Commentary: Why a 2nd Harbour road tunnel is a good thing

Posted: November 22, 2014 in Transport
Tags: , ,

It was revealed earlier today that the Government is making plans for a new Harbour tunnel, which would link a proposed extended Westconnex freeway near the Anzac Bridge to the M2 in Sydney’s North. Such a corridor was not news, it was included as one of the 4 corridors for investigation in the 2012 Transport Master Plan. But it now appears that the Government has moved beyond investigation and is actively planning for its eventual construction.

Road projects recommended by the Transport Master Plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 140.)

Road projects recommended by the Transport Master Plan. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Transport Master Plan, page 140.)

Concerns have been raised about the continued expansion of the freeway network. One source reportedly asked “where does WestConnex end” while transport advocacy group Action for Public Transport said the proposal was “bad policy” and that “more roads = more congestion”. Urban planner Lewis Mumford famously said in 1955 that “building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity”.

The author of this blog sympathises with these views and believes strongly that a sustained investment in expanding public transport infrastructure should take priority over road infrastructure in Australia’s major cities.

Despite that, roads are still needed. While it makes sense to encourage mode share towards public transport and away from cars, there are some trips that are more suited to public transport and other better suited to cars. Trips into the CBD and other major centres or within the dense inner city, for example, are well suited to public transport. This is evident by the high mode share which public transport already has into the CBD (70% of all journeys to work in the 2006 census). In these places, it should be further encouraged through greater investment in public transport, more bus lanes, or even pedestrianisation of streets. However, trips from dispersed and/or low density origins and destinations are much better suited to car transport and here car trips hold a high mode share (85% of all journeys to work in the 2006 census). Consider that a single occupant car is much more sustainable from both a financial and environmental perspective than a bus with a single passenger. In these cases, investment in roads is needed to provide the most efficient mode of transporting people.

Too many times ideology clouds what should be a mode-agnostic review. If the best mode for a particular area is rail, then rail is what should be built. If it is walking, then wider footpaths are needed. If it is cars, then more roads should be the solution. Extremist and ideological views, such as opposing all urban freeways or all urban railways, are not helping.

Which brings us back to the proposed tunnel. This tunnel, much like Westconnex, does not actually take traffic into the CBD. It acts as a bypass, allowing cars to go from the very dispersed origins and destinations mentioned earlier. It is a ring road which, as this blog outlined last year, is the best kind of road. It allows cars to do what they do best – transporting people and goods to and from dispersed locations; meanwhile it quarantines the CBD for what public transport does best – transporting large numbers of people into a small area.

The smart thing to so would be to push for improvements to the proposal, rather than oppose it. For example, this would provide a great opportunity to have bus lanes all the way along the Western Distributor, Anzac Bridge, and Victoria Road. This would be similar to the bus lane that was instated on the Harbour Bridge when the Harbour Tunnel was built. This would go well with the planned urban renewal of the surrounding Bays precinct, which would need additional public transport capacity to support additional development. Light rail, either a spur from the existing line to Dulwich Hill or a new line along the Victoria Road corridor, should also be considered.

What is not helpful is the idea that this is an either/or situation. Sydney can and should have more road and public transport infrastructure. What matters is not the mode, but whether that mode is appropriate for the purpose.

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Comments
  1. Mushalik says:

    It is still not understood that global conventional crude oil production has peaked in 2006 and that US tight oil provides only a temporary relief as decline rates in tight oil wells are 80-90% in 2-3 years. The lower the oil prices are now, the less investments will be done, with less production some time down the track.

    The IEA’s recent World Energy Outlook 2014 shows that from 2020 onwards, the world becomes again dependent on Middle East oil. Who knows what will have happened by then in this part of the world. It is therefore strategically unwise to build more oil dependent infrastructure.

    On climate change, the world is currently on a path to 3.7 degrees warming. That will be a disaster for Australia. Parts of Western Sydney will become uninhabitable and food production will be impacted. No matter how we look at it, we can’t continue business as usual. If we do, the financial losses will be huge.

    The author of the above article needs some thorough reality check and number crunching

  2. tom says:

    Bambul, I agree there should be a further crossing, however I believe the better alignment would be Balmain to Neutral Bay, continuing in tunnel under Military Rd under the Spit, surfacing around Balgowlah Bowling Club. This would allow both a BRT along Military Rd, and a northbound bus lane on the SHB. Traffic between Gladesville Bridge and the outer heads is currently forced into a very narrow corridor through SHT or over SHB. Crossings to bypass the city should be welcomed, but as you point out, the resulting opportunity to improve public transport must also be taken.

  3. MrV says:

    Any idea if this tunnel could take traffic lanes and a two track metro line?

  4. gseeney says:

    Mushalik – I am a strong advocate of public transport, active transport and sustainable development based around these. I used to be sympathetic to the arguments around peak oil and climate change when discussing road development. I say used to as things have begun to change recently – the decarbonisation of energy generation and transport has begun, and is no longer a pie-in-the-sky notion. We are just around the corner from solar and storage prices dropping to levels that make they commercially competitive with coal for electricity generation and oil for transport fuel. Once that happens, it is only a matter of time until the arguments around peak oil and climate change once again disappear from transport planning discussion.

    This is why I think it is best to make arguments for or against transport infrastructure proposals primarily around longer term transport and urban planning issues, such as congestion, living standards, economic performance etc. I am still always very skeptical of new road transport proposals and take a great deal of convincing to support them.

    That said, I am not really against a lot of elements of WestConnex, and by extension this proposal. There is one big caveat to my lukewarm support for these proposals – appropriate distance pricing. Looking at the recent history of road tunnels in Sydney, we can examine the success of the Lane Cove tunnel, the Cross City tunnel and and the M5 East. The first 2 examples has their patronage drastically overestimated, based on part on the underestimation of the traffic that travels via the M5 East. What’s the difference? Tolls. The M5 East was designed for 90k cars per day, but actually sees over 100k. It was also poorly designed with grades that are too steep for the trucks that it is supposed to serve.

    What is the result? The M5 is chronically congested, and we have a proposal to duplicate it. I don’t think that we should spend money duplicating a link that already exists when we haven’t even tried discouraging it’s use using road pricing – impose a toll on the existing road! Not only that, remove the cashback on the M5 west. Increase public transport services on the Macarthur line and increase cross-regional services to the South East.

    The rest of WestConnex and the newly proposed Harbour crossing on the other hand, are something I do reluctantly support – with caveats. Tunnels are pretty much the nicest form of freeway from an urban amenity perspective, leaving communities untouched on the surface and allowing through traffic to pass underneath. The new proposals increase connectivity within Sydney for the vast majority of people who have dispersed origin/destination pairs and also commercial traffic. New connectivity is something that I do support. The caveats are:

    1. It needs to be priced appropriately.
    2. It has to be paired with public transport and urban amenity improvements.

    We should build this new connectivity, but then that is it for that corridor – the only thing that should be done to ease congestion on these corridors once the new connectivity is in place is via adjusting pricing to keep them free flowing, and building complimentary public transport infrastructure.

    As suggested in the above article, this would be a perfect opportunity to take back existing road space for the use of public transport – dedicated bus lanes along Victoria Rd and City West link, across the ANZAC Bridge, bus traffic only on Druitt St and Park St in the CBD, and then dedicated bus lanes out to Edgecliff bus interchange where all ANZAC bridge services can terminate.

