Narrow interests plus public transport failure behind Westconnex M4 East – Lyall Kennedy Submission Part 2

(Ed: This is Part 2 of Transport Economist Lyall Kennedy’s submission to the EIS. Kennedy is a transport economist and ex Mayor of Ashfield Council. Part One is here)

What came first – WestConnex or the Strategic Plans

There is a requirement for the EIS that the proponent’s proposal is consistent with all Sydney’s strategic planning instruments. Requiring this project to be consistent with all strategic planning instruments sounds reasonable until you realise that all the plans were rewritten in 2012/2013 to place WestConnex at the centre of their transport strategies.

Up until 2012, metro strategy development in NSW was based on developing the broad strategy planning objectives and then discussing options to meet these strategic objectives before proposing individual projects/actions. Linking the M4 with the M5, as proposed by WestConnex, was never included as a project to realise previous Metropolitan Strategies.

Once WestConnex became the number one infrastructure project proposed by Infrastructure NSW, all strategic planning documents were rewritten to include WestConnex. In fact, it became the centrepiece of the transport strategy. This was after extensive community consultation was undertaken in February 2012 for the Long Term Transport Master Plan which did not include Westconnex.

At the time, Les Walinga, the then Director General of Transport, was on the Board of Infrastructure NSW and at the same time was developing the Long Term Transport Master Plan. When Infrastructure NSW proposed WestConnex as the major infrastructure project of its plan, Les Walinga resigned from the Board citing conflict of interest as he was proposing public transport solutions in the Long Term Master Plan and was not supporting WestConnex. Even within Infrastructure NSW there was doubt about the appropriateness of WestConnex.

Even allowing for the bastardisation of the planning process, this submission identifies areas where the M4 East extension is inconsistent with the Metro Strategy. These include:

  • Does nothing to alleviate Western Sydney congestion
  • Is an unsustainable solution as it will reach capacity by 2031
  • Does not relieve traffic congestion on most downstream intersections

Who Benefits from the WestConnex Motorway?

Given that WestConnex provides a direct link to Sydney Airport but not to the city or Port Botany (which is eight kilometres from WestConnex) who is the big winner out of this project?

I would suggest that MAp Airports Limited the then owner of Sydney Airport appears to be a major beneficiary. Since at least 2004, Sydney Airports has pushed in each of its Master Plans for improved links to the M4.

In 2011 the debate on a second Sydney airport was well advanced with the Federal Government considering a further proposal. If billions of taxpayers’ money could be spent on improving road connections to the airport, this would cement Sydney Airport as the primary airport for Sydney for decades to come.

But how could an individual company influence the deliberations of Infrastructure NSW? One way may be to have the Chairman of Sydney Airport Holdings Max Moore-Wilton as a Board member.

The only major attractor that is served by WestConnex is Sydney Airport. According to the WDA spin, among the benefits that WestConnex delivered included reducing the travel time from Parramatta to the airport by 40 minutes and bypassing up to 52 sets of traffic lights. They failed to say that you can now avoid the 52 traffic lights now in 2015 by catching the train which takes 45 minutes from Parramatta to the airport. According to google maps it takes between 39 and 54 minutes to drive between Parramatta and the airport. The claim of a 40 minute saving seems heroic.

The cover of the Strategic Environmental Review released by WDA in 2013 was a picture of the airport.

Airporttiff

Sydney has underinvested in public transport over the past 30 years

In 1998 the NSW government released Action for Transport 2010 an integrated transport plan for Sydney. The plan proposed to:

“redress the [then] current imbalance in the road and public transport system.”

(Action for Transport 2010 an integrated transport plan for Sydney, 1998, NSW Government p.2)

The plan included a 10 Point Action Plan for Sydney:

  1. Getting the best out of the Sydney system
  2. Improving Sydney’s air quality
  3. Reducing car dependency
  4. Meeting the needs of our growing suburbs
  5. Getting more people on public transport
  6. Safeguarding our environment
  7. Making space for cyclists and walkers
  8. Preventing accidents and saving lives
  9. Making freight more competitive
  10. Giving the community value for money

(p. 3)

The plan listed (at page 5) 21 projects to be completed or started by 2010 these were:

Rapid Bus Only Transitways

1. Liverpool to Parramatta (2003)
2. Parramatta to Strathfield (2002)
3. St Marys to Penrith (Stage 1 2003) (Stage 2 2008)
4. Parramatta to Blacktown (2004)
5. Blacktown to Castle Hill (2009)
6. Blacktown to Wetherill Park (2006)
7. Parramatta to Mungerie Park (2010)

