Government response: Sucks to be you

The Government has released its response to last year’s Upper House Road Tolling Inquiry.

To summarise, the Inquiry found that: People can’t afford the tolls.

To which the Government responded: Neither can we. Sucks to be you.

(The words used were more flowery than that: “Without [tolls], the roads Sydney needs would not be built”.)

Which all raises the question: if Western Sydney’s toll roads aren’t affordable for drivers, or for governments, then why do we keep building them?

The answer is: to pay for roads being built in Eastern Sydney.  According to the Government, “user pays … includes instances where the user of one toll road is subsidising the cost of another toll road”

The government does not explain why it’s fair for Western Sydney drivers to subsidise Eastern Sydney drivers.

The government goes on to claim that “Road users … are prepared to pay a toll.”

As if there were a choice.

Road users might be prepared to pay a toll that’s fair, but the current toll is not fair.

The toll is too expensive, goes up too fast, and stays on for too long.

Motorists are being forced to pay $4.74 to save a couple of minutes, compared to the old freeway.

You have to be making a fair amount per hour before that becomes a fair price, and it’s only going to get more expensive.

The price is going to go up by 4% a year, more than twice as fast as salaries are rising.

Even at the current price, the M4 expansion will have been paid off after 2 or 3 years of tolls.

But M4 motorists will be paying 40 years of tolls.

Many motorists are already unable to pay the current toll.

Putting the toll on the M4 has reduced the number of vehicles using the M4 and increased the number using other roads.

All that has been done is to make one road a bit faster, at the cost of making other roads slower.

As a ‘solution’ to Sydney’s traffic problems, this is about as effective as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

What Western Sydney Motorists need is for the Government and the Opposition to:

  1. reduce the toll to a fair level, and
  2. promise to lift the toll entirely, once the expansion is paid off.

Nothing short of that is fair to Western Sydney.

The Inquiry’s report is here.

The Government’s response is here.

Would you like to pay 43 years of tolls, or just 6?

Starting on 15 August, the M4 and the M5 are to be tolled for the next 43 years, to pay for WestConnex Stage 3.

On 7 June, the Daily Telegraph reported that Luke Foley supports “all three stages of the WestConnex”  (subscription may be required).

If this is true, it would reverse Labor’s previous position, which was to support the first two stages of WestConnex, but not Stage 3.

Well placed sources have confirmed that Foley did say that the M4 and M5 need to be linked, but he did not say how they should be linked.

Stage 3, also known as the M4-M5 Link is an enormously expensive tunnel under the inner city. It will eventually connect Haberfield and Balmain to Kingsford Smith Airport, via St Peters. If built, it will cost at least $8 billion dollars.

It would link the M4 and the M5, but that is not the only way that the M4 and the M5 can be linked.


The City of Sydney have released an ‘Alternative to WestConnex‘. Their alternative proposes linking the M4 and the M5. But they don’t propose building an expensive tunnel. Instead, the City of Sydney would upgrading the A3 (King Georges Rd to Centenary Drive).

EcoTransit, a public transport lobby group, believe the City of Sydney plan is superior to the WestConnex M4-M5 plan. But they also believe that there is an even better option – to upgrade the A6 (Silverwater Road to Stacey St).

Why this matters

Tunnels are expensive, about ten times times as expensive as a normal road.

Upgrading either the A3 or the A3 would provide all the benefits of the tunnel, but at a fraction of the cost.

And that means that the government wouldn’t need to charge 43 years of tolls. Just 6 years of tolls could raise enough money to pay for it all.

Upgrading the A3 or the A6, or both, would not only provide a linkage between the M4 and the M5, it would make it easier to get around Western Sydney.

This which would encourage businesses to locate in the West rather than in the East. And that means more jobs in Western Sydney.

So why does that the Liberal Government want to build an expensive tunnel under the inner city, rather than upgrade existing roads in the Western Suburbs? Truth is, we don’t know. But the M4-M5 Link does one thing that an upgrade of the A3 or the A6 doesn’t. The M4-M5 Link makes it easier to get from the North Shore to the Airport.

Whatever the reason, if it gets built, Western Sydney gets to pay for it.

The Government’s sneaky plan to privatise the M4.

Right now, the M4 is owned by the people of NSW, and is free to use.