    By the same token, Parramatta Rd needs the same treatment, or even Light Rail to support improved public transport along it’s route. Centre bus lanes would be ideal with island bus stops, allowing bus lanes to operate even when parking is in operation (I know I am probably fighting a losing battle to ask for the 3 lanes to permanently be allocated to parking, bus and general traffic respectively so centre bus lanes would be the next best way to allow 2 general traffic lanes to be retained in the peak direction.)

    The F6 connection on the other hand I find it hard to support. It is way too radial and will only encourage people to drive to the CBD. This connectivity needs to be provided more along the A6 route to connect with the M5 around Fairford Rd – in the same way that the NorthConnex proposal focuses more towards the West, acting as part of a Sydney bypass.

    In short – and in agreement with the post, I think there is nothing wrong with building roads as long as we keep building the public transport to go with it. The focus should be on making sure that happens.

  5. Mushalik says:

    Quote: “the decarbonisation of energy generation and transport has begun”

    Where is the statistical evidence for this? Australian oil consumption is increasing. BP closed its Brisbane refinery without any efforts to introduce gas as transport fuel because all gas is exported at higher profit. These LNG exports don’t really replace coal in the destination countries. Global CO2 is increasing. I think you are living in a wishful fantasy world.

  6. Simon says:

    gseeney, I could not support tolling the M5 while the CBD entry remains toll free. The latter hole should be plugged, with time of day tolling. If you are entering the CBD 7-9am, pay more; pay something at other times. Doing that would reduce traffic on the M5 and a lot of other radial roads.

  7. Simon says:

    Back to the point, I don’t really understand what this road is trying to achieve? Does it meet up with WestConnex? Doesn’t appear to. Perhaps I’m missing something.

  8. @Simon –

    The government recently announced an Northern extension of Westconnex to the Anzac Bridge, contingent on the 99 year lease of the electricity distribution network. That is what this would connect to.

  9. Ray says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your synopsis Bambul. It’s the naysayers that need a reality check! We live in a car dominated city and that’s not going to change any time soon. The best we can hope for is to strike a better balance between public and private transport.

  10. Mushalik says:

    Quote”…..car dominated city” Wait until there is a big bang in the Middle East.

    Quote: “…that is not going to change any time soon” Apparently you have not seen the ABC 7:30 report on peak car http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2014/s4133582.htm

    Are 4 financially failed road tunnels (X City, LCT, Clem7, Airportlink) not enough? The tolls are too low to repay the debt which is just rolled over but the principal of which is never paid back. In the next phase of the financial crisis there will be more victims. So check your superfund how much they have invested in oil dependent infrastructure. You are unlikely to see your money back

  11. Ray says:

    You’re dreaming Mushalik. Come down out of your ivory tower and start living in the real world. Then you might have something to contribute instead of waffling on about doomsday scenarios. The world isn’t going to end tomorrow.

  12. Mushalik says:

    Ray, read what former Deputy Chief of the Air Force Air Vice Marshal John Blackburn said 4/11/2014
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-04/al-qaeda-threatens-to-target-australias-overseas-oil-supplies/5866510

    Blackburn also wrote these NRMA reports:

    February 2013
    http://www.mynrma.com.au/media/Fuel_Security_Report.pdf

    February 2014
    http://www.mynrma.com.au/images/About-PDF/Fuel-Security-Report-Pt2.pdf

    You should actually know about all this information before arguing.

  13. Alexsg says:

    A very different take: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/-11s5xu.html

    To quote from Gatenby’s article: ‘The idea that WestConnex will somehow, finally, “unclog” Sydney flies in the face of the fact that 40 years of motorway construction and little new public transport infrastructure has steadily achieved the opposite.

    ‘WestConnex is just the latest attempt to ram through a thoroughly discredited radial freeway scheme first unveiled in 1945. Planned during World War II by the Department of Main Roads, it was shoe-horned into the ill-fated 1948 County of Cumberland Plan (CCP). The CCP aimed to create a compact city and to preserve, within the existing urban area, open space for the future. It was intended that a broad “Green Belt” on the edge of the city’s then outer suburbs would preserve valuable agricultural land and restrict urban sprawl.

    ‘From the get-go, the progressive compact city concept was comprehensively subverted by the freeway proposals it incorporated. They created tremendous pressure for new land releases for low-density fringe suburbs. The DMR had routed their corridors as much as possible through existing open space, and in order to achieve the Holy Grail of expressways straight into the CBD, they intended to bulldoze great swathes of the old medium-density inner suburbs……

    ‘…. The most alarming fact is that we are still fighting such a thoroughly discredited concept. The rest of the world has long since recognised the freeway mistake and moved on. They’re building comprehensive public transport systems and railing freight out of their ports. That, not Gay’s reactionary fantasy, is the way of the future.’

    Also a very different situation in Melbourne, where the opposition has announced it will dump the government’s East-West road link if it wins the upcoming state election: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-11/labor-to-dump-east-west-link-if-elected/5735876

    To quote Opposition leader Daniel Andrews: “If Labor wins the election, I want to invest every dollar of this money in better public transport, getting rid of the 50 most dangerous level crossings, upgrading local roads.

    “That’s the choice I think Victorians ought to be able to make. They ought to be given the respect and recognition to make a choice.”

    It’s a shame we in NSW won’t get to make that choice in respect of WestConnex, which everyone, government and opposition, state and federal, seems to think is the best thing since sliced bread.

  14. Simon says:

    Ray, I don’t think you’ve been following trends in Vehicle Km Travelled from the rest of the developed world. It is in decline in the majority of cities. Sydney is in the minority in that it has flat to positive growth, although even in Sydney it is decline in per capita terms. I’m dismayed that you’d support an M4 extension towards the city.

  15. gseeney says:

    My support for these projects is by no means passionate – if they were not being proposed, I certainly wouldn’t argue for them. I would probably rather all money was spent on public transport. But with these roads having been proposed I am looking at them on their merits. I certainly think that the 50’s style freeway plans are horrible and we would be a lot worse today if they went through. I have spent a bit of time in LA and it’s an atrocious city to get around – but there are a few factors in LA that really cause most of the issues.

    1. Their roads are not priced appropriately. While they have transit and express lanes that can be used for a toll, primarily the freeways are untolled. Even the express lane tolls are low.
    2. They have a poor public transport system. While they are investing huge amounts of money improving public transport and are seeing huge growth, it simply is not a viable option for most people living in the city.
    3. They keep adding lanes. They still add lanes to freeways to try and reduce congestion, and as expected this just makes the problem worse.
    4. The freeways cut through communities.

    With the duplication of the M5 east we are falling into the LA trap on points 1 and 3. The road is free, and therefore congested, and so we are expanding. We need to try and price it first to discourage it’s use during the peak. As long as they are priced appropriately to discourage use and we keep investing a large amount in public transport, I don’t see some extra connectivity in the form of the proposed road tunnels – avoiding the impacts on communities that a surface road would have. We are very lucky in Sydney to have a comprehensive and usable public transport System – one that LA would kill for at this time in their history. We are also very lucky that a large amount of money is being invested in improving it at the moment, with the Sydney Rapid Transit cross harbour line likely within a decade, and certainly likely to be in place before this road tunnel.