Heavy Rail

  1. Airport Line (2000)
  2. Bondi Beach Railway (2002)
  3. Parramatta Rail Link to Epping and Chatswood (2006)
  4. Hornsby to Newcastle High Speed Rail (Stage 1 to Warnervale 2007) (Stage 2 to Newcastle work to start by 2010)

North West Rail Link Epping to Castle Hill (2010)

  1. North West Rail Link Epping to Castle Hill (2010)
  2. Sutherland to Wollongong High Speed Rail (2010)
  3. Hurstville to Strathfield Railway (To start by 2010 and be completed by 2014)
  4. Liverpool Y Link (Work to start by 2010

Light Rail
16. To Lilyfield (2001)

Road Improvements
17. Eastern Distributor (2000)
18. M5 East (2002)
19. Cross City Tunnel (2004)
20. M2 to Gore Hill (2004)
21. Western Sydney Orbital (2007)

All the projects in bold were built. It can be seen from the list that every road project was delivered. Of the 16 public transport projects only four were completed.

The inability for successive governments to deliver public transport projects has made Sydney (particularly western Sydney) more car dependent. Building more roads has not had any lasting impact on road congestion. The traffic projections in the current M4 East EIS show the tunnel at capacity by 2031.

“2031 AM peak and PM peak operational performances (in comparison to the ‘do minimum’ results) are detailed in Table 10.7 and Table 10.8 respectively.
High traffic densities are now recorded in the project’s mainline tunnel east of Concord Road, particularly westbound during the AM peak and eastbound in the PM peak where capacity is reached.”

(M4 EIS M4 East EIS Volume 2A Appendix A-G, page 10-6)

What is the plan post 2031? Building more roads will not solve traffic congestion in Sydney.

WestConnex clearly fails to:

  • Reduce car dependency
  • Meet the needs of our growing suburbs
  • Get more people on public transport

The Benefit-Cost analysis of WestConnex is evaluated over a 40 year period. Relieving traffic congestion on the corridor appears to be a major objective of the project. The project reaches capacity in the M4 East tunnel within eight years after project completion. This does not seem to be an effective means of relieving congestion. The Cost-Benefit analysis should include costs of additional measures required over the remaining 32 years of the project life to maintain the claimed congestion and travel time savings. If included, it is likely that the project costs will significantly outweigh any benefits.

This is why this will work tiff

M4 East Past and Present

The M4 East was previously proposed in 2003/2004. The Sydney Motorways Project Office prepared a strategic environmental review of the WestConnex project in 2013. Chapter 4 of the review outlined the WestConnex scheme development and alternatives.

It is worth noting that this section covering alternatives to the then $10.5 billion project was only four pages long out of a 127page document. The review gave a brief history of the M4 East proposal.

“The M4 Motorway between Emu Plains and Concord has been progressively developed over a 40 year period. The section between Parramatta and Concord was opened in 1992. An eastern extension of the M4 Motorway to the Sydney CBD was subsequently planned and a scheme was publicly exhibited in 2003 to 2004 which proposed extending the motorway to the City West Link and widening the existing motorway. This scheme did not proceed due to concerns over economic viability and environmental impacts.” (p.25)

In the current M4 East EIS the following explanation is given:

“Between 2003 and 2004 a preferred option for an eastern extension of the M4 to the Sydney central business district (CBD) was developed and publicly exhibited. This option, referred to as the M4 East, proposed extending the M4 to the City West Link and Parramatta Road at Ashfield as well as widening the existing motorway between Homebush Bay Drive and Concord Road. This scheme was put on hold indefinitely by the then NSW Government. The 2003 preferred option formed the basis of the concept design for the M4 East project, which forms part of WestConnex.”
WestConnex M4 East Environmental Impact Statement, Volume 1A, WestConnex Delivery Authority, September 2015, Page 4-1

The two reports appear to contradict each other. It is quite a different proposition to a project being abandoned “due to concerns over economic viability and environmental impacts” and simply putting the project “on hold”. There is no analysis in the current EIS as to the reasons why the original proposal did not proceed. The comments in the Strategic Environmental Review should have been addressed in the EIS. What has changed since 2004 that now makes the M4 East economically viable with positive environmental impacts? The failure to release the business case further exacerbates the situation.

The project should not be approved without a full appraisal of the economic and environmental impacts of the proposal with particular reference to how the current proposal overcomes the previous concerns raised in 2004 that led to its abandonment.

