Executive summary: WestConnex M4 East Environmental Impact Statement

WestConnex M4 East Environmental Impact Statement

September 2015

Prepared for WestConnex Delivery Authority
Prepared by AECOM Australia Pty Ltd, GHD Pty Ltd

Executive summary

What is proposed?

The WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA), on behalf of the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (Roads and Maritime), is seeking approval to upgrade and extend the M4 Motorway from Homebush Bay Drive at Homebush to Parramatta Road and City West Link (Wattle Street) at Haberfield. This includes twin tunnels of 5.5 kilometres in length and associated surface works to connect to the existing road network. These proposed works are described as the M4 East project (the project).

The project is a component of WestConnex, which is a NSW Government initiative to provide a 33 kilometre motorway linking Sydney’s west and south-west with Sydney Airport and the Port Botany precinct. The individual components of WestConnex are:

  • M4 Widening – Pitt Street at Parramatta to Homebush Bay Drive at Homebush (planning approval granted and under construction)
  • M4 East (the subject of this report)
  • New M5 – King Georges Road at Beverly Hills to St Peters (planning application lodged and subject to planning approval)
  • King Georges Road Interchange Upgrade (planning approval granted and work has commenced)
  • M4–M5 Link – Haberfield to St Peters, including the Southern Gateway and Southern Extension (undergoing concept development and subject to planning approval).

Separate planning applications will be lodged for each individual component project. Each project will be assessed separately, but the impacts of each project will also be considered in the context of the wider WestConnex.

The project would comprise the construction and operation of the following key features:

  • Widening, realignment and resurfacing of the M4 between Homebush Bay Drive and Underwood Road at Homebush
  • Upgrade of the existing Homebush Bay Drive interchange to connect the western end of the new tunnels to the existing M4 and Homebush Bay Drive, while maintaining all current surface connections
  • Two new three-lane tunnels (the mainline tunnels), one eastbound and one westbound, extending from west of Pomeroy Street at Homebush to near Alt Street at Haberfield, where they would terminate until the completion of the possible future M4–M5 Link (which is subject to planning approval). Each tunnel would be about 5.5 kilometres long and would have a minimum internal clearance (height) to in-tunnel services of 5.3 metres
  • A new westbound on-ramp from Parramatta Road to the M4 at Powells Creek, west of George Street at North Strathfield
  • An interchange at Concord Road, North Strathfield/Concord with on-ramps to the eastbound tunnel and off-ramps from the westbound tunnel. Access from the existing M4 to Concord Road would be maintained via Sydney Street. A new on-ramp would be provided from Concord Road southbound to the existing M4 westbound, and the existing on-ramp from Concord Road northbound to the existing M4 westbound would be removed
  • Modification of the intersection of the existing M4 and Parramatta Road, to remove the left turn movement from Parramatta Road eastbound to the existing M4 westbound
  • An interchange at Wattle Street (City West Link) at Haberfield, with an on-ramp to the westbound tunnel and an off-ramp from the eastbound tunnel. The project also includes on- and off-ramps at this interchange that would provide access to the M4–M5 Link. In addition, the westbound lanes of Wattle Street would be realigned
  • An interchange at Parramatta Road at Ashfield/Haberfield, with an on-ramp to the westbound tunnel and an off-ramp from the eastbound tunnel. In addition, the westbound lanes of Parramatta Road would be realigned
  • Installation of tunnel ventilation systems, including ventilation facilities within the existing M4 road reserve near Underwood Road at Homebush (western ventilation facility) and at the corner of Parramatta Road and Wattle Street at Haberfield (eastern ventilation facility). The eastern ventilation facility would serve both the M4 East and M4–M5 Link projects. Provision has also been made for a fresh air supply facility at Cintra Park at Concord
  • Associated surface road work on the arterial and local road network, including reconfiguration of lanes, changes to traffic signalling and phasing, and permanent road closures at a small number of local roads
  • Pedestrian and cycle facilities, including the permanent re-routing of part of the existing eastbound cycleway on the northern side of the M4 from west of Homebush Bay Drive to near Pomeroy Street, and a new westbound cycleway on-ramp connection from Queen Street at North Strathfield to the existing M4
  • Tunnel support systems and services such as electricity substations, fire pump rooms and tanks, water treatment facilities, and fire and life safety systems including emergency evacuation infrastructure
  • Motorway operations complex on the northern side of the existing M4, east of the Homebush Bay Drive interchange
  • Provision of road infrastructure and services to support the future implementation of smart motorway operations (subject to separate planning approval)
  • Installation of tolling gantries and traffic control systems along the length of the project
  • Provision of new and modified noise walls
  • Provision of low noise pavement for new and modified sections of the existing M4
  • Temporary construction ancillary facilities and temporary works to facilitate the construction of the project.

Why is the M4 East and WestConnex needed?

Parramatta Road is Sydney’s main east-west route, and the only continuous route between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD. The section of Parramatta Road between Burwood and the Sydney CBD is identified in the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan (Transport for NSW 2012a) (Transport Master Plan) as the most important Sydney transport corridor, due largely to it having the highest public transport movements of any corridor in Sydney.

Parramatta Road east of Concord Road carries more than 90,000 vehicles each day, with up to 6,000 of these being heavy vehicles. This is similar to the traffic volume on both the M4 and the M5 motorways, and means that Parramatta Road, an urban arterial road, currently carries a similar traffic volume to two of Sydney’s busiest motorways.

Parramatta Road is now one of the six most congested transport corridors in Sydney, with high travel demand and average travel speeds of private vehicles during the morning peak of about 30 kilometres an hour. The Parramatta Road corridor is also one of Sydney’s busiest corridors for public transport. It has one of the highest number of bus passengers during the morning peak of any major bus route in Metropolitan Sydney. Congestion on Parramatta Road has led to bus services using the road being delayed and unreliable.

The pressure on the road corridor is predicted to continue to increase, with greater Sydney’s population set to increase by another million people in the next 10 years and Western Sydney alone expecting an increase in population of up to 900,000 people by 2031. An increase in transport demand from and to Western Sydney will continue to rise in parallel.

While rail and public transport do provide for efficient travel between major centres, there will continue to be a need for travel by road to jobs that are dispersed across the metropolitan area and not easily accessed by public transport. In addition, public transport alone cannot provide sufficient point-topoint access to the diverse range of employment and educational hubs, shopping centres or recreational centres, nor can it provide for the safe and efficient delivery of goods and services to Sydney’s growing population.