    Mushalik – I understand the arguments around peak oil, and I accepted them for many years. The thing that has changed my mind is the rapid progress we are seeing in solar and storage technologies over the recent years. We are within a few years of PV solar achieving grid parity, and probably within a decade of solar + battery combined hitting the same point. This will completely undermine the economics of fossil fuels and lead to a rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation. The crossover point will likely come in the mid 2020s

    It is also another reason I support the sell off of the ‘poles and wires’ – within a couple of decades they will be stranded assets, with dramatically less demand due to the decentralised nature of power generation. We may as well sell while they still have a value and recycle that cash into transport projects!

    A bit of reading on the stuff that is going to have a massive impact over the next few decades:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/21/toyota-hopes-to-recreate-prius-success-with-hydrogen-powered-mirai

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2014/07/16/a-35000-tesla-model-iii-is-coming-in-2017/

    http://cleantechnica.com/2014/09/05/teslas-gigafactory-may-hit-100-per-kilowatt-hour-holy-grail-ev-batteries-report-predicts/

    http://www.economist.com/news/business/21604174-better-power-packs-will-open-road-electric-vehicles-assault-batteries

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/11242193/Oil-industry-risks-trillions-of-stranded-assets-on-US-China-climate-deal.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/woodrow-clark/oil-and-ga-game-ends_b_6061194.html

    I have used climate change and peak oil as an argument for public and active transport and against under-priced road assets for years, but this argument just won’t be around in a few decades. We are going to have to start building arguments based on more enduring issues – congestion, urban amenity and building better cities.

  16. QPP says:

    >>Also a very different situation in Melbourne, where the opposition has announced it will dump the government’s East-West road link if it wins the upcoming state election<<

    I bet they don't, even if they get in. A very rash promise

    Deliver on it, and get embroiled in lengthy and costly legal proceedings where it's guaranteed no taxpayer or traveller value will be delivered for the many millions spent, quite probably 100s of $ms, and put back transport plans in general whilst the wrangle plays out

    Or don't deliver on it, let the project go ahead, and be accused of the biggest election lie in decades

    Either way it has the potential to be massively damaging to the ALP in Victoria

  17. shiggyshiggy says:

    Bambul, have you seen the “Parramatta Road Urban Renewal Strategy” document?

    http://www.urbangrowthnsw.com.au/downloads/file/ourprojects/DraftParramattaRoadURS_Web_final_20141121.pdf

    I think Urban Growth is suggesting a BRT down Parramatta Road once the Westconnex is built. Also, BRT is something they have suggested for the Victoria Road corridor once this third crossing is built. How would these systems interact with each other, and with the CBD? Do you believe the government when they say that once these massive tunnels are built surface roads can be given over to public transport?

  18. Alphonse says:

    We need to time-of-day congestion-price our roads (instead of just pricing privately financed roads, even at 3am) before we can know where the real needs for new road construction are. First things first, otherwise we are in danger of inducing demand rather than meeting needs.

  19. @Shiggyshiggy –

    Epping Rd had bus lanes installed after the Lane Cove Tunnel opened. Bourke St had a bike path installed after the Eastern Distributor opened. So there is strong precedent to go with the current promises.

    It’s by no means guaranteed. This is why I would argue that the best campaign would be to push for these improvements, which is very much in the realm of possibility; rather than push to stop the projects entirely, which won’t succeed but will curse us with sub-par infrastructure for years to come.

  20. Mushalik says:

    My number crunching on EVs is here:

    31/8/2011 1 billion vehicles in year #7 of peak oil
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/1-billion-vehicles-in-year-7-of-peak-oil

    US shale oil will peak before any big number of EVs is on the road

    27 May 2013 World car production grows 3 times faster than global oil supplies
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/world-car-production-grows-3-times-faster-than-global-oil-supplies

    Remember how long it took to change to ULP. There is a huge inertia in the existing car fleet

  21. gseeney says:

    I think that a Victoria Rd and Anzac Bridge BRT would work great, down the centre if possible. It is clear that there will need to be a great deal of intersection work done near the end of Victoria Rd where it meets the Anzac Bridge and City West link, so if a BRT can be incorporated into this it could work very well. A bit of work would need to happen around the Pyrmont Bridge Rd exit of the Western Distributor to allow uninterrupted centre lane BRT through to the CBD but once there you can take over lanes all the way across the CBD. Interchange with the light rail, Sydney Trains and the SRT would be at Town Hall (already proposed as part of the light rail bus changes).

    This could be branched out along the City West link too and take in a large portion of the bus routes coming in from the Five Dock/Leichhardt area, freeing up Parramatta Rd for routes serving the new population in place as part of the urban renewal. Trunk routes could run Eastwood – CBD (assuming they take the smart option and run the Parramatta to Macquarie Park Light Rail via there – which doesn’t seem to be the case!) and Burwood to CBD via City West/Anzac Bridge.

    While Light Rail down Parramatta Rd would be my preference, if you were to go BRT you could take over Pitt Street south of Park as a 2 way BRT street, at least to get people half way into the CBD where they can change. Terminating at a Sydney University, or even Railway Square SRT station may also work, especially if you were also to improve services to Newtown station (either a new SRT station, or making all local track services stop there, or even both) and building a bus interchange near Newtown Station for south west bus services, freeing up more CBD bus space.

    Mushalik – You are going to have to come up with something a little more credible. Most reputable forecasts are now talking about fossil fuel investments being stranded, with up to 2/3rds likely to stay in the ground as alternatives make the investments in their extraction uneconomical. The thing that if it is wrong, it implies a greater price per unit of energy, allowing those deposits to become economical, but also accelerating the crossover point with sustainable energy sources.

    Basically if we are to accept your argument, fossil fuel prices will be on an upward price trajectory as they become more scarce, accelerating the crossover with renewable energy and storage which is unambiguously on a downward price trajectory.

    This is a road project with a timeline of 15 – 20 years. I would be very surprised if a significant portion of vehicles sold at that time are not electric or hydrogen fuelled.

  22. Ray says:

    @ Mushalik – I take those reports with a grain of salt. They are alarmist and in the extreme range of probability. Even if the world was to run out of oil, there will be other energy resources to call upon such as LNG and electricity. It’s wishful thinking to believe that people in a modern society will relinquish the right to have the freedom of movement which a motor vehicle affords, regardless of its energy source.

    As for al-Qaeda disrupting oil supplies to the Western Economies, do you seriously think that the West would idly sit by and let it happen? There would be hell to pay and it would make World War II look like a picnic. Even the oil producing countries in the Middle East would join the Western Alliance because it would otherwise strangle their livelihood. And any country that harbours such terrorists would do so at their peril.

    Then there is the practical problem of replacing the road based movement of goods and services. I fully support the transfer of as much freight as possible from road to rail to and from the ports and intermodal terminals in the west. But there’s even a limit to that. Even when the freight arrives at the intermodal terminals, it still has to be distributed to the final destinations by road. You can’t have a rail track down every street. You wouldn’t rail freight bound for inner city or coastal destinations to Enfield or Moorebank and then run it back to its city destination by road, so there will still be a need for road based transport to deliver and pick up freight directly to and from the ports. Oh, and I didn’t mention air freight. Now there’s another thought, under your scenario, air travel would cease to exist and we’d go back to travelling by train (electric) and ship (nuclear powered presumably).