The two reports appear to contradict each other. It is quite a different proposition to a project being abandoned “due to concerns over economic viability and environmental impacts” and simply putting the project “on hold”. There is no analysis in the current EIS as to the reasons why the original proposal did not proceed. The comments in the Strategic Environmental Review should have been addressed in the EIS. What has changed since 2004 that now makes the M4 East economically viable with positive environmental impacts? The failure to release the business case further exacerbates the situation.
The project should not be approved without a full appraisal of the economic and environmental impacts of the proposal with particular reference to how the current proposal overcomes the previous concerns raised in 2004 that led to its abandonment.

Reasons given for Westconnex M4 East don’t stack up

“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 kilometers an hour.”
WestConnex M4 East EIS, Vol 1A, Page ii

The EIS does not say where Parramatta Road sits in the top six most congested roads in Sydney. Is it the worst or is it the sixth worst? If it is the sixth worst why is $15.5 billion being spent on this corridor while the other five more congested corridors are not being given priority? There is no discussion in the EIS on the comparative advantages of spending the money on WestConnex as opposed to the other congested corridors.

“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.” M4 EIS vol 1A p.ii

Buses from the inner west carry around 10,000 passengers in the busiest hour into the city (as measured at Broadway). This includes the routes along Parramatta Road and King Street Newtown. However, in the study area, in particular Parramatta Road between Concord Road and Burwood Road there are no existing bus services. Between Burwood Road and Wattle Street, there is only one bus route the 461. This route has a peak frequency of 4 buses per hour. This gives a capacity of less than 250 passengers per hour. It is not a strong bus route due in part to its proximity to the main western rail line which accounts for most of the peak public transport demand on the corridor.

The EIS paints a false picture of public transport in the corridor. It suggests that there is already high public transport service and use on the corridor and that WestConnex will free up lanes on Parramatta Road for more and faster bus services. The implementation of bus lanes is stated to be the main public transport initiative of WestConnex. However, the project does not deliver bus lanes along the length of the Parramatta Road until after 2031.

WestConnex will have a net negative impact on public transport use. Refer to Part 3 on Congestion pricing for more information on why expansion of urban motorways has a negative impact on public transport.

Part One of Kennedy Submission can be found here

Submissions to the Westconnex EIS process close on November 2, 2015. Here’s
how you can make a submission: https://m4eis.org/2015/09/11/how-to-object/

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3 thoughts on “Narrow interests plus public transport failure behind Westconnex M4 East – Lyall Kennedy Submission Part 2

  1. 2 WestConnex fails the objectives of the NSW Transport Master Plan
    WestConnex is an anomaly to the NSW Transport Master Plan 2012
    The WestConnex EIS claims that it was a legitimate part of the long term transport planning for NSW for which it is very obvious that it was retrofitted after the event.
    The NSW Master Transport Plan December 2012 was written from the perspective of improving the mobility for residents and visitors to Sydney through the modernising and connectivity of Public Transport.
    The focus mentioned frequently throughout the document was to reduce car dependency and thus congestion by investing further in the various modes public transport. The main initiatives were to address the lack of rail connectivity, by enhancing the current radial mode to be a more networked and connected system. It also included complementary improvements with other modes, such as increase dedicated bus lanes plus BRT, increased cycle-ways and encouraging walkability. The livability of communities and protection of the environment was a key outcome of the Plan.
    “Most of Sydney’s rail network was built more than 100 years ago and is primarily centred on servicing the CBD. There has been little recent expansion of the network, with 39 kilometres of the total CityRail system of 1,050 kilometres built in the past 33 years (as at 2012).. As Sydney has grown and evolved to a multi-centred city, its needs have changed and our rail system needs to evolve to keep up with these changes.”
    “Businesses often cite the lack of public transport connectivity as an inhibitor to establishing a presence in the three regional cities of Parramatta, Penrith and Liverpool, as well as precincts like Macquarie Park, Sydney Olympic Park and Port Botany”.

    “By enabling industries to set up in the regions, in transport terms, this would reduce the impacts of dispersed employment in Greater Sydney, alleviate car dependency and long commutes, and promote more liveable communities”.