There is also a need to provide a link between Western Sydney and other work and freight centres such as the Sydney Airport and Port Botany, which generate about $10.5 billion of economic activity for Sydney each year and both locations are heavily dependent on road vehicles for the movement of people and freight. Investment in additional road infrastructure such as the M4 East and other WestConnex projects would increase connections to Sydney’s west, where the majority of airport and port freight traffic originates or ends.

This two-way flow between the international gateways and Western Sydney is necessary for centres such as Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park to continue to experience development, urban renewal and economic benefit.

What are the M4 East project objectives?

The core objectives of the project, which are consistent with the core objectives of WestConnex, are to:

  • Support Sydney’s long-term economic growth through improved motorway access and connections linking Sydney’s international gateways (Sydney Airport and Port Botany), Western Sydney and places of business across the city
  • Relieve road congestion so as to improve the speed, reliability and safety of travel in the M4 corridor, including parallel arterial roads
  • Cater for the diverse travel demands along these corridors that are best met by road infrastructure
  • Create opportunities for urban revitalisation, improved liveability, and public and active transport (walking and cycling) improvements along and around Parramatta Road
  • Enhance the productivity of commercial and freight generating land uses strategically located near transport infrastructure
  • Enhance movements across the Parramatta Road corridor which are currently restricted
  • Fit within the financial capacity of the State and Federal Governments, in partnership with the private sector
  • Optimise user-pays contributions to support funding in a way that is affordable and equitable
  • Integrate with the preceding and proposed future stages of WestConnex, without creating significant impacts on the surrounding environment or duplicating any potential issues across the construction periods
  • Protect natural and cultural resources and enhance the environment.

How would the M4 East and WestConnex meet the project objectives?

Once completed, the project would provide immediate operational benefits along the M4 and Parramatta Road, including a reduction in travel times and improvements in the level of road safety.

The project is being developed as part of the first stage of WestConnex which also includes the M4 Widening project. Completion of both projects would provide a full motorway connection between the Blue Mountains in the west and Haberfield in the east. Future stages of WestConnex would link the project with Sydney’s south-west, as well as integral freight centres at Sydney Airport and the Port Botany precinct.

As such, the project would support NSW’s key economic generators and provide a strategic response to currently inadequate and highly congested transport routes. Critically, this includes providing the missing link in the motorway network which supports Sydney’s global economic corridor.

Integrated land use and transport planning initiatives are key factors in developing a future in which Sydney’s growing population can reliably access jobs and services. To fulfil this need, the integrated package of transport improvements delivered by WestConnex would include complementary enhancements to the existing road network, a redesign of bus services and facilities, improved access to rail stations, and upgrades to cyclist and pedestrian facilities.

The project complements a number of other transport and freight-based infrastructure initiatives identified in the Transport Master Plan. Ultimately, it is the combination of these initiatives that will best address Sydney’s needs.

To protect natural and cultural resources and enhance the environment, design, construction and operation of the project would be undertaken in accordance with environmental management commitments identified in this environmental impact statement (EIS), as well as any additional measures identified in conditions of approval for the project.

What is the approval process for the project?

Clause 94 of State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 permits development for the purpose of a road or road infrastructure facilities to be carried out on any land by or on behalf of a public authority without consent. The project is therefore permissible without development consent.

On 5 December 2014, the project was declared by the Minister for Planning to be State significant infrastructure and critical State significant infrastructure, under sections 115U(4) and 115V of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (EP&A Act) and clause 16 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011. Approval from the Minister for Planning is required for State significant infrastructure, and an EIS is required to be submitted and publicly displayed.

What alternatives were considered?

A number of different alternatives to the project were considered. These included:

  • A ‘base case’ (or ‘do minimum’) alternative. This alternative involves retaining the M4 (with the M4 Widening completed) and Parramatta Road as the main east-west route between Western Sydney and Haberfield. This alternative would not involve any other WestConnex projects
  • Improving the existing arterial road network, such as upgrading Parramatta Road, Victoria Road and/or alternative road corridors such as Patterson Street, Gipps Street, Queens Road and Ramsay Road
  • Investing in public transport and freight rail improvements in isolation, without any improvement to the road network
  • Demand management policies which are intended to reduce individual trips and make alternative mode options more viable
  • Extension of the M4 as part of WestConnex (the project).

In the context of the substantial identified congestion and transport challenges facing Sydney, the ‘base case’ option is not considered viable if Sydney is to maintain global competiveness and remain an attractive and liveable city. In particular, congestion is already a significant issue on the M4 and along Parramatta Road and will continue to worsen as both population and the freight task increases. Therefore the ‘do minimum’ scenario was not considered a viable option.

The other alternatives are desirable and complementary to the project, but none were considered to provide an adequate stand-alone response to the identified strategic need and project objectives. In particular, the public transport and rail freight improvements and demand management alternatives alone would not address the diverse and dispersed point-to-point transport connections that can only be provided by the road network and the project.

Extension of the M4 (the project as described in this EIS) as part of WestConnex is the preferred strategic alternative, and was considered to best meet the Government’s objectives. Specifically it would facilitate long-term economic growth throughout the project corridor and through to Sydney’s international gateways which create Sydney’s commercial and freight demands. While accomplishing this, the project would improve the speed, reliability and safety for vehicles travelling along Parramatta Road and parallel arterial roads and cater for the wide range of road travel demands in the area. The project would also integrate with other WestConnex stages without creating significant cumulative impacts. Lastly, by reducing traffic volumes on Parramatta Road, the project would cater for improved public transport services, cycleways, pedestrian access and general liveability for residents and workers.

In addition to the strategic alternatives considered, a number of tunnel corridor, interchange location, and ventilation system design and location options were also considered in development of the preferred design. The options selected in the preferred design would:

  • Improve access to key centres such as Sydney Olympic Park, Strathfield and Rhodes
  • Minimise impact on properties, including the number of properties to be acquired
  • Minimise impacts on future development potential as a result of the presence of tunnels, particularly along Parramatta Road
  • Connect and integrate with the M4–M5 Link, while minimising cumulative impacts on the local community.

How did the community participate in development of the preferred design?

Consultation activities for WestConnex commenced as part of early planning work in late 2011. Community consultation activities on the preliminary concept design, and the commencement of EIS preparation began in November 2013.