    @Simon – I support the concept of WestConnex, but not necessarily in its current form. I believe there is a need to construct the missing links in the motorway network to create a continuous fully integrated system bypassing the major urban centres and relieving congestion on the arterial and local road networks. Contrary to popular myth, it is not meant to, nor will it generate more car travel into the Sydney CBD. The cost and limited amount of all day parking is already a deterrent and that’s not going to change. Destinations are more likely to be to and from the Lower North Shore, Northern Beaches, Eastern Suburbs, Inner City Industrial Area, Sydney Airport and Port Botany, all of which bypass the CBD (except the East which passes under it via the Cross City Tunnel).

    There could be other reasons for the decline in vehicle km travelled, such as the impact of the GFC on economic activity, particularly in the USA and Europe, so I wouldn’t be putting too much faith in those statistics just yet. It’s too early to make a judgment on whether or not this is a long term trend.

    In the meantime, we can’t sit around and wait when there is clear evidence that road congestion in Sydney has reached a chronic level. It’s not going to be solved by just putting in new public transport infrastructure alone.

    Taking Parramatta Rd from Concord to the city as an example, what would you suggest as being an alternative to the WestConnex concept to relieve congestion? I’m open minded and I’d really like to know if there is a feasible alternative.

    From my perspective, I would think that diverting through traffic off Parramatta Rd to the WestConnex would be an essential prerequisite to improving the amenity and redevelopment potential along the route as well as enhanced public transport links such as BRT or Light Rail. Nothing is going to happen without it or the Parramatta Rd corridor will otherwise continue to deteriorate.

    This is where public opinion can have an impact. The WestConnex should not be opposed outright (it’s going to happen regardless), but pressure brought to bear to ensure that enhanced public transport infrastructure along Parramatta Rd is an integral part of the project.

    I also support the concept of a new north/south route linking the M2 Motorway to the future M1 (F6) Princes Motorway via the Inner West (part of WestConnex). It provides a western bypass of the CBD from the North Coast to the South Coast relieving congestion on the Sydney Harbour Bridge/Tunnel and Eastern Distributor. There is no need for this traffic to go through the CBD.

    In his usual rational manner, I think Bambul summed it up quite well in his closing comment –

    “What is not helpful is the idea that this is an either/or situation. Sydney can and should have more road and public transport infrastructure. What matters is not the mode, but whether that mode is appropriate for the purpose”.

  23. JC says:

    @Bambul; I am disappointed that you quote the great Lewis Mumford in one of the most insightful comments ever on traffic planning – and then argue for the opposite. [I am impressed however that you quote him at all – partly restoring some faith in today’s education – I hope you are passing on some of the wisdom to your students]

    As with most of the reasonable comments on this page I agree with your position that “Sydney can and should have more road and public transport infrastructure. What matters is not the mode, but whether that mode is appropriate for the purpose”.

    BUT the proposal is not the solution. You are completely wrong that this is a bypass of the CBD. The proposad road is only 2km west of the existing crossings – in a city that is 60km wide. It would serve to further concentrate traffic on the central core. High density employment and residential is fast spreading out from the “Central to Circular Quay” CBD – and wil soon include Green Sq. White Bay. North Sydney etc – and the proposed road cuts right through/under.

    If there is any benefit from a new north-south motorway link it would mich more sense to do it further west – a straight line from the northern end of the F6 to the southern end of missing “northlink” leaps out of the map you helpfully include in your blog stands out as the obvious route for such a road, which could genuinely be called a bypass.

    Even then we would be left with unbearable congestion in the central core of Sydney (City, Eastern Suburbs, Inner West, Lower North Shore, St George, Canterbury). As you say – it is question of the approriate mode for the purpose. The central core has the density is such that CBD jtw is effectively all by public transport (so there is a public transport habit) – and relatively modest investment in exiting rail lines, light rail, BRT – with better information and ticketing – could easily take over a large majority of other trips (covering non-CBD jtw, local shopping, school-runs, recreation etc – you don’t have to spend long looking around who you are sharing the 4pm traffic jam anywhere in this zone to work out that this is what the traffic consists of). These trips will continue to clog local and feeder roads whether or not some of their total length is in a motorway tunnel. But if these trips were shifted onto the buses, there would be PLENTY of road left for the trips that they are best suited for – deliveries, tradies, bulky shopping etc and trips out of the central core. This is how it works in most of the cities of Europe and Asia.

    This doesn’t mean (@Ray) that those who choose to live in the peripheral low-density wastelands can’t keep their cars – provided thay are prepered to switch to electric cars and pay the cost of generating the renewable energy to power them.

  24. Mushalik says:

    @gseeney

    There is nothing which can replace oil. Although we are now in year 10 of peaking crude oil production I see no attempts to transition the economy away from oil.

    13/10/2011 NSW gas as transport fuel. Where are the plans?
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/nsw-gas-as-transport-fuel-where-are-the-plans

    We are exporting all our gas. 5.5LNG trains would be needed in Australia to replace all oil based fuels.

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a primary energy source. EVs will mainly depend on coal power. Unless solar power plants (molten salt as storage) are built immediately, the oil based transport system will be driven until

    (a) oil is so expensive that no one can afford it (would have already happened in 2008/09 but then they started to print money)

    (b) there are physical oil shortages

    Note that Australian car manufacturing is closing down and does NOT start producing EVs although there is plenty of solar power here.

    Before building anymore road tunnels a binding transition plan for the next 10-20 years has to be in place. But the government is in denial mode

    8/9/2013 New Australian Prime Minister is sceptical that peak oil has value for policy making
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/new-australian-prime-minister-is-sceptical-that-peak-oil-has-value-for-policy-making

    All these perpetual traffic growth models are based on untested assumptions on future energy supplies.

  25. Mushalik says:

    @Ray

    Peak oil is not about “running out of oil”, it is about oil production not growing and our oil-based economy doesn’t like this.

    LNG is exported

    9/7/2014
    Energy Super Power Australia’s East Coast running low on affordable domestic gas
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/energy-super-power-australias-east-coast-running-low-on-affordable-domestic-gas

    It is wishful thinking to believe that there is a right for free movement if the energy isn’t cheap enough and isn’t readily available.

    In relation to the Middle East, the 2003 Iraq war has not brought us far and it is now mixed with a religious war which could go on for decades

    16/3/2013 Iraq war and its aftermath failed to stop the beginning of peak oil in 2005
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/iraq-war-and-its-aftermath-failed-to-stop-the-beginning-of-peak-oil-in-2005

    15/6/2014
    World’s untested assumption on 6 mb/d of Iraqi oil by 2020
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/worlds-untested-assumption-on-6-mbd-iraqi-oil-by-2020

    In other words: those supporting new road tunnels would have to prove beyond doubt that Iraq will produce 6 mb/d by 2020 and that they can export peacefully their oil.

    Air travel: domestic flights can be replaced by electric night trains, but it’s not being done. It would take many years

    5/12/2011
    Australian intercity rail run-down and unprepared to replace domestic flights after peak oil
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/australian-intercity-rail-run-down-and-unprepared-to-replace-domestic-flights-after-peak-oil

    8/9/2014 Qantas growing passenger numbers don’t increase revenue
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/qantas-growing-passenger-numbers-dont-increase-revenue

    12/2/2014
    Despite growth in passenger numbers Virgin Australia can’t make money since 2009
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/despite-passenger-growth-virgin-australia-cant-make-money-since-2009

    Oil prices are down down and have given airlines a grace period, but for how long?