    The below comments – lifted from the Master Plan – succinctly encapsulate the rationale of this Plan:
    “Regular physical activity is important to our health and wellbeing. Recent research shows that many people get an additional eight to 10 minutes of exercise each day when they use public transport. Importantly, being active for part of our journey to work or school incorporates exercise into our daily routines. The NSW Centre for Population Health has observed that public transport use, walking and cycling are associated with a number of health benefits, including a reduced incidence of obesity, higher levels of exercise and improved mental health.
    Building social and community goals into our transport planning will strengthen communities, reduce disadvantage and open up opportunities. To meet our objective of reducing social disadvantage, we will require new ways of thinking about how to distribute transport services more evenly across the State. We will need to give people healthier travel options, such as making it easier and safer to cycle to work or walk to the nearest train station. We will also need to integrate our transport system more closely with land use planning, creating well-designed cities and suburban centres that reduce our reliance on cars, encourage us to be more active and produce safe, attractive and well-used urban spaces”.

    The inclusion of the WestConnex project at various points throughout the document is an anomaly to the key rationale of the original document.

    NSW Master Transport Plan Vision
    “The city will become more liveable by improving the design of buildings and public areas, developing mixed-use spaces where people work and live, and creating more opportunities for people to walk and cycle to work and major service centres. Protecting our natural environment, improving access to green spaces and improving air quality will be critical. The Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney underpins this land use and planning vision for Metropolitan Sydney to 2031.
    Central to these outcomes will be an integrated and efficient transport system that is closely aligned with land use planning. Sydney’s transport infrastructure and services will cater to the customer, providing diverse transport options and reduced travel times, while being readily accessible across all parts of the city. Improved public transport networks will increase productivity and global competitiveness.”
    “Improve sustainability – by maintaining and optimising the use of the transport network, easing congestion, growing the proportion of travel by sustainable modes such as public transport, walking and cycling, and becoming more energy efficient”
    “For public transport – If Under a ‘do nothing’ scenario, most travel in Sydney would continue to be by motor vehicle, with roughly the same percentage of trips still made by car in 2031.
    “Transport has an important role in supporting Sydney as a global city. Strong connectivity across the city, quality public transport networks and opportunities for walking and cycling can all contribute to maintaining Sydney’s role as a centre of economic and social activity”.
    “The city will become more liveable by improving the design of buildings and public areas, developing mixed-use spaces where people work and live, and creating more opportunities for people to walk and cycle to work and major service centres. Protecting our natural environment, improving access to green spaces and improving air quality will be critical.
    “Central to these outcomes will be an integrated and efficient transport system that is closely aligned with land use planning. Sydney’s transport infrastructure and services will cater to the customer, providing diverse transport options and reduced travel times, while being readily accessible across all parts of the city. Improved public transport networks will increase productivity and global competitiveness”
    The Master Plan also goes on with the rationale “Currently, around 14 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced in NSW come from the transport sector, making it the State’s second highest source of emissions. In the context of population growth and increasing travel demand, mitigating GHG emissions is a major challenge for the future”.
    “Providing people with opportunities to use public transport instead of private vehicles will help to reduce the environmental impact of transport in NSW. Increased walking and cycling, particularly for short, local trips, will also contribute to improved environmental outcomes.”
    “ The cost and availability of oil and the rising cost of electricity will also have a direct influence on the choices we make in procuring the most environmentally sustainable and energy efficient technologies to power our transport fleets”.
    “The growing travel task is also a challenge for preserving the amenity of many of our communities. The movement of freight is rarely silent and the generation of noise on a shared network in proximity to residential areas is a recognised issue”.
    The WestConnex project and its horrible impact on communities, vulnerable species and the environment is a complete juxtaposition to the vision for Sydney’s mobility by Gladys Berejiklian (previous Minister for Transport)
    I strongly object to the WestConnex project, as it fails to match any of the required core outcomes of the NSW Travel Master Plan.
    I strongly object to the WestConnex project as it represents a lost opportunity to “Get Sydney moving”. The funds required to fully implement the exciting public transport projects that will significantly improve connectivity of rail, bus, cycle and walking opportunities as proposed by Ms Berejilian will not be available. Instead, funds are redirected to a road project that is a space hungry, low volume mode of transport. It eschews Ms Berejiklian’s rational plan for Sydney, instead resulting in the perpetuation of car dependency, more pollution, more traffic noise, more congestion, and more GHG emissions. It reduces the livability and amenity of our suburbs. It removes important greenspace and vegetation that is critical for the survival of vulnerable species and for the health and wellbeing of residents.
    I strongly object to the misrepresentation contained in the EIS that WestConnex was part of the NSW Transport Master Plan 2012. It is reasonable to conclude that WestConnex was retrofitted later, rather than being a legitimate part of the long term plan scope.

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