Some time in the next few months, drivers will start paying $4.42 to drive from Church Street to Homebush Bay Drive.

That money isn’t going to the NSW government. It’s going to a company called SMC  – Sydney Motorway Corporation.

The government has given the M4 to SMC, for the next 40 years.

SMC will charge drivers up to $8.60 – each way. And this toll will increase by 4% a year. This is twice as fast as wages are rising.

You’ll never see a for-sale sign on the M4.

SMC is government owned, so transferring control of the M4 to SMC doesn’t count as selling the M4.

All you’ll see SMC is being sold. But SMC has control of the M4.

So when SMC goes, the M4 goes with it.

If you don’t think this is a good idea, Stuart Ayres is the Minister responsible for the M4. There will be a rally at his office tomorrow, Monday the 5th. For more detail, visit

Save 40 Minutes? Less than 15, says traffic expert.

At the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Road Tolling on 22 May, Professor
David Hensher, Director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics
Studies at the University of Sydney, was asked whether WestConnex would save
drivers 40 minutes on a trip between Parramatta and Sydney Airport.

Professor Hensher replied:

“It is too high; I do not believe it”.

Earlier the same day, Labor MLC John Graham had tabled an RMS document
showing that drivers would save around 15 minutes.

Professor Hensher said the prediction was unrealistic:

“15 minutes [would be] the best-case scenario … These are the optimistic numbers”.

The full transcript is available here:


Why WestConnex will cost so much for so long

It’s just been announced that WestConnex users will be paying tolls for 43 years, including the bits that are currently free.


Put simply, WestConnex is horribly expense.


It’s not a telephone number. It’s the estimated cost of building WestConnex. Fifteen billion dollars.

Someone has to pay for it.

WestConnex will be able to carry maybe 100,000 drivers a day.

The interest bill alone has been estimated at $630 million. Dividing that between 100,000 drivers a day, 365 days a year, means each driver needs to pay $17, just to pay the interest.

And if business is going to touch it, they’ll want to do a lot better than just paying off the interest.

WestConnex is a seriously bad investment. There are better alternatives.

Alternatives to WestConnex

At full capacity, based on similar infrastructure, the entire WestConnex tollway is estimated to have a commercial value of perhaps five billion dollars – less than a third of its forecast cost.

In 2012, WestConnex was to cost $10 billion dollars, and the estimated benefits were $12 billion dollars. By 2013, it was to cost $11.5 billion dollars. At the end of 2014, it was forecast to cost $14.9 billion dollars. The latest (gu)estimated cost is $15.4 billion dollars. That’s $15,400,000,000 – about $3,500 for every person in Sydney Continue reading

Your guide to the M4 East EIS documentation

The M4 East EIS is divided Volumes 1 and 2.

Volume 1 is the executive summary.

Volume2 contain all of the many appendices that contain all the details. The appendices are distributed through Volumes 2A through 2H.

Volume 1A

1 Introduction
2 Assessment process
3 Strategic context and project need
4 Project development and alternatives
5 Project description
6 Construction work
7 Consultation
8 Traffic and transport
9 Air quality
10 Noise and vibration
11 Human health

Volume 1B

12 Property and land use
13 Urban design and visual amenity
14 Social and economic
15 Soil and water quality
16 Contamination
17 Flooding and drainage
18 Groundwater
19 Non-Aboriginal heritage
20 Biodiversity
21 Greenhouse gas
22 Aboriginal heritage
23 Resource use and waste minimisation
24 Climate change risk and adaptation
25 Hazards and risk
26 Cumulative impacts
27 Sustainability
28 Environmental risk analysis
29 Summary of environmental management measures
30 Project justification and conclusion

Volume 2A

Appendix A – Secretary’s environmental assessment requirements
Appendix B – Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (NSW) checklist
Appendix C – concept design drawings
Appendix D – Properties affected by acquisition
Appendix E – Government agency submissions
Appendix F – Community consultation framework
Appendix G – Traffic and transport assessment

Volume 2B

Appendix H – Air quality impact assessment

Volume 2C

Appendix I – Noise and vibration impact assessment

Volume 2D

Appendix J – Human health risk assessment
Appendix K – Shadow diagrams
Appendix L – Urban design, landscape character and visual impact assessment