A program of communication and consultation activities has been undertaken to seek feedback from the community and stakeholders during preparation of the EIS. Communication and consultation activities have included:

  • Community updates:
  • Preliminary concept design: Distribution of 105,000 updates in December 2013
  • Midway tunnelling point announcement: Distribution of 1,800 updates in April 2015
  • Preferred design display: Distribution of 105,000 updates in June 2015
  • Staffed community information sessions:
  • Preliminary concept design: Three sessions in December 2013 and four sessions in February 2014
  • Midway tunnelling point announcement: Two sessions in May 2015
  • Preferred design display: Four sessions in July 2015
  • Establishment of WestConnex information kiosks at Westfield shopping centres at Burwood, Parramatta, Hurstville and at Centro Roselands since February 2015, with over 26,000 visitations
  • Community feedback report, which was published on the project website in April 2014 following the display of the preliminary concept design
  • Individual meetings with property owners and nearby residents to discuss impacts on properties and to explain the property acquisition process
  • Door knocking activities to notify residents of technical and environmental investigations during the preparation of the EIS, to notify property owners about acquisition requirements, and to inform residents and businesses in close proximity to the project of the preferred design and upcoming EIS exhibition
  • Briefings with councils, schools, local places of worship, bicycle and pedestrian user groups, chambers of commerce, industry groups, clubs and organisations.

A community information phone line, email address and postal address were established and have been ongoing channels for receiving and responding to community feedback.

The consultation activities outlined above were an opportunity for information about the project to be provided and for the community and other stakeholders to comment. A range of other consultation activities were also adopted including regular email broadcasts, website updates and notification letters.

Extensive community and stakeholder feedback was received which has informed the preparation of this EIS. WDA will continue to provide opportunities for the community and stakeholders to participate in the ongoing refinement of the preferred design and construction process to further minimise project impacts.

What benefits would the project provide?

The project would:

  • Provide a motorway standard link between Concord and Haberfield which would improve safety and provide reliability and savings in travel time for through traffic
  • Provide improved access and travel along and across Parramatta Road for local vehicle trips and for active transport
  • Enable improvements to public transport on Parramatta Road, including provision of kerbside bus lanes between Burwood Road at Burwood/Concord and Chandos Street at Ashfield/Haberfield at project opening, and the possible future provision of rapid public transport services along Parramatta Road
  • Facilitate urban renewal in precincts adjoining the Parramatta Road corridor by improving local amenity with less traffic noise and vehicle emissions from congested traffic.

Together with the M4 Widening, the project would:

  • Support the economic development of Sydney by providing a high quality and efficient road connection for motorists and freight vehicles between Parramatta and Global Sydney (as defined in A Plan for Growing Sydney (NSW Government 2014)
  • Enable possible opportunities to transform Parramatta Road as well as local centres that exist alongside Parramatta Road
  • Provide better connectivity between local centres adjacent to Parramatta Road
  • Provide additional capacity to address existing traffic congestion on the M4 and Parramatta Road by separating longer-distance through traffic from local traffic. Current traffic congestion is causing poor amenity along Parramatta Road and constraining the operation of existing businesses and efficient movement of people and freight
  • Accommodate rising travel demand created by increasing population and employment in high growth localities in the Parramatta to Strathfield corridor, including Sydney Olympic Park and Burwood.

What are the key issues associated with the project?

Traffic

Traffic models were developed to assess the performance of the road network during the morning (AM) and afternoon (PM) peak periods. Future year networks and traffic demands were developed for five key modelling scenarios that were assessed: 2017 construction peak; 2021 and 2031 ‘do minimum’ (ie without the project but assuming the M4 Widening project is complete); 2021 ‘do something (ie with the project and M4 Widening complete); and 2031 ‘do something’ (ie with the project and other WestConnex projects (M4 Widening, King Georges Road Interchange Upgrade, New M5 and M4–M5 Link) complete).

Construction of the project would generate additional heavy and light vehicle traffic on the surrounding road network, which is predicted to be around two per cent of current total daily traffic on Parramatta Road. Construction ancillary facilities are located to provide convenient access from the M4 and Parramatta Road, which would minimise the impact to the local road network. While there would be some delays resulting from additional construction traffic, intersection performance would be broadly similar to traffic conditions without the project. The majority of road works, including temporary road closures, are therefore anticipated to result in limited impacts to road users and bus service travel times. For safety reasons, some bus stops would be relocated during construction. Pedestrian and cyclist diversions would also be required during construction which would result in increased walking and cycling distances and potentially extended wait times at some signalised intersections.

In the 2021 ‘do something’ scenario, once the project is operating, daily two-way traffic volumes on Parramatta Road are predicted to decrease by about 53 per cent compared to the 2021 ‘do minimum’ scenario, while on Queens Road they are predicted to decrease by about 28 per cent. In 2031, although total traffic volumes in the M4 and Parramatta Road corridor (including the project and the existing surface road network) are predicted to increase, the project would still reduce traffic volumes on Parramatta Road by about 47 per cent on Queens Road by about 25 per cent.

Analysis indicates that mid-block operational performance levels along Parramatta Road would significantly improve between the end of the M4 at Concord and Dalhousie Street at Haberfield, with small deteriorations elsewhere. Modelling outputs suggest that the project would create average travel time savings of between six and eight minutes in 2021 on strategic routes between Western Sydney and the CBD, with more substantial time savings of between 10 and 18 minutes by 2031, which is mainly due to the operation of the connecting M4–M5 Link.

The intersection analysis highlighted significant reductions in delay and congestion in the study area during all future years and peak periods as a result of the project, in comparison to the ‘do minimum’ scenario. However, a number of intersections that are already congested would continue to experience delays. A number of mitigation measures would be implemented to minimise these impacts.

The project’s operation would create additional route options along the corridor, increasing network resilience. Additionally, the reduction of traffic volumes on Parramatta Road would provide an opportunity to improve the quality of public transport services along the corridor through the introduction of bus lanes between Burwood Road at Burwood and Chandos Street at Haberfield/Ashfield, to coincide with opening of the project. Indicative results demonstrate travel time savings for buses of up to 14 minutes in the westbound direction in 2021.

Air quality

The NSW Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality – chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and including representatives from the NSW Environment Protection Authority, NSW Health, Roads and Maritime and NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) – was consulted during development of the air quality assessment methodology. The assessment was based on the 2021 and 2031 ‘do minimum’ and ‘do something’ scenarios described above for the traffic assessment.