  26. gseeney says:

    Mushalik: “would have already happened in 2008/09 but then they started to print money”

    ^^^ you sound like one of those doomsday pastors that keeps pushing the date of the apocalypse back as each day passes without incident.

    You would look a lot more credible if you linked to mainstream sources rather than what I presume is your own website.

  27. Simon says:

    Ray,
    Not sure how you figure WestConnex isn’t about getting to the city. Journeys from it to North Sydney and the lower Northern Beaches will continue via the CBD and the Western Distributor in particular. Journeys to Chatswood and the upper Northern Beaches will continue via Homebush Bay Deviation. To the Eastern Suburbs (& St Leonards) is probably a valid one though.

    Regarding moves to reduce traffic on Parramatta Rd, Sydney’s Bus Future has the first move – a limited stops and more frequent version of the 461. Faster Rail services will also reduce traffic here and on the M4.

  28. Mushalik says:

    @gseeney
    What you call doomsday has now become reality in the form of the budget problem

    Why did Rudd have to start that stimulus package? Look at the drop in company tax after the financial crisis, using government budget data:

    28/5/2014
    Australian budget hit by global financial crisis and high oil prices (part 1)
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/australian-budget-hit-by-gfc-and-high-oil-prices-part-1

    Yes, it’s my website and no, you won’t get these graphs in the mainstream media

    And since the budget is in deficit, the government is hell-bent to get private money to fund these road tunnels. As 4 tunnels have already gone into bankruptcy and court cases are pending banks may be hesitant to invest.

  29. JC says:

    @Mushalik: We do have to worry about climate change, local pollution, urban blight and congestion – and roadbuiding should be avoided so that those prblems are ameliorated. We don’t have to worry about peak oil – this is a complete red herring. If/when the oil runs down, the “evil capitalists”/”efficient market” (delete according to ideology) will cope and provide alternatives – possibly more polluting possibly less, possibly more expensive possibly less (the stone age didn’t finish because we ran out of stone).

    If anything “peak oil” would be a solution for climate change rather a problem – as it is the climate can’t cope with burning the coal and oil we already know we have.

  30. JC says:

    @Mushalik – but completely agree on the intercity rail point! I tried to organise an alternative to car/plane to get the Brisbane – but the otherwise ideal night train arrives at 04.00 – it’s as though they are deliberately are trying to discourage passengers.

    HST is an expensive (probably unaffordably so) alternative – what we need are trians that run at normal European intercity speeds c.200 km/h on rebuilt track to standard (not HS) technology that would make intercity trips on a Newcastle-Sydney-Canberra-Wollongong network a preferable alternative for all travellers (trips around 1-1.5 hours), and for all but the very time-pressed business travellers on the intercapital routes (trips around 5 hours). The lines could be switched to half speed at night (100 km/h trains are still a pipe dream in Aus) to allow for freight and sleepers (you need 10 hours to have a comfortable ride and a good night’s sleep to Melbourne or Brisbane)

    @Bambul – sorry. This is a bit of a digression from the nightmare of a motorway cutting through Balmain and Lane Cove – maybe we need a post on intercity??

  31. Mushalik says:

    @JC “peak oil a complete red herring”

    (1) conventional oil has peaked in 2006. Listen to Fatih Birol interview in ABC Catalyst oil crunch story April 2011

    (2) As a result of this process, oil prices went up, converged with an accumulated petrodollar debt crisis and triggered the financial crisis. Read research from James Hamilton

    Causes and consequences of the oil shock 2007/08
    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/brookings_papers_on_economic_activity/v2009/2009.1.hamilton.html

    (3) In Australia this had following impacts

    3.1 budget deficit (less company tax)
    3.2 Gove refinery closed due to high fuel prices and lack of domgas policy
    3.3 Shell, Caltex and BP oil production is in decline, South East Asian oil production including in Australia has peaked, making imports of crude from far-away countries more expensive. Result: refineries are closing.
    3.4 High jet fuel prices resulted in Qantas, Virgin not making money. Result: job losses
    3.5 Car manufacturing closing down because companies did not go for fuel efficient cars in time. Howard government did not advise them accordingly

    (4) peak oil in many countries

    25/6/2014 Analysis BP Statistical Review 2014: Oil prices started to skyrocket when 1/4 of global supplies went into irreversible decline
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/oil-prices-started-to-skyrocket-when-one-quarter-of-global-supplies-went-into-irreversible-decline

    “If anything “peak oil” would be a solution for climate change rather a problem”

    (5) The response of the oil and gas industry to the conventional oil peak was to go for unconventional oil, adding more CO2

    (6) Weak(er) economies due to high oil prices have resulted in budget deficits, thus limiting the ability to finance renewable energy projects in a peaceful transition. Therefore, it is doubly wasteful that the Abbott government wants to spend $$$ billions on new toll-ways instead of in renewable energies

    (7) Yes, ultimately, declining oil production will result in less CO2 but only by bringing down the global economy

    (8) The world has 4 big problems which are all interconnected:

    financial debt, peaking oil production, disintegration of the Middle East and global warming

    9/11/2011 System Dynamics peak oil, financial and CO2 debt, ME geopolitics
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/system-dynamics-peak-oil-financial-and-co2-debt-me-geopolitics

  32. JC says:

    @mushalik: peak oil leading to higher prices leading to expensive jet fuel leading to job losses in the aviation sector and job losses in the refineries sector is inevitable. Do you think we should protect oil refinery jobs even when there is no oil left to refine???? There is some seriously woolly thinking there. The question is what we replace the declinig oil with. We need effective climate change policy (so the refinery and airline jobs are replaced by renewable energy and rail jobs – not unconventional oil) not a “peak oil policy” based on some idea that we can centrally plan resource extraction and management on a global scale – shades of soviet 5-year plans.

  33. Ray says:

    Everyone seems to be missing the point about WestConnex. It is in a TUNNEL and it doesn’t disrupt existing local communities like a surface motorway could. Most importantly, by diverting through traffic off Parramatta Rd, it creates an opportunity to introduce traffic calming measures AND alternative public transport options such as BRT or Light Rail, which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Without WestConnex, even with the best will in the world, nothing is going to change on Parramatta Rd and its amenity will continue to deteriorate.

    I’m still waiting to hear of a credible alternative solution to congestion on the inner city road network in the absence a WestConnex proposal. It’s wishful thinking if you believe that a decline in private car usage is going to have any impact in the foreseeable future. It would be decades before that is likely to happen and in the meantime we can’t afford to sit on our hands and do nothing.

  34. JC says:

    Well Ray we’ll try again….. Roads make traffic – always have, always will. I don’t see Canterbury Road turning into a pedestrian paradise becasue we have the M5. Parramatta Road will be no different. The congestion doesn’t go away – just the $billions spent on the roads.

  35. gseeney says:

    This is the entire point of the article – don’t campaign against the road, campaign for the associated improvements that it can provide but you suggest probably won’t. Make it happen. It is a hell of a lot more likely than getting the project scrapped.

