Community strikes back against WestConnex
The fight against the WestConnex toll road is reaching a new level of intensity, particularly in the South Sydney area. Further alarmed at the start of construction of the Alexandria to Moore Park seven-lane clearway that has already seen destruction of trees and a stretch of Sydney Park, local community groups and the City of Sydney have ramped up their campaign efforts.
The City has letter-boxed the entire LGA with a leaflet explaining that WestConnex is “not a done deal – yet”. It is referring to the as yet unapproved Stage 3 component of the project. This is the most expensive section, costing over $7 billion to tunnel eight lanes of tarmac from St Peters to Haberfield and the world’s largest underground traffic interchange in Rozelle. Described as a “missing link” by the NSW Government, oddly it turns the M4 and M5 into a big U-turn.
Running approximately in a north-south direction, the real rationale for this section is not to “connect the west” as the name may suggest, but to provide a faster motorway route for north shore drivers to get to Sydney airport. The final indignity for commuters in the west of Sydney is that they are now being forced to pay for this section of road through hefty new tolls on the M4 between Parramatta and Strathfield.
Instead, the City of Sydney and campaign groups have called for the Airport Station tax to be scrapped. This would massively increase public transport patronage to the airport, keeping cars off the road, as occurred when a similar surcharge was removed at Green Square and Mascot. If Stage 3 were to proceed however, it would also increase the likelihood of construction of yet more toll roads, such as the Western Harbour Tunnel and the F6 “SouthConnex” which could funnel 120,000 vehicles a day into the city.
One way for the public to advance this argument and reject the toll road is to make a submission on the Stage 3 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), now on exhibition until October 16. The EIS is 7,400 pages and highly complex, but already community groups have created detailed and varied objections to assist local residents and these have been signed by thousands of people so far.
To further inform our community, the Friends of Erskineville is hosting a public forum on Tuesday October 10 at Erskineville Public School from 7pm. It will feature presentations by Terry Lee-Williams, who is the City of Sydney’s Chief Transport Advisor, and a number of local activists who have studied the EIS in detail. Some of our local elected representatives will be in attendance and there will be plenty of time for questions from the audience. Draft submissions will be available for people to add comments and submit on the spot.
Andrew Chuter is the Vice President of the Friends of Erskineville and Co-convenor of No WestConnex: Public Transport.