Potential impacts on local air quality from dust produced during construction was assessed using a risk-based approach, which determined that standard management measures would be sufficient to mitigate the effects of construction work on local air quality and the community.

During operation, the assessment of ambient air quality impacts concluded that there would be a general improvement in air quality along Parramatta Road as a result of the project. This is due to the reduction in traffic volumes on Parramatta Road and the improved dispersion of emissions from diverted traffic through tunnel ventilation outlets.

Air quality modelling indicated that the concentrations of all criteria pollutants at receptors would usually be dominated by the existing background contribution. This applies to short-term criteria as well as annual means. The background concentrations would be especially dominant for airborne particulate matter.

Under expected traffic conditions, the contribution of tunnel ventilation outlets to pollutant concentrations would be negligible for all receptors. For some pollutants and metrics (such as annual mean nitrogen dioxide) there would also be a significant contribution from the future predicted surface road traffic.

Exceedances of some air quality criteria (one-hour nitrogen dioxide, 24-hour particulate matter of up to 10 micrometres in size, and annual and 24-hour particulate matter of up to 2.5 micrometres in size) are predicted to occur at a small proportion of receptors along the project corridor, both with and without the project. These exceedances would largely be as a result of increased surface road traffic associated with future population growth. However, overall there would be a decrease in the number of receptors that would experience air quality criteria exceedances as a result of the project.

Noise and vibration

A noise and vibration assessment was carried out to evaluate and predict the potential impact of the construction and operation of the project, within the context that the existing noise environment is generally dominated by relatively high levels of existing road traffic noise.

During construction, the project would result in noise and vibration impacts due to the operation of construction ancillary facilities. The assessment predicted that noise levels for the worst-case construction scenarios (ie all equipment operating at once) would result in exceedances for the majority of nearby receivers, particularly during site establishment works and surface roadworks. Where noise exceedances are expected during both standard work hours and out of hours, a range of noise mitigation measures including temporary noise hoardings would be implemented. Construction traffic is not predicted to significantly increase traffic noise.

There would be potential for short-term ground-borne noise from tunnelling activities to be an issue at a number of locations along the project. These impacts are expected to be short term (a period of a few days) for any impacted location.

Up to 203 residential and light commercial buildings would be within the safe working distances for risk of cosmetic damage from vibration for these building types, and 11 heritage-listed buildings would be within the safe working distance for ‘structurally unsound’ buildings. Ten of the heritage-listed buildings are of masonry construction, and are not likely to be structurally unsound. In terms of human comfort, a low risk of annoyance is predicted as a result of tunnelling works, while a significant number of receivers would be within the nominated safe working distance for human comfort vibration. Vibration impacts would be mitigated through the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures.

During operation of the project, a reduction in the overall number of sensitive receivers that currently experience an exceedance of the relevant noise goals is predicted, due to the reduction in traffic on Parramatta Road. Notwithstanding this, increases in noise levels would be experienced at the Concord Road, Parramatta Road and Wattle Street interchanges as a result of new noise sources, increased traffic volumes and/or reduced shielding due to demolition of buildings. Mitigation measures, such as low noise pavement and noise barriers, would be provided as part of the project, which would minimise noise impacts. In addition, at-property acoustic treatment would be considered where noise exceedances are still predicted.

Human health

The human health risk assessment followed national guidelines and addresses requirements from key government agencies and councils, such as NSW Health, in relation to air quality, noise and vibration and social aspects.

A human health risk assessment is a way of deciding now, what the consequences (to health) of some future action (such as the project) may be. We try to learn from previous experience about impacts from road tunnels and their potential effects on people who live or work around them. We then use this information to predict the impacts of the project on community health. The human health risk assessment included a detailed review of what impacts may occur, who may be exposed to these impacts, and whether there is potential for these impacts to result in adverse health effects within the local community.

In relation to air quality, the project is expected to result in a decrease in total pollutant levels in the community. The project is expected to result in a redistribution of impacts associated with vehicle emissions. For much of the community, this will result in an improvement (or decreased concentrations and health impacts); however, for a number of areas, a small increase in pollutant concentration may occur. Potential health impacts associated with changes in air quality (specifically nitrogen dioxide and particulates) are low and essentially negligible within the community when measured against existing background air quality.

In relation to noise and vibration, potential impacts during construction and operation have been considered. During construction, potential impacts from noise and vibration on the local community would require management and/or mitigation through the implementation of a range of measures. During operation of the project, a number of properties have been identified where specific mitigation measures are required to reduce impacts and protect the health of occupants. These mitigation measures include low noise pavement, noise barriers, and/or at-property acoustic treatment. The mitigation measures would ensure that the levels of road traffic noise experienced by residents would be reduced to as low as feasible and reasonable.

Changes in the urban environment associated with the project have the potential to result in both positive and negative impacts. Negative impacts may occur as a result of traffic changes during construction, property acquisitions, visual changes, noise impacts and changes in access/cohesion of local areas. These may result in increased levels of stress and anxiety. In many cases, the impacts identified are either short-term, or mitigation measures have been identified to minimise the impacts on the community. Positive impacts on the community include traffic improvements, better connectivity and accessibility, and improved local amenity at many locations.

Property and land use

The project has been designed to minimise land acquisition and limit the impact on private properties. Based on the preferred design, full and partial acquisition of 182 properties and 10 road reserves would be required. In addition, 98 properties owned by Roads and Maritime, of which 21 were acquired through voluntary acquisition based on the preliminary concept design, would be needed to construct the project. One additional property, Bill Boyce Reserve at Homebush, would be leased during construction. In addition to the temporary lease of Bill Boyce Reserve, three other public reserves would be impacted as follows:

  • Arnotts Reserve at Homebush (south of the existing M4 and currently fenced off and inaccessible by the public): temporary lease during construction of about 19 per cent of the total area of the reserve, and permanent partial acquisition of about an additional seven per cent to accommodate the Powells Creek M4 westbound on-ramp
  • Cintra Park at Concord: permanent acquisition of land which contains the Cintra Park hockey field (which is currently being replaced with a new facility at St Lukes Park on the northern side of Gipps Street, including additional car parking) and an overflow car park on the northern side of Concord Oval (which would be upgraded). This site would be used during construction, and would also accommodate the fresh air supply facility, the operational water treatment facility and a distribution substation during operation. A significant proportion of Cintra Park would be rehabilitated and returned for use as open space following construction. The nature of this future open space would be determined in consultation with Canada Bay Council
  • Reg Coady Reserve at Haberfield: temporary lease during construction of about six per cent of the total area of the reserve south of Dobroyd Canal (Iron Cove Creek), and permanent partial acquisition of about an additional 12 per cent to accommodate widening of Wattle Street.