    – 24/7 centre lane BRT down Victoria Rd, City West link, Anzac Bridge and Western Distributor, Parramatta Rd
    – Minimise clearways on the same routes to peak hours, peak direction only
    – Road pavement treatments and encouragement of footpath dining
    – Take back lanes on the bridge, at least for an (a couple of) extra bus lane(s)
    – Remove Cahill expressway or make it bus only

    Now is the time to push these issues – they are things that certainly wouldn’t be likely without Westconnex. It may not even be likely with Westconnex that all of that will be achieved, but at least some of it should be (kerbside BRT on Parramatta Rd and Victoria Rd being a more likely outcome).

    This road should be considered primarily for trucks, freight and couriers that are on the road every day keeping the city running, and as such priced appropriately during peak times. This should be a damn expensive road to drive on as the time wasted when commercial traffic sits bumper to bumper on Parramatta Rd is damn expensive.

    I am absolutely not a roads advocate – I am driven primarily by a desire to improve public transport, and it is because of this rather than despite it that I support this proposal.

    With a high toll and lane reductions on the surface to support public transport we could actually keep traffic volumes steady, or at least to a moderate increase. The trend to reduced car ownership and milage per person is encouraging, and I hope it continues as we build out improved public transport.

    Some suggest a CBD congestion charge. The problem with this is that the vast majority of traffic on Sydney’s freeways is not heading for the CBD and is actually cross regional, i.e. South West to UNSW, Inner West to Macquarie Park, North Shore to Parramatta etc. Tightening up parking restrictions in these non CDB centres is part of the solutions. Building up cross regional public transport is part of the solution. And imposing time of day tolling on untilled sections of our major thoroughfares is a part of the solution. This road alone is not going to solve the problem, but by allowing cars to avoid the CBD it can be made part of the solution by driving public transport improvements.

  36. Mushalik says:

    @JC
    For the foreseeable future, there will always be oil to refine in Australia although production peaked in 2000 and is in decline. Australian oil is a light oil and requires other imported crude oil to be blended into the mix in order to be refined. The question is only to which extent this is both efficient and affordable.It makes no sense to subsidize Australian refineries and then burn up fuels in cars with just 1.3 passengers per car running in badly designed cities.

    What matters in an emergency situation of physical, global oil shortages (as we had it in 1973 and 1979) is that there are fuels available to run essential services. For those who don’t know what an oil crisis means:

    http://crudeoilpeak.info/oil-crisis-1973

    http://crudeoilpeak.info/my-experience-oil-crisis-1979

    The 1st action required would be to start a public strategic oil and fuel reserve equivalent to 90 days requirements. The cost should be borne by a special fuel levy. At present neither the coalition nor the opposition has the courage to do that. Therefore, Australia remains highly vulnerable to a global oil crisis.

    In case no Australian refinery remains commercially viable, the government should at least buy one mothballed refinery to have the physical capacity to supply essential services. The Caltex refinery in Sydney, for example, is dismantled and would not be available.

    As mentioned above, in Australia gas is the only alternative fuel available in sufficient quantities to replace oil based fuels (energy equivalent of 5.5 LNG trains). For jet fuel, a gas-to-liquids refinery would be needed. But all this gas is exported. What’s worse is that no supply infrastructure for CNG and LNG for road vehicles is built up.

  37. Mushalik says:

    @Ray
    Of course exhaust stacks disrupt communities. Moreover, all roads near the entry and exit points of tunnels would need to be widened.

  38. shiggyshiggy says:

    @gseeney agree with everything you just said, but I may add that of course they are going to take out lanes for public transport on Parramatta Road/ pedestrians. I can’t think of a better way for the government to successfully ‘encourage’ traffic into this new tunnel.

  39. Mushalik says:

    @ Ray
    Credible alternative to Westconnex. A road tunnel will not solve congestion problems under the assumption of business-as-usual traffic growth scenarios.We all know this after decades of building motorways I have done the following calculations for NorthConnex

    10/10/2014 Sydney’s risky NorthConnex tunnel will not solve congestion problem
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/sydneys-risky-northconnex-tunnel-will-not-solve-congestion-problem

    This is one year old and would need updating:

    12/11/2013 Sydney’s Westconnex road tunnel proposal based on too many untested assumptions
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/sydneys-westconnex-road-tunnel-proposal-based-on-too-many-untested-assumptions

    65% of NSW population growth and therefore assumed traffic growth comes from an ambitious immigration program running at levels 3 times higher than in the 1980s. So the 1st step is to reduce the overseas immigration intake. That would also reduce pressure on the housing market. Dick Smith proposes 70 K pa. http://dicksmithpopulation.com/

    The solution is to close down car lanes and replace it by electric rail (see Transperth). We can also have cargo-trams http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CarGoTram

  40. Simon says:

    JC, none of those are reasons not to introduce a CBD congestion charge. They’re just reasons not to stop at doing that. An airport congestion charge would be the next move.

  41. Ray says:

    Getting back to the original theme of this thread with regard to a 2nd harbour road tunnel, I don’t think those idiots at Infrastructure NSW know what they’re doing. Their first State Infrastructure report was largely ignored and the latest update for the most part follows the Government line, particularly with its support of the Rail Futures program, which is hardly what I would call an INDEPENDENT analysis. I can’t see any reason for its existence.

    With their 2nd harbour road tunnel they are suggesting a tunnel from North Sydney to Balmain linking with a northern connection to WestConnex. Up to this point, the harbour crossing has been flagged as a link to the M2 Motorway in the vicinity of Lane Cove, bypassing North Sydney, and providing a more direct link between the North Coast and South Coast, which would be a more sensible long term objective. Traffic from the Northern Beaches could still gain access to the South Coast via either the Harbour Tunnel and Eastern Distributor or the Harbour Bridge, Western Distributor and Anzac Bridge. Their recommended tunnel alignment is a duplication of the existing crossings, when the traffic flow should be spread further west of the CBD. It’s all academic anyway, because it’s programed so far into the future that any new government at the time may have a different strategy.

    Which leads me to an entirely not unrelated issue. The Government is basing its whole infrastructure strategy on leasing 49% of the “Poles and Wires” to fund its program. There is no guarantee, regardless of who wins the election, that the necessary legislation will be approved by Parliament. Assuming the Coalition wins, if they can’t get the legislation through, then all of their plans fall in a heap. What is their Plan B?

    I would like to see an independent cost/benefit analysis of the relative merits of selling off the electricity infrastructure for a one off windfall to fund their program compared with the benefit of maintaining the dividends from the government owned electricity distribution authorities over the long term.

    Governments, both State and Federal, cannot rely on selling off assets to fund programs indefinitely. There is a limit to how far this can go. Sooner or later, they have to come up with a long term strategy to raise funds through the tax system to finance vital infrastructure works.

  42. JC says:

    Ray: Good point.

    A truly independent cost-benefit analysis would conclude that the value of the wires is greater in the public sector than in the private sector because money is cheaper. A triple-A government can borrow at low interest rates, and therefore has more money left over at the end fo the year to pay dividends than an A-rated (or lower) private company. The difference in official CBAs comes from intangible stuff like better management in the public sector, long term incertainty, risk to AAA ratings etc. If you assume these are the same for public and prvate, the sensible thing to do would be to borrow the money for the infrastructure cheap and pay it off with the dividends from the wires businesses. As proposed, we are effectively borroeing money at provatp-sector rates to build public sector assets.

