Government response: Sucks to be you

The Government has released its response to last year’s Upper House Road Tolling Inquiry.

To summarise, the Inquiry found that: People can’t afford the tolls.

To which the Government responded: Neither can we. Sucks to be you.

(The words used were more flowery than that: “Without [tolls], the roads Sydney needs would not be built”.)

Which all raises the question: if Western Sydney’s toll roads aren’t affordable for drivers, or for governments, then why do we keep building them?

The answer is: to pay for roads being built in Eastern Sydney.  According to the Government, “user pays … includes instances where the user of one toll road is subsidising the cost of another toll road”

The government does not explain why it’s fair for Western Sydney drivers to subsidise Eastern Sydney drivers.

The government goes on to claim that “Road users … are prepared to pay a toll.”

As if there were a choice.

Road users might be prepared to pay a toll that’s fair, but the current toll is not fair.

The toll is too expensive, goes up too fast, and stays on for too long.

Motorists are being forced to pay $4.74 to save a couple of minutes, compared to the old freeway.

You have to be making a fair amount per hour before that becomes a fair price, and it’s only going to get more expensive.

The price is going to go up by 4% a year, more than twice as fast as salaries are rising.

Even at the current price, the M4 expansion will have been paid off after 2 or 3 years of tolls.

But M4 motorists will be paying 40 years of tolls.

Many motorists are already unable to pay the current toll.

Putting the toll on the M4 has reduced the number of vehicles using the M4 and increased the number using other roads.

All that has been done is to make one road a bit faster, at the cost of making other roads slower.

As a ‘solution’ to Sydney’s traffic problems, this is about as effective as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

What Western Sydney Motorists need is for the Government and the Opposition to:

  1. reduce the toll to a fair level, and
  2. promise to lift the toll entirely, once the expansion is paid off.

Nothing short of that is fair to Western Sydney.

The Inquiry’s report is here.

The Government’s response is here.

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Would you like to pay 43 years of tolls, or just 6?

Starting on 15 August, the M4 and the M5 are to be tolled for the next 43 years, to pay for WestConnex Stage 3.

On 7 June, the Daily Telegraph reported that Luke Foley supports “all three stages of the WestConnex”  (subscription may be required).

If this is true, it would reverse Labor’s previous position, which was to support the first two stages of WestConnex, but not Stage 3.

Well placed sources have confirmed that Foley did say that the M4 and M5 need to be linked, but he did not say how they should be linked.

Stage 3, also known as the M4-M5 Link is an enormously expensive tunnel under the inner city. It will eventually connect Haberfield and Balmain to Kingsford Smith Airport, via St Peters. If built, it will cost at least $8 billion dollars.

It would link the M4 and the M5, but that is not the only way that the M4 and the M5 can be linked.

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The City of Sydney have released an ‘Alternative to WestConnex‘. Their alternative proposes linking the M4 and the M5. But they don’t propose building an expensive tunnel. Instead, the City of Sydney would upgrading the A3 (King Georges Rd to Centenary Drive).

EcoTransit, a public transport lobby group, believe the City of Sydney plan is superior to the WestConnex M4-M5 plan. But they also believe that there is an even better option – to upgrade the A6 (Silverwater Road to Stacey St).

Why this matters

Tunnels are expensive, about ten times times as expensive as a normal road.

Upgrading either the A3 or the A3 would provide all the benefits of the tunnel, but at a fraction of the cost.

And that means that the government wouldn’t need to charge 43 years of tolls. Just 6 years of tolls could raise enough money to pay for it all.

Upgrading the A3 or the A6, or both, would not only provide a linkage between the M4 and the M5, it would make it easier to get around Western Sydney.

This which would encourage businesses to locate in the West rather than in the East. And that means more jobs in Western Sydney.

So why does that the Liberal Government want to build an expensive tunnel under the inner city, rather than upgrade existing roads in the Western Suburbs? Truth is, we don’t know. But the M4-M5 Link does one thing that an upgrade of the A3 or the A6 doesn’t. The M4-M5 Link makes it easier to get from the North Shore to the Airport.