All public reserves leased during construction would be rehabilitated and returned to their owners for use as open space following construction.

Construction of the project would result in temporary changes in land use due to the establishment of construction work areas and facilities. Following construction, the majority of land impacted during construction would be used for operational aspects of the proposal. There would, however, be areas of residual land (other than public reserves) which would potentially be available for redevelopment. This would be subject to separate assessment and planning approval.

The project would result in some short-term property access impacts during construction; however, these are not expected to be significant. During operation, there would be changes to the way some properties are accessed, but these would not significantly differ from the existing situation.

The project, as part of WestConnex, would act as a catalyst for urban revitalisation in the Parramatta Road corridor, which has the potential to significantly alter land use. However, urban renewal does not form part of the project and would be subject to separate assessment and approval.

Urban design and visual amenity

A total of 15 landscape character zones were identified as having the potential to be impacted by surface components of the project. These zones reflect the differences in character that are inherent in such a densely urbanised setting. Potential impacts were considered across the 15 landscape character zones and the assessment found that high visual impacts would only occur at three of the zones: Cintra Park precinct, Haberfield precinct, and Yasmar Estate (State significant heritage item and NSW Department of Juvenile Justice training facility), with opportunities to reduce these impacts through the implementation of mitigation measures.

Potential impacts on visual amenity were also considered across four different user groups: residents, pedestrians, recreational users and motorists. High potential visual amenity impacts were considered likely for the residential user group. To minimise the potential impacts identified, site compounds and work areas would be screened. Vegetation clearance would be minimised where possible. Notwithstanding the application of mitigation, construction activities would still be visible from some locations. However, construction impacts would be temporary and therefore the residual impacts are considered to be low.

The project would introduce new operational elements and ancillary infrastructure into an existing built environment and would be located next to or within major transport corridors. The key landscape character and visual amenity impact would be a change from a visually enclosed four-lane motorway with vegetated embankments, to a substantially wider corridor incorporating multiple lanes and the opening up of new view lines to the transport corridor. Operational facilities and buildings would be designed in accordance with the draft WestConnex Motorway Urban Design Framework (Roads and Maritime 2013) and landscaped to complement and blend with their surroundings. The urban design and landscape approach for the project would be developed during detailed design with the aim of integrating the project into the surrounding landscape and visual setting.

Social and economic

The socio-economic assessment determined that the construction expenditure of the project would be of significant benefit to the local, regional and state economies over the three-year construction period.

The construction of the project is predicted to directly contribute around $470 million to gross State product for each average year of construction, with indirect effects of around $220 million, giving an estimated total contribution of $690 million for each average year of construction.

Around 4,120 full time jobs per average year of construction would be generated by the project, including:

  • About 1,280 full time jobs directly employed on the project
  • About 1,260 full time jobs employed by businesses supplying directly to the project
  • About 1,580 indirect full time jobs.

The project would involve the full acquisition and removal of 168 residential dwellings and removal of 35 residential dwellings owned by Roads and Maritime. The project also involves the acquisition and removal of 20 commercial buildings used by a number of private businesses.

For many of the directly affected property owners, relocating would be a significant but short-term impact. For some, if they wish to relocate locally but are unable to, the social impact may involve extended recovery time, as relocation may cause dislocation of social networks, and disruption and change to daily routines (work, study, recreation etc).

In addition to the owner’s entitlement to compensation under the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (NSW), Roads and Maritime would provide affected property owners with access to a counselling support service and an additional independent service to vulnerable households (such as the elderly and/or those suffering an illness) to assist with their relocation.

Impacts on amenity would be most likely to occur during the construction phase and relate to noise and vibration, and changes to the visual environment. Measures to avoid, mitigate and manage amenity impacts would be implemented.

The process of refinement involved in selecting the preferred design has resulted in fewer and less severe impacts on social infrastructure compared to the preliminary concept design. During operation, the project has the potential to have both adverse and beneficial impacts on amenity. Adverse impacts would be experienced primarily along the M4 corridor at Homebush, at the ventilation facilities, and the Concord Road, Wattle Street and Parramatta Road interchanges. However, with much of the project located underground, a reduction in traffic on the surface M4 and Parramatta Road is expected to deliver amenity benefits.

As a significant volume of traffic currently using Parramatta Road would transfer to the tunnels, businesses that are reliant on passing trade would be affected by the project. Reductions in passing trade would potentially be offset to some degree by improved amenity and accessibility for the businesses affected. The project would also improve network efficiency, delivering travel time savings and provide for more efficient movement of freight and commercial vehicles, thereby reducing operational costs associated with fuel and wages.

Soil and water quality

The project crosses four main waterways (Saleyards Creek, Powells Creek, St Lukes Park Canal, and Dobroyd Canal (Iron Cove Creek)) and their associated sub-catchments, with a fifth waterway (Barnwell Park Canal) close to the project footprint. All of these waterways are concrete-lined channels where they are crossed by the project, and the sub-catchments are well established urban catchments with predominantly residential and commercial land use.

During construction, the highest risk of impacts on soils and water quality would be associated with exposure of soils resulting in off-site movement of eroded sediments by wind and/or stormwater to receiving waterways. In addition, potential accidental leaks or spills of chemicals, fuels, oils and/or greases from construction plant and machinery, may pollute receiving waterways. These impacts would be managed through the implementation of standard construction site mitigation measures.

During operation, the main potential impacts on water quality would be associated with discharge of treated groundwater, stormwater runoff during rainfall events and direct deposition of airborne particles, causing contamination of water quality in downstream waterways. The minor increase in the area of impervious surfaces associated with the surface works of the project would have the potential for a small additional adverse impact on the hydrological regime due to increased runoff volumes and peak flows and associated potential increases in erosion and sedimentation of downstream watercourses.

However, the project would incorporate appropriate surface water management and drainage design measures to manage potential impacts to surrounding watercourses. These would include the capture, treatment and discharge of groundwater inflow into the tunnels, provision for spill containment within the tunnels, and the augmentation of existing drainage infrastructure along the project footprint, including grass swales, treatment basins and spill containment basins.

