be ready with some answers.


  • The more roads you build, to use an olde aphorism, fill 'em up (which most of us can no longer afford), Gladys and Nic. The M5 east is a classic recent example of that shonky thinking. Have fun.

    Date and time
    August 21, 2013, 7:19AM
    • How is building infrastructure that people then use a bad thing?

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 11:55AM
    • With that flawed logic we would never have built ANY roads.

      luke r
      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 11:56AM
    • Your logic might make sense if Sydney's population was still 2 million. But over the past 25 years has now grown to 4+ million without any appreciable growth of road infrastructure in the close-in parts of the city. Our major roads are now clogged with truck traffic trying to deliver goods. Without additional facilities to moves goods around the metropolitan area the city will slowly grind to a halt.

      l russell
      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 12:03PM
    • I think your logic is incorrect.
      What happens is that if you don't build more roads for an expanding population alternative situations happen that may be more unpleasant.
      1. Motorists find alternate routes through side streets, causing more pollution and more distress to locals
      2. People spend more time in their cars than doing productive work or with their families, causing a loss in productivity & a drain on the economy
      3. The cost of inner city housing exponentially increases for those that have to live close to their work to avoid traffic.
      Your theory that if you build the road it will just fill up is made on the basis that people will use it because it's there. It seems to me that if they don't use the facilities it would be a waste of capital but if it does get used to capacity (M5) then that is a good use of capital/infrastructure.
      The M5 in point is that it was under-estimated the traffic/popularity of the infrastructure, whilst some of the Lane Cove Tunnel/East West distributor may be underutilised & hence poor use of capital.
      There is always a trade off somewhere. However i suspect that a well utilised motorway is the best outcome because obviously the need is there and everyone benefits

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 12:37PM
    • Its very simple really. You build more and more band more and more roads until one by one they all fill up. The Fawlty Towers economics of it all becomes the reason to be everything.

      For example: We took the trams off the Harbour Bridge and created two more roads southwards. That wasn't enough, so we built the Warringah Expressway....still not enough.

      So a harbour tunnel had to be built....still not we need a second crossing....when do you think, we shall have elegant sufficiency of roadway access to and from the CBD?

      The city now has a lacework of freeways and tollways...still not enough.

      Instead of thinking about an alternative such as putting two railways into the old Wynyard Station, by quadruplicating the railway from Chatswood to North Sydney Station, building a connecting bridge such as the trams had across the Warring Expressway to Milsons Point and then connecting up to Wynyard Station using the former eastern lanes....Oh wait on...that means losing two lanes off the YES. The empire builders want Ye Olde solutions. Horsefeathers.

      But, on the longer term view when the petrol/diesel etc runs out or becomes too bloody expensive for we motorists to buy...all that luverly concrete freeways tollways etc would then become available for all those naughty electric light rail vehicles and guess what...TRAINS. So, whose nuts now?

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 2:18PM
    • Nothing wrong with the logic whatsoever. Doesn't matter how many roads you build, they will fill up. What we need to do is make better use of the roads and get people off the roads.

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 2:37PM
    • Precisely, you build into your infrastructure a mass transit system capable of handling thousands of people. Roadways have their place. I own a car. But wouldn't think of driving it into Sydney anytime. When I visit Melbourne, I park my car at my friends place where I'm staying and catch a tram into the city.

      We spend too much emphasis upon road vehicles. The problem really is that pollies have real idea about mass public transport, or that there are influences outside themselves exerting an undue influence on the decision making process.

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 2:49PM
    • Sorry, I meant NO real idea.

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 2:51PM
    • luke r,
      the inverse argument taken to the maximum covers the ground completely with roads so there is no destination left, just road. it's as silly as your point.
      what you do is build enough roads to serve a community as you wish it to be served. once it reaches saturation, people will make other public transport arrangements or just no go there. the market ultimately decides.

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 2:56PM

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