Whatever the reason, if it gets built, Western Sydney gets to pay for it.

The Government’s sneaky plan to privatise the M4.

Right now, the M4 is owned by the people of NSW, and is free to use.

Some time in the next few months, drivers will start paying $4.42 to drive from Church Street to Homebush Bay Drive.

That money isn’t going to the NSW government. It’s going to a company called SMC  – Sydney Motorway Corporation.

The government has given the M4 to SMC, for the next 40 years.

SMC will charge drivers up to $8.60 – each way. And this toll will increase by 4% a year. This is twice as fast as wages are rising.

You’ll never see a for-sale sign on the M4.

SMC is government owned, so transferring control of the M4 to SMC doesn’t count as selling the M4.

All you’ll see SMC is being sold. But SMC has control of the M4.

So when SMC goes, the M4 goes with it.

If you don’t think this is a good idea, Stuart Ayres is the Minister responsible for the M4. There will be a rally at his office tomorrow, Monday the 5th. For more detail, visit https://www.evensi.com/rally-outside-stuart-ayres-office-510-high-st-penrith-nsw/213033174

Save 40 Minutes? Less than 15, says traffic expert.

At the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Road Tolling on 22 May, Professor
David Hensher, Director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics
Studies at the University of Sydney, was asked whether WestConnex would save
drivers 40 minutes on a trip between Parramatta and Sydney Airport.

Professor Hensher replied:

“It is too high; I do not believe it”.

Earlier the same day, Labor MLC John Graham had tabled an RMS document
showing that drivers would save around 15 minutes.

Professor Hensher said the prediction was unrealistic:

“15 minutes [would be] the best-case scenario … These are the optimistic numbers”.

The full transcript is available here:
https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/DBAssets/InquiryEventTranscript/Transcript/9919/Transcript%20-%2022%20May%202017%20-%20UNCORRECTED.pdf

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Citizen’s complaint to Minister for Planning Rob Stokes about failures in Westconnex planning process

Introduction

The People’s M4 EIS website has been quiet since submissions closed. 17 submissions were received from Government agencies and Local Councils. Approximately 4800 community groups and individuals also made submissions.

Normally ‘submitters’ as they are known are sent notification letters with a number that they can then look up in the Response to submissions report to see how ‘the proponent’, in this case Westconnex, has responded to their submission.

On this occasion, the Response to submissions report explicitly stated that letters had been sent – in fact, as far as People’s M4 East EIS is aware, these letters were never sent.  One of the People’s M4 EIS editors  has made a detailed complaint to the Department secretary Carolyn McNally which she has posted on her blog.

Today, we publish a second complaint from a resident John Hyde who lives near the M4 East project in Ashfield. If you have any questions for John or want advice on sending your own letter, post your comment at the bottom of this post. Continue reading

Haberfield School Parents and Citizens submission to M4 East

(Editor:This submission was submitted by Vice President Sherril Nixon on bahalf of the Haberfield P & C. As with a number of other organisations, the NSW Department of Planning omitted the name of the organisations meaning that members of the public would be most unlikely to find the submission. This submission was submitted before the Westconnex business case was finally released in November 2015)

The parents and community members that make up the P&C at Haberfield Public School object to the WestConnex development. We do not believe this is an efficient use of $15.4 billion of taxpayers’ funds, because we do not believe it will lead to the congestion improvements promoted by the State Government and the WestConnex Delivery Authority (now Sydney Motorway Corporation). We are deeply troubled that the State Government has ignored the community by signing contracts to build this road before releasing this EIS, thefull business case, or obtaining planning approval – this is a reprehensible lack of transparency and proper procedure. Without seeing the business case the community has no way of knowing what other alternatives were considered and what their associated costs were. We are also troubled that the ‘consultation’ with the community has primarily been done in a way that disempowers the community from feeling like they can influence the outcome.

Continue reading