Contamination

Published maps indicate the potential for acid sulphate soil at some locations in the project corridor. Soil testing at some of these locations was undertaken which has indicated latent acidity within the residual clay and weathered bedrock strata. No samples exceeded the action criterion for equivalent sulfur or equivalent acidity based on the chromium reducible sulfur results. Based on these results, the likelihood of widespread acid sulphate soil is considered to be low.

The project covers an area of diverse characteristics and is surrounded by a number of potentially contaminating land uses including industrial complexes, petrol service stations, a bus depot, carwashes and mechanical workshops.

Fill soils have been recorded along the project corridor at varying depths. The available site investigation information has recorded concentrations of hydrocarbons, lead and asbestos in soils predominantly below the applicable screening criteria. All exceedances were within the fill soils, except for one location at two metres below ground level located within the underlying residual material. The groundwater samples collected and analysed as part of these investigations recorded concentrations above the applicable screening criteria for metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, nickel and zinc. The observed concentrations are considered likely to be indicative of natural background metal concentrations in groundwater within the Sydney basin. Based on these results, the need for any broad scale remediation as part of the construction or operation of the project has not been identified.

While contamination is not considered to present an imminent risk of harm to human health or the environment, it would require appropriate management during construction. The risks can be managed through an environmental management plan that would include an unexpected finds protocol to handle any latent contamination, groundwater, waste and acid sulfate soils.

Flooding

During construction, there is the potential for local catchment runoff to enter project excavations at the interchange locations and impact the construction ancillary facilities. This would be addressed through local stormwater controls at these sites and with management measures including staging of works, temporary relocation of flows and using barriers to prevent overland flow from entering works areas. Construction activities also have the potential to exacerbate flooding conditions in adjacent developments, however physical barriers would be designed to protect the works areas and tunnel entries so as not to increase flooding conditions in adjacent areas.

During operation, floodwater inundation has the potential to cause damage to infrastructure, impact on the safe operation of the motorway tunnels and pose a safety risk to road users and motorway operations staff. As such, the preferred design includes measures that would achieve the hydrologic standard requirements and manage the impact the project would have on the flooding characteristics of adjacent development under post-construction conditions. The tunnel portals and ancillary facilities such as substations, ventilation buildings and emergency response facilities would be located above the flood risk level.

The investigation found that changes in the characteristics of flooding associated with future climate change would not lead to a significant increase in the flood risk to the project.

Groundwater

A transient groundwater model calculated tunnel inflows during construction to reach a maximum rate of about 1.6 megalitres per day, or 584 megalitres per year, from a total 43,323 megalitres available per year within the groundwater source.

The risk to individual structures from ground movement resulting from tunnelling works is anticipated to be negligible (cosmetic damage only) for the majority of properties affected. For a limited number of properties (about 100), ground movement may result in cracking of up to 15 millimetres. Mitigation and management measures would be implemented to minimise potential ground movement impacts, including pre-construction surveys, ongoing monitoring, and make good provisions where required.

To the north of the project, wetland systems rely heavily on the Parramatta River for their water supply and as such there is a low risk of these features being impacted by drawdown associated with the project. Monitoring and mitigation measures are proposed to reduce this risk further. There are a number of groundwater bores registered for domestic use where modelled drawdown impacts would exceed two metres. These are considered to be potentially adversely impacted and appropriate mitigation and monitoring measures would be implemented.

Modelling suggests saline water may migrate from Parramatta River to the project corridor, changing the salinity of the groundwater in this area. Such saline inflow may not develop immediately and may take several years to have an impact on inflow water quality; however, it is likely to develop over the design life of the tunnel. In any case, the aquifer system is expected to remain in the same beneficial use category.

Management measures would include construction water treatment plants to treat tunnel groundwater during construction, and an operational tunnel drainage system including a water treatment facility. Tunnel lining would be installed progressively following tunnel excavation to minimise groundwater inflows.

Non-Aboriginal heritage

The project would result in a number of buildings being demolished, of which 16 are locally-listed heritage items and a further nine are potential heritage items (a place that is not listed on a heritage register but has been assessed to have heritage significance). A number of street trees that form part of two separate heritage listings would also be removed. In addition, listed and contributory items in the Powells Estate and Haberfield heritage conservation areas would be demolished. Across the project footprint and in adjacent areas, heritage items may be affected by changes to setting and visual amenity from temporary construction works or the operational project.

The detailed design, documentation and construction of the project would be managed to ensure that, as far as possible, the identified potential for heritage and archaeological impacts is avoided or minimised.

Heritage items, potential heritage items and heritage conservation areas above the proposed tunnels and in the vicinity of construction works may be subject to vibration impacts. Vibration could affect the condition of heritage fabric through cracking and settlement and, in the worst case scenario, compromise a heritage item’s structural integrity. Appropriate vibration criteria would be established to minimise impacts and condition surveys of potentially impacted buildings would be undertaken.

In relation to historic archaeology, excavations and other intrusive ground works associated with the project could affect soil horizons that potentially contain archaeological relics. The archaeological potential has been assessed to be of local significance, with a low potential for State significant relics associated with the Longbottom Stockade at Cintra Park. Management guidelines and recommendations have been established in this report in accordance with the heritage significance of the archaeological resources.

Biodiversity

The project is located in a highly urbanised environment and much of the project would be tunnelled under existing roads and residential areas. No intact, remnant native vegetation communities are present in the project footprint or immediately adjacent to the study area. Construction of the project would result in the removal of about 15.7 hectares of vegetation, comprising about 12.9 hectares of planted trees and screening vegetation (mainly from alongside the existing M4) and about 2.8 hectares of grassland with scattered trees (such as from Cintra Park and Reg Coady Reserve). Vegetation to be removed comprises foraging habitat for two threatened fauna species (Grey-headed Flying-Fox and Eastern Bentwing-bat). However, no threatened flora or fauna (including bats) is likely to be significantly impacted by the project.

Given the above considerations, there are likely to be only minor residual impacts on the natural environment and a formal biodiversity offset is not necessary. The planting of food trees for Greyheaded Flying-Fox following construction would compensate for the removal of existing planted vegetation within the project footprint and assist in maintaining foraging habitat for this species in the study area.

On the basis of the assessments undertaken, the project is not likely to result in a significant impact on any matter of national environmental significance, including threatened and migratory species.

Greenhouse gas

The design of the project has been optimised so that measures to reduce energy and resource requirements, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, are inherent in the design. The results of the assessment demonstrate the benefits of road tunnel usage in urban areas, where travel along a more direct route at a higher average speed results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions being generated by road users, as reduced congestion and stop-start driving reduces the fuel used by vehicles.