    But M Thatcher’s ghost still haunts despite the evidence, and both sides of politics will continue think that privatising assets is free money. Like Westconnex itself and the much debated undersized NWRL tunnels we just have to accept that the decision is made make sure that the public gets the best end of a bad deal i.e. maximising the share that goes into public transport.

  43. JC says:

    Simon – 100% agree. Congestion charge is a top priority (esp if the expected revenue is put to easy wins like bus lanes and buses to fill some of the space freed up by the discouraged cars.)

  44. Simon says:

    I think the reason for Infrastructure NSW’s existence is creating it was an election promise.

  45. Alexsg says:

    @Simon
    The problem wasn’t so much the creation of Infrastructure NSW but the people they put in charge of it. Greiner and Broad basically wanted motorway construction to be given absolute priority in the government’s infrastructure planning and budget – a return to the discredited 1950s freeway agenda, as Gatenby points out.

    They had to grudgingly accept the government’s election commitment to NWRL but tried to argue that the ESR should be extended to Randwick as an alternative to the CESLR. Incidentally this was their only new rail proposal – everything else to do with public transport was to be done with buses, including a CBD bus tunnel. (Incidentally all their proposals in this area completely exceeded their brief and led to a stoush with Berjiklian, which ultimately led to their departure.)

    From this mess emerged the WestConnex proposal, with Broad making gratuitous swipes at the people who had saved the inner-city suburbs in the 1970s from being destroyed by the then conservative government’s freeway program. In its first iteration WestConnex was little more than a thought bubble, with the freeway-in-a-slot code for “we really would have liked to have built WestConnex on the surface but all those NIMBYs would get in the way.”

    The slot proposal would have been an environmental disaster for Parramatta Road but this wasn’t what killed the idea. Instead it was the realisation after only a brief assessment that the slot proposal was actually more expensive than a tunnel, which is something you would have thought Infrastructure for NSW should have worked out for themselves.

    Of course this didn’t stop WestConnex itself – this is NSW! So it was full steam ahead, with almost every politician in the state and federally on both sides of politics falling over themselves to support a project which as far as I can tell still does not have a decent cost-benefit analysis or projections of usage.

    I’m not against seeing how we could maximise the public transport opportunities that WestConnex could provide, though I think those should involve a lot more than a bit of red paint on Parramatta Road. But before we do this I think we should not assume it is a fair accompli and ask whether there are better ways to spend $13 billion on transport infrastructure, like for example a two-lane truck road to the port and airport as Christie suggested, combined with a major rail freight upgrade to the airport and elsewhere on the system and construction of a couple of metro lines.

    I’m not suggesting these are the only alternatives but they provide a starting point. At the very least all future motorway proposals should include detailed plans for complementary public transport, ideally with provision for dedicated PT bus or light rail lanes, or for heavy rail/metro corridors.

    @QPP
    I hope that Andrews keeps his promise if he wins the Victorian election, especially now that Abbott has nailed his colours to the mast and confirmed that the state will lose a few billion in funding if the East West road link is canned.

    While the election isn’t a referendum on the motorway, people will be voting with their eyes wide open regarding the financial outcomes and the loss of money both in the form of grants and compensation to the companies involved if the contracts are torn up. A Labor win (which despite the polls is certainly not guaranteed) would indicate that people would prefer the public transport alternative despite these costs. If Andrews has any sense though, he would probably give the companies involved some sort of preferred renderer status for work on the metro rail tunnel proposal.

    Incidentally, is nobody going to respond to the substantive arguments against WestConnex that Gatenby made in the article I quoted from?

  46. Simon says:

    It’s not just the personalities in iNSW. Their brief was to examine which road was the most “worthy”.

  47. Mushalik says:

    @JC

    One wonders what the value is of poles and wires which were designed to connect to coal fired power stations. A grid for renewable energies would be different. Th supercell storm in Brisbane is again a reminder we are running out of time. NASA climatologist James Hansen gave Australian coal “a decade or so” at a 2010 lecture in Sydney Uni:

    20 seconds clip:

    Full lecture:

    From here:
    http://www.usyd.edu.au/sydney_ideas/lectures/2010/professor_james_hansen.shtml

    If anything, proceeds from the sales of poles and wires should be used to develop renewable energies, not oil dependent infrastructure.

  48. Ray says:

    Sorry Mushalik, but I can’t be bothered reading your ideological diatribe. When you come up with some practical real world solutions, then I’m prepared to listen.

  49. JC says:

    @Mushalik. With the exception of Alan Jones and Tony Abbott everyone knows that coal is on the way out. More than anyone, the people who will buy the NSW wires know that – and the fact that some of assetts have a limited life (as you say) is already factored into the price that they will be prepared to pay.

  50. Ray says:

    With the Electricity Regulator imposing restrictions on the distribution network’s upgrading of infrastructure, there is a clear downgrading of the potential windfall that the State Government could expect from the partial privatisation of the State owned distribution entities. What is their Plan B?

  51. Mushalik says:

    Their plan B is now to get The East-West Link money from Melbourne. But watch what will happen to toll-way tunnel plans as EWL documentation is made public and exposes what could possibly be engineered data

  52. Alexsg says:

    Obviously East-West v. Metro wasn’t the only issue in the Victorian election but it was a significant one, especially with Abbott’s threat to withdraw the funding promised for the former if Labor won. This certainly appears to have highlighted the issue but not in the way that Abbott and Napthine intended; it succeeded only in further linking the unpopularity of the former with the latter.

    And as I said earlier people in Victoria voted in full knowledge of the choice on offer – and in spite of Abbott’s threat they have chosen the public transport alternative. This is not the first time public transport has figured in a Victorian election – the Lib’s cuts to country rail services and Labor’s promise to bring them back was a significant factor in the defeat of the Kennett government.

    Just as this left the Bracks government with little choice but to invest in rural train services, so Andrews will have to deliver on his promise to cancel the EW contracts and build the metro rail line, unfortunately without any federal assistance. I just wish NSW voters had such a clear choice available over the WestConnex proposal – though it would help if they shared the passion of their Victorian counterparts for public transport.

  53. @Alexsg –

    I have noticed quite a few contrasts between the NSW and Victorian Governments in this regard.

    In Victoria, the Government was elected promising to expand public transport. Then in Government they spent 3 1/2 years focusing on building a new road project. Whereas in NSW, the Government was elected promising to both expand public transport and the road network. In government, they pushed both projects.

    In Victoria, the East West Link was funded in the coming years, whereas the Melbourne Rail Link had most of its funding pushed back to the budget outyears. In NSW, both the NWRL and WestConnex are fully funded. In addition, plans exist to fund future expansions of both the road and rail network (plus the bus network too).

    In Victoria, construction on the East West Link was to begin soon whereas the Melbourne Rail Link and Airport Rail Line were not to begin construction until many years into the future. In NSW, construction on the NWRL begun before WestConnex, with both to be completed by the end of the decade. Plans are also in place to build a Second Harbour Rail crossing by 2024/25.

    In Victoria, a road project was the centrepiece of the Government’s transport infrastructure plan. In NSW, it is a rail project.

    All this (together with ICAC and memories of the last Labor Government) explain why the NSW Government continues to do well in the polls and is likely to be re-elected, whereas their Victorian counterparts have gone back into opposition.

