Objectives of the M4 project – another response

Contributed by Ben Aveling
The stated objectives of the M4 project, which are similar to the stated objectives of overarching WestConnex project, are as follows:

Objective Objective Met?
  • 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

  • The planned route for the WestConnex does not connect to Sydney Airport or Port Botany.
  • The EIS does not provide evidence that economic growth can be assisted by increased motor traffic to the CBD.

Better value for the tax-payer dollar can be obtained by investing in:

  • improved road and rail access to Port Botany
  • improved public transport between Western Sydney and Sydney’s various CBDs
  • improving ring roads in Western Sydney
  • supporting and developing businesses in Western Sydney
  • Relieve road congestion so as to improve the speed, reliability and safety of travel in the M4 corridor, including parallel arterial roads

  • The improvements in congestion claimed for the project arise from measures that can be separated from the rest of the project – namely the reintroduction of charges for using the road.
  • Absent congestion charging, or similar, the laws of induced traffic means that increasing road capacity only increases traffic volumes; it does not reduce congestion
  • Charging for the M4 without congestion charging on alternate routes will increase, not reduce, congestion on those routes.
  • Cater for the diverse travel demands along these corridors that are best met by road infrastructure

  • The majority of traffic movements are fungible, and highly responsive to environmental changes including: provision of alternate modes of transport, (for e.g. public transport); provision of alternate traffic generators (for e.g. increased local employment opportunities); and cost and other signals (for e.g. congestion charging).
  • Catering more adequately for travel demands that are not ‘best met by road infrastructure’ also has the advantage of releasing road capacity for road users with no alternatives (within the limitations imposed by induced traffic) and potentially at a lower overall cost that proper process would have seen explored as an alternative to this project.
  • Create opportunities for urban revitalisation, improved liveability, and public and active transport (walking and cycling) improvements along and around Parramatta Road

  • The transport requirements of large-scale urban revitalisation and densification are better met by public transport than roads.
  • Increasing traffic volumes reduces, not improves liveability.
  • Improvements to ‘public and active transport’ can be achieved standalone and provide no justification for the rest of the M4 expansion.
  • Enhance the productivity of commercial and freight generating land uses strategically located near transport infrastructure

  • The planned route for the WestConnex does not connect to Sydney Airport or Port Botany.
  • Enhance movements across the Parramatta Road corridor which are currently restricted

  • Improvements to ‘movements across the Parramatta Road corridor’ can be achieved standalone and provide no justification for the rest of the M4 expansion.
  • Fit within the financial capacity of the State and Federal Governments, in partnership with the private sector

  • The EIS does not include the business case. Until the business case is released, and independently verified, it can only be assumed that the project does not fit within the financial capacity of the State and Federal Governments. It has already been made clear that the private sector will not be funding this project, precisely because of concerns about its viability.
  • Optimise user-pays contributions to support funding in a way that is affordable and equitable

  • The proposed cost model (up to $80+ a week) is not affordable for many of the M4’s current users.
  • 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

  • The project proposes non-trivial environmental damage and increases in pollution that can only be justified in the presence of a cost-benefit analysis and business case that is not present in the EIS
  • Protect natural and cultural resources and enhance the environment.

  • The project proposes significant loss of urban heritage
  • The project proposes non-trivial environmental damage and increased pollution that can only be justified in the presence of a cost-benefit analysis and business case that is not present in the EIS

Most of the claimed benefits arise from activities that are peripheral to the core project. They could equally well be delivered as standalone projects. As such, they can provide no justification for the wider project, and indeed, it is a Failure of process that they have not been listed as alternatives to the current project.

It is also a Failure of process that where alternatives have been acknowledged, they are not properly considered. For example, public transport is dismissed because of its unsuitability for freight, without acknowledging that improved public transport will take commuters off the road, freeing up capacity for freight.

As another example, demand management is dismissed because it would “require major changes in social attitudes, travel behaviour and government policy”. The first point is dubious, social attitudes are already changing – road use per person is declining, and this is especially true amongst the young. The second point is simply wrong – changes in travel behaviour are not a prerequisite for demand management, but are the result of demand management – as any economist will tell you. The third point, claiming that demand management is not an alternative because it is not currently government policy, is damning in its implication. The Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements require an “analysis of feasible alternatives”, and while changing government policy may not be trivial, it is clearly a feasible alternative; should proper consideration of an option lead to it being recommended, there is clearly scope for policy to be changed. To acknowledge that this option, or any other option, was dismissed on the grounds that it would require a change of government policy is strong evidence that it was not considered on its merits, as is legally required for the EIS to be valid.

It is also a Failure of process that the business case was not included. To be legitimately performed, the consultation process requires the sharing of all available and relevant information, including the best available assessment of the cost and benefits. Until this information is made available and reviewed, consultation cannot properly be said to have happened.

This project should not be allowed to proceed until these defects are satisfactorily addressed. If they cannot be addressed, the project should not be allowed to proceed.

One thought on “Objectives of the M4 project – another response

  1. A recent announcement by Asciano aims to have a second freight hub transporting containers by rail to Port Botany within 12 months, as it prepares to spend $100 million building a new intermodal terminal in western Sydney. This new 43-hectare hub, will be located in St Marys which is claimed as an ideal location for big retailers such as Woolworths, Coles and Bunnings, which have distribution centres nearby. It will be Asciano’s second intermodal terminal in western Sydney after Chullora. The Chullora terminal started transporting containers on rail to the port two months ago.

    The new hub’s rail shuttle will have annual capacity of 300,000, 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually. Chullora has annual capacity of 600,000 TEUs, including up to 135,000 TEUs that can run on rail to Port Botany. Chullora is running some 75,000 TEUs annually on rail to Port Botany.
    At full capacity, moving freight from Port Botany by rail from Chullora could take up to 100,000 truck journeys off roads every year, according to Asciano chief executive John Mullen.

    A much-bigger competing freight terminal will be opened at Moorebank by logistics group Qube and rival rail group Aurizon in late 2017.

    The distribution centres at both Chullora and Moorebank are better suited for distributions in the inner west. Mr Mullen stated that with “most of the distribution centre activity is further north-west” then it makes sense to transport via a cheaper and more efficient rail mode.

    The WestConnex project will perpetuate an inadequate, antiquated and highly congested transport route that will not meet the needs of the freight transport industry and the people of Sydney and NSW. The Freight Industry recognises this, and have embarked on their rail projects that will better support Sydney’s global economic corridor.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/asciano-spends-100m-on-expanding-sydney-freight-hub-network-20151008-gk44qp.html#ixzz3oFxu8ITj


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