The assessment results indicate the project would reduce annual greenhouse emissions by around 56,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2021 and around 45,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2031. The predicted reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the project is due to an improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency for most sections of Parramatta Road, as well as the operational efficiency of the project tunnels.

Aboriginal heritage

The Aboriginal Heritage Information System database has no sites registered within the project footprint and no surface expressions of Aboriginal objects or places were identified. The terrain within the project footprint and surrounding study area is highly disturbed and unlikely to contain unidentified Aboriginal archaeological objects, and as such the project is not anticipated to have any impact on objects or places of Aboriginal cultural heritage. Mitigation and management measures would be implemented to avoid, minimise or mitigate impacts on unidentified Aboriginal cultural heritage objects or places.

Resource use and waste minimisation

Construction resource requirements may have an impact on resource availability within the local area; however, the impact would be minor and limited to the construction period. It is anticipated that the local water supply network would have sufficient capacity to accommodate project construction water requirements. Initial discussions with power supply authorities have confirmed that local substations have the required capacity to supply the construction ancillary facilities without affecting the local supply network.

All waste would be managed in accordance with the waste provisions contained within the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and, where reused off-site, would comply with relevant Environment Protection Authority resource recovery exemptions and requirements. Spoil would be classified in accordance with the Waste Classification Guidelines and reused on the project site where possible, reused at other approved developments or disposed of lawfully at an appropriate location.

Climate change

The initial climate change risk assessment identified the potential impacts of climate change on the project during the operation phase and did not identify any risks rated as high or extreme. Of the 23 risks that were analysed for the project, a total of 10 risks were identified as being medium. A number of adaptation options for these medium risks have been recommended for consideration during detailed design.

During detailed design, a detailed climate change risk assessment would be undertaken in accordance with the standard AS 5334–2013 Climate change adaptation for settlements and infrastructure – A risk based approach. The assessment would identify and, where required, implement adaptation measures to comprehensively address any high and extreme risks.

Hazard and risk

The design of the project has been developed to inherently minimise the likelihood of incidents and accidents. The project would include a work health and safety plan which would support and augment the measures and procedures included in the construction environmental management plan and would be supplemented by site and activity specific Safe Work Method Statements. The storage, transportation, handling and use of dangerous goods and hazardous substances would be undertaken in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW), the Storage and Handling of Dangerous Goods Code of Practice (WorkCover NSW 2005) and relevant Australian Standards and legislation.

Cumulative impacts

Cumulative positive impacts of the project are expected to be largely delivered when all stages of WestConnex are completed and operational. The project in isolation and in the context of the entire WestConnex is expected to reduce noise impacts as vehicles move off surface roads to tunnels.

WestConnex has the potential to result in both positive and adverse impacts on businesses and the community. A key benefit of WestConnex would be the improved movement of freight around Sydney as journey reliability and productivity improvements deliver positive flow on effects to the economy. Improved air quality along the majority of the Parramatta Road corridor would also benefit the local community.

Construction of the multiple projects forming WestConnex would be staggered and would therefore result in extended construction periods for some residents in the vicinity of the project. The two locations where overlap or consecutive construction periods would occur would be at the western and eastern ends of the project. At the western end, the M4 Widening and M4 East projects would be under construction at the same time, while at the eastern end, tunnelling for the M4–M5 Link project may occur shortly after completion of the M4 East project. However, infrastructure to facilitate the easy connection to the M4-M5 Link would be completed as part of the project, in order to reduce potential cumulative impacts on the local community at Haberfield.

In relation to other developments occurring in the vicinity of and at the same time as the project, these are generally located away from the project and therefore significant cumulative traffic and amenity impacts are unlikely.

Sustainability

One of the key objectives of the project is to assist in reducing traffic congestion on Parramatta Road and provide shorter travel times for road users. As part of WestConnex, the project would provide the missing link in the motorway network that supports Sydney’s global economic corridor. Improvements to the transport network, including this project, support the global economic corridor by enabling domestic and international trade, and therefore underpin a sustainable NSW economy and Sydney’s role as a global city.

The WestConnex Sustainability Strategy sets targets to be met by the project, including sourcing at least six per cent of the total energy requirements from renewable sources. The strategy describes how sustainability initiatives would be integrated into the design, construction and operation of projects across WestConnex.

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia administers an Infrastructure Sustainability rating scheme. A target infrastructure sustainability rating under this scheme of at least ‘Excellent’ for the design and construction of the project has also been set and is a requirement of the construction contract.

The WestConnex sustainability objectives and targets would be met through the implementation of a project-specific sustainability management plan.

How will the likely impacts be managed?

The EIS identifies comprehensive mitigation and management measures that would be implemented to avoid, manage, mitigate, offset and/or monitor impacts during construction and operation of the project. These include best practice construction environmental planning and management techniques, urban design and landscaping treatments and noise mitigation measures. Further mitigation opportunities are likely to be identified during detailed design and construction planning.

The design, construction and operation of the project would be undertaken in accordance with extensive environmental management commitments identified in this EIS, as well as any additional measures identified in conditions of approval for the project.

To assist in further mitigating traffic impacts on the wider road network, Roads and Maritime will continue to prioritise improvements to the overall network including works to address intersection congestion where required. In addition, the Transport Master Plan commits to the development of an integrated package of transport improvements to renew the Parramatta Road corridor in conjunction with the delivery of WestConnex. These improvements include the installation of dedicated public transport lanes which would only be possible once the M4 East is operational.

How can I comment on the proposal and/or the environmental impact statement?

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) will make the EIS publicly available for a minimum of 30 days. During this period, it will be available for inspection at:

  • The DP&E website: http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/
  • At selected local council offices and libraries in the Auburn, Strathfield, Canada Bay, Burwood and Ashfield local government areas
  • At selected Roads and Maritime offices
  • At various staffed displays in the region, as advertised in local media
  • Via the WestConnex website: http://www.westconnex.com.au.

WDA will continue conducting community information sessions. A project information line (1300 660 248) will also be available throughout the exhibition period to answer enquiries relating to the project.

Feedback on the project during the exhibition period should be made via a written submission to the Secretary of DP&E, quoting the project number (SSI 6307). All submissions received will be placed on the DP&E website.