  54. Ray says:

    I understand the point you’re making Bambul, but the NSW Government hasn’t exactly been exemplary in making decisions based on open and transparent debate. There has been so much secretiveness in their decision making that you would have to question their legitimacy. Examples are the North West Rapid Transit and future extension across the harbour, contrary to their election promise to integrate this proposal with the existing rail network, the Sydney Rail Futures program, the Newcastle rail line truncation and aspects of the WestConnex proposal. If they were so sure that they had made the right decisions, then what have they got to hide?

    Their resistance to release confidential reports suggests that there is an agenda designed to bypass them and hoodwink the public. I smell a rat. If these reports supported their decisions, then there wouldn’t be an issue. They’re treating the public like mugs.

    It may not have an impact on the outcome of the next election, but it certainly will in the following election in 2019.

  55. gseeney says:

    I suspect it is more likely that reports aren’t released because they suggest things that the public wouldn’t like. For instance, I bet that the reports on the SRT talk about terminating the Western Line (as part of the $1b upgrade program) at Sydney Terminal.

    You can claim all you like that the decisions or the government are going against advice, but it seems a lot more likely that these are actually driven by the public service – hence the political risk in changing from the pre-election plan to the current (much better) plan on the NWRL.

  56. Alexsg says:

    @Bambul – “In NSW, both the NWRL and WestConnex are fully funded. In addition, plans exist to fund future expansions of both the road and rail network (plus the bus network too).”

    Well, if by fully-funded you mean that the federal and state governments have promised to tip in a few billion towards the $11 billion cost of a tunnel planned under Parramatta Road with the rest to be funded by an unspecified toll for an as yet unknown number of users, then yes, I suppose you could call WestConnex “fully-funded”.

    What’s that? Oh sorry, I meant $13 billion. Sorry, didn’t quite catch that either. You mean, it’s not going under Parramatta Road but will follow the City West link to Rozelle instead and end up a kilometre longer? Ah, it doesn’t matter where it goes, how long it is or what it costs, it’s all “fully funded”.

    Incidentally, on the subject of Magic puddings, read Sandy Thomas’s great letter in the SMH the other day about how the rail yards at Rozelle have become the gift that keeps on giving – a maintenance facility fir the light rail, part of a massive residential development and new the portal and interchange for WestConnex – you name it, it’s going into Rozelle.

    @Ray – exactly the point I was trying to make.

    @gseeney – I’m not sure what you are saying here, but the whole point of transparency is so that the governemt is accountable to the public for its decisions. Either the politicians are bypassing the advice of the public sector as Ray says, or they are beholden to the bureaucrats as you seem to be saying, but it doesn’t matter – the public should be told what that advice is, if the government has accepted it or rejected it, and why.

  57. QPP says:

    >>I suspect it is more likely that reports aren’t released because they suggest things that the public wouldn’t like. For instance, I bet that the reports on the SRT talk about terminating the Western Line (as part of the $1b upgrade program) at Sydney Terminal.

    You can claim all you like that the decisions or the government are going against advice, but it seems a lot more likely that these are actually driven by the public service – hence the political risk in changing from the pre-election plan to the current (much better) plan on the NWRL.<<

    Agree

    Transparency would be better in an ideal world. But faced with relentlessly negative reporting from Fairfax and an army of armchair experts, all of whom seem to be utterly convinced that only THEIR particular plan could possibly be the right one, and that anyone who can't see that must be corrupt or stupid, or both, I'm not surprised they've gone for the "Head down and just get on with it" option

    NIMBYs and the "No! MY plan" brigade have damaged and delayed transport provision for 15 years in this state, this government appears to have taken a conscious decision to just drive on. Yes, there is a payoff and it's not a positive one, but it's a price they think is worth paying

  58. Alexsg says:

    @QPP – ‘NIMBYs and the “No! MY plan” brigade have damaged and delayed transport provision for 15 years in this state, this government appears to have taken a conscious decision to just drive on. Yes, there is a payoff and it’s not a positive one, but it’s a price they think is worth paying.’

    Thanks – I love a bit of satire on a Friday morning as much as anyone, but on reading this I laughed so much I nearly ended up with muesli all over my iPad!

    All I can say is that you must have been living in a different state for the past 15 years. Here in NSW, public transport provision has been damaged and delayed by a mixture of government incompetence and treasury intransigence. The previous government announced, de-announced and re-announced various rail and metro links so many times that it lost all credibility (note I said public transport – it didn’t seem to have a problem building road projects like the M7).

    Part of the problem was that to satisfy Treasury and the no-debt, no new taxes mantra, the government to link the metro project to another beloved NSW magic pudding, electricity privatisation. When that was shot down it panicked and tried to sell its plan B which was almost literally drawn up on the back of an envelope – a metro to serve the huge demand for travel between Rozelle and Central. This was a concept that was so bizarre that it was criticised by just about everyone in the state, and not just Fairfax. In the end Keneally had it taken out and shot, but not before it had cost NSW taxpayers around $400 million.

    In that regard I find the comments about Fairfax a bit rich. Through much of this time Fairfax was trying to get the government to do something – anything – about public transport. Hence the Christie Inquiry (and to declare an interest I was involved in that). Besides when it comes to media I think you’ll find NSW governments are much more concerned about Murdoch and Alan Jones than they are about Jacob Saulswick and Fairfax.

    The irony here is that most people agree that the current government and Berejiklian in particular are to be applauded for breaking the deadlock and actually committing to public transport investment – and in the process standing up to the likes of Greiner and Broad. However this does not mean they are immune from criticism, both in regard to the execution of these policies and also in relation to their belief that all Sydney’s congestion problems can be solved with yet another huge road project.

    It also does not excuse them from public scrutiny and accountability. If some of the resulting criticism is unfair, so be it – that’s democracy and not an excuse to hide information from the public.

  59. Ray says:

    @Alexsg – Yes, I agree with what you say and as I have reiterated, my major concern is the secretiveness surrounding their decision making. If they were more transparent, providing evidence to justify their proposals, then I’m sure the public would support them.

    Referring to the influence of the public service, media reports in the last few days have suggested that Paul Keating and Peter Costello were successful Federal Treasurers because they didn’t solely rely on advice from the Treasury, but had developed outside networks to offer alternative opinions. That’s something that Joe Hockey would be well advised to consider. It’s also a lesson that our State politicians, particularly Gladys Berejiklian, could take heed of instead of being captive to the bureaucrat’s agenda.

  60. michblogs says:

    The part I can’t understand, is why anyone living in a new apartment at Homebush, or Auburn, or Granville, would want to spend 65 minutes shlepping to the CBD on a bus, or 55 minutes on a tram, when it is only 20 minutes on the train ??

  61. @Michblogs –

    If I were one of those people, I would still get the train to the CBD. But I would get a bus/tram to somewhere like Parramatta or Olympic Park.

  62. Alexsg says:

    @mitchblogs and Bambul – the people who will live in the new high-density developments in the Parramatta road corridor which are close to any of the stations will have the choice of using the rail network to access the CBD. In fact that would still be their best option to get to Parramatta or even Olympic Park, but they would be able to use any LR or BRT to access more local destinations along Parramatta Road.

    However there are parts of of the corridor which are not particularly close to the rail line and these residents will be much more reliant on the bus/tram infrastructure on Parramatta Road both for short and long-term destinations.

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