Few people in NSW would be unaware of the billions that are being spent on Sydney toll roads. Community groups have been fighting the WestConnex toll road for five years, but added to that in the last year Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced further extensions – the F6 “SouthConnex” and the Western Harbour Tunnel/Beaches Link. The total cost of these projects is estimated to be $50 billion. Both have spawned new resident action groups that will be attending and speaking at the rally.
Transport experts and resident groups know that these motorways do not improve traffic in the medium to long term due to induced demand. This is a process whereby extra car trips are taken in response to the new road capacity and commuters abandon public transport. The money spent on toll roads would be far better spent on public and active (i.e. walking and cycling) improvements. This would also not have the disastrous impacts of large-scale destruction of homes and parks and exhaust pollution.
Residents were assured that the WestConnex project would take traffic underground and turn local streets into a “nirvana”. Nothing of the sort will occur. Traffic studies by the Inner West Council have shown that some streets will have traffic trebled and the billion dollar Alexandria to Moore Park highway is being built to accommodate a tenfold increase in traffic on Euston and McEvoy streets.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who will be speaking at the rally to protest WestConnex, described it as “a project that is being so seriously mismanaged and so secretively run it threatens to put our entire community at risk, by taking much-needed funds out of public transport”. She is also very concerned about the lack of public transport looming at Green Square. “With the NSW government committed to a wasteful knock-down rebuild of the stadiums, it’s time to seriously question their priorities and ensure we receive the best outcomes for the community,” she said.
Another local group endorsing the rally is Alexandria Residents Action Group. Co-convenor Ben Aveling said, “Everyone loses under the NSW government’s model. If you drive, you will pay more for the roads you have now. If you take public transport, you won’t be able to get on a train or bus. Walking or riding a bike will be less safe and more polluted. While cities all over the rest of world are working to give people alternatives to cars, we’re doubling down on what no longer works.”
The recent train meltdowns across the Sydney network have added to calls to put public transport first. According to Alex Claassens, Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Secretary, the new train timetable means there is a shortage of around 150 staff. The RTBU is currently engaged in negotiating a new enterprise agreement for Sydney Trains staff. Industrial action, including the planned strike, to achieve fairer wages and conditions was suspended for six weeks by the Fair Work Commission (FWC). ACTU secretary Sally McManus condemned the FWC decision saying, “Rail workers followed every single rule and law, and still the Minister of the day can get an order to cancel bans on working excessive overtime. The basic right to strike in Australia is very nearly dead.”
The RTBU has endorsed the Fix NSW Transport rally and Claassens will be a speaker. “The system is broken. It’s important for people to come together and make the politicians take notice,” he said.
The FIX NSW TRANSPORT rally will start at Archibald Fountain at 2pm on Saturday February 17. The march will proceed to Martin Place Amphitheatre for speeches and performances until 4pm. For more information and to RSVP, go to www.bit.do/fixnsw.