Written submissions may be made online at http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au or directed to:

SSI 6307
NSW Department of Planning and Environment
GPO Box 39
Sydney NSW 2001
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One thought on “Executive summary: WestConnex M4 East Environmental Impact Statement

  1. This is just a short comment on the executive summary of the EIS for the M4 tunnel. The whole EIS is more than 4800 pages long but although this is only a summary, it reveals some of the key weaknesses of the whole assessment process.

    These are some preliminary points that come to mind. Putting my thoughts together provides a starting point for my submission which I hope to share with many others. If you would like to share ideas or add comments leave them on this site or contact me at wendybacon1@gmail.com.

    The first point of my submission will be that I will be objecting to the whole Westconnex project. I’m strongly opposed to any method of planning in which a company – in this case CIMIC -is given a 2 billion contract before the EIS was even lodged. I’ve read no evidence that convinces me that 33 kilometres of tollway will solve Sydney’s traffic problems, indeed Westconnex might make it worse for residents in many parts of Sydney, including in the West that for so long has been deprived of public transport.

    Of course, the issues raised in these preliminary comments will later be checked for fairness or verified in the chapter for the topic and the appendices of the consultants’ reports.

    The main point that struck me on my initial reading is that the positive benefits of the project are claimed for the whole Westconnex project including some other projects such as the Southern extension (tollroad up from the Southern Suburbs to Arnciiffe) which are not even part of the Westconnex project at all. On the other hand, the negative impacts are only discussed in relation to this part of the project, the M4 tunnel between Homebush and Haberfield.

    There is NO explanation for why this transparently biased approach is taken.

    We read about claims of economic advantage and jobs generated by the Westconnex. No doubt jobs could be created but could they have been created for some other more useful project? We are expected to accept all the positive claims at face value but when it comes to the negative impacts, the approach is quite different. For example, we read that about 200 homes would be destroyed for the Westconnex M4 tunnel alone. However we are not told how many homes would be destroyed along the whole Westconnex routes. The same goes for businesses and vegetation. There is no cumulative accounting of the ecological, social of financials costs of the whole Westconnex. Even the negative local impacts of this M4 part of the project, that will seriously impact on thousands of citizens, are glossed over.

    It’s disturbing that the EIS has been managed and to a large extent produced by Aecom which has other interests in the Westconnex project from conception to construction.Its Sydney branch had been naively promoting the Westconnex on its website since last year. The international engineering design and construction company which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange paid more than $200 million dollars for a settlement of a case in which it was sued for negligent traffic predictions for the Rivercity tollway project. A spokesperson for AECOM told the Wall Street Journal last week that the company isn’t doing traffic predictions anymore but isn’t that part of what it’s doing for Westconnex? Why would the community rely on this company for its traffic predictions? Of course,none of this embarrassing matter is discussed or even referred to in the EIS. The Baird’s government’s recklessness in handling $15.4 billion of public money is breathtaking.

    There are a lot of vague references to additional public transport options that will be provided along the route. For example, there is mention of two bus lanes that would operate along Parramatta Road when the M4 tunnel opens. However at an EIS exhibition session that I attended recently I was told that these lanes would NOT open at the beginning of operation. The effect of the buslanes will be to force/encourage drivers onto the tollway but as one WDA person said ” people can’t take too much change at once.” They also said that the buslanes would require new infrastructure such as crossings to be installed. So since the bus lanes are outside the scope of this project, none of these problems are discussed although this promise would appear to be key to the claim that traffic would go through the tolled tunnel rather than Parramatta Road. Contrast this to the way destructive Westconnex impacts are treated. For instance, the dislocation of communities in Homebush and Haberfield is passed over as a temporary impact. There is no appreciation of the cost either emotional and financial of uprooting households and forcing them to reestablish homes elsewhere. The impact of what could happen to people along the route whether they are homeowners, renters or businesses is glossed over as a minor problem that would be ‘mitigated’ to the extent that it is possible.

    In the ‘Alternatives’ section, there is mention of public transport not providing ‘point to point’ access to workplaces and homes. Often a mixture of public transport and walking or cycling is at least as efficient as travelling by case. A tollroad does not take you ‘point to point’ either unless you are unlucky enough to live or work on the perimeter of one. In fact once you come off the toll road you are likely to be stuck in an even worse traffic jam than before as the history of tollroads shows that they do not solve traffic congestion.

    As for air quality, the executive summary makes it sound like there is nothing to worry about. There is no mention of the health impacts of encouraging drivers commuting across Sydney to sit in their cars for hours a day. Some negative air quality impacts are acknowledged but they tend to be smoothly passed over or masked by bureaucratic language. We need to research the data provided to discover the location of ‘receptors’ for whom air quality will deteriorate and draw on up-to-date international research on air quality.

    Also the EIS authors claim that air quality will not deteriorate at the tunnel exits because emissions will be blown back down the tunnel by fans and released through the unfiltered ventilation stacks. But what about 200 metres away beyond the portals where drivers find themselves in a bottleneck as traffic flow slows down? The air quality claims in the EIS need to be rigorously tested by a range of experts. At the end of the day, if the traffic estimates are wrong, most of the other EIS predictions will be wrong as well.

    There are many other parts of the executive summary that beg for closer examination. I hope to do more reading and posting of comments soon. Do you have more information or ideas about any of these points? Are I wrong on some of them? What do you think?

    One of the objects of Westconnex is to “protect natural and cultural resources and enhance the environment.” They are easy words to write.

    In that context you would surely need clear objective evidence that traffic congestion would be hugely better before knocking down neighbourhoods, subjecting communities to unhealthy noise stress, building non-filtered ventilation stacks near schools, destroying heritage buildings and hectares of vegetation? Instead we read that “modelling outputs suggest that the project would create average travel time savings of between six and eight minutes in 2021 on strategic routes between Western Sydney and the CBD.” Now that doesn’t seem enough to justify the permanent destruction of communities, foregone opportunities for other more worthwhile projects and the years of construction impacts including noise, vibration, dust,traffic congestion and millions of extra diesel trucks trips over our roads. Wouldn’t we be better off if we could drive to a ‘park and ride’ car park or walk to get a train that we could rely on to arrive frequently and on time? Is that too much for residents of Sydney to expect?

    Many would argue that rather than protecting “natural and cultural resources and enhance the environment”, this project will achieve the opposite. A fair planning assessment would reject the project or at least call a halt until a serious independent inquiry could be undertaken. The original idea of an EIS was for projects to be scrutinised by independent scientific analysis but in this and many other cases, the planning process has been subverted by vested interests.

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