Volume 2E

Appendix M – Social impact assessment
Appendix N – Economic impact assessment
Appendix O – Soil and water assessment

Volume 2F

Appendix P – Soil and land contamination assessment

Volume 2G

Appendix Q – Surface water: flooding and drainage
Appendix R – Groundwater impact assessment

Volume 2H

Appendix S – Non aboriginal heritage impact assessment
Appendix T – Biodiversity impact assessment
Appendix U – Detailed greenhouse gas calculations
Appendix V – Aboriginal heritage assessment
Appendix W – Climate change risk assessment framework

Main Volume 1A Part 1

Main Volume 1A Part 1 (pdf)

Contents Pages
Executive summary
Glossary and abbreviations
1 Introduction 1-1
1.1 Project overview 1-1
1.2 Project location 1-4
1.3 Project features 1-4
1.4 Benefits of the project 1-7
1.5 Purpose of this environmental impact statement 1-8
1.6 Structure of this environmental impact statement 1-8
1.7 Directions used in this environmental impact statement 1-9
2 Assessment process 2-1
2.1 Approval framework 2-1
2.1.1 Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 2-1
2.1.2 Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 2-1
2.2 Environmental planning instruments 2-3
2.2.1 State environmental planning policies 2-3
2.2.2 Local environmental plans 2-3
2.3 Other legislation 2-4
2.3.1 NSW legislation 2-4
2.3.2 Commonwealth legislation 2-5
3 Strategic context and project need 3-1
3.1 Strategic planning and policy framework 3-1
3.1.1 NSW 2021: A Plan to Make NSW Number One 3-1
3.1.2 State Infrastructure Strategy 3-2
3.1.3 NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan 3-3
3.1.4 Mode specific transport strategies 3-4
3.1.5 A Plan for Growing Sydney 3-6
3.1.6 NSW Freight and Ports Strategy 3-8
3.1.7 Parramatta Road Urban Transformation Program 3-8
3.1.8 WestConnex Business Case 3-9
3.1.9 Our Cities Our Future – A National Urban Policy 3-10
3.1.10 Alignment with other national strategic planning documents 3-11
3.2 Why the project is needed 3-11
3.2.1 Regional context 3-11
3.2.2 Existing road network conditions 3-12
3.2.3 Job creation in Western Sydney 3-13
3.2.4 Freight, commercial and business services 3-14
3.2.5 Parramatta Road urban renewal 3-15
3.2.6 Transport improvements in the Parramatta Road corridor 3-15
3.3 Project objectives 3-16
3.4 Summary 3-17
4 Project development and alternatives 4-1
4.1 History of the M4 East and WestConnex 4-1
4.1.2 M5 East Motorway 4-3
4.1.3 Connection between the M4 and M5 East 4-3
4.1.4 WestConnex and M4 East 4-3
4.2 Strategic alternatives 4-4
4.2.1 Alternative 1 – Base case or ‘do nothing/do minimum’ 4-5
4.2.2 Alternative 2 – Improvements to the existing arterial road network 4-5
4.2.3 Alternative 3 – Investment in public transport and rail freight improvements 4-7
4.2.4 Alternative 4 – Demand management 4-10
4.2.5 Alternative 5 – Extension of the M4 as part of the WestConnex scheme 4-10
4.2.6 Preferred strategic alternative 4-11
4.3 Motorway options 4-12
4.3.1 Earlier options development 4-12
4.3.2 Tunnel corridor options 4-15
4.3.3 Number of lanes within tunnels 4-15
4.3.4 Preferred motorway option 4-16
4.4 Interchange options 4-16
4.4.1 Western tunnel portals 4-16
4.4.2 M4 westbound access options 4-19
4.4.3 Concord interchange 4-20
4.4.4 Wattle Street (City West Link) interchange 4-23
4.4.5 Parramatta Road interchange 4-25
4.5 Design development of ancillary facilities 4-27
4.5.1 Ventilation system design 4-27
4.5.2 Ventilation facility locations 4-29
4.5.3 Emergency smoke exhaust facility 4-31
4.5.4 Fresh air supply facility 4-31
4.5.5 Motorway control centre 4-32
4.6 Construction methodology development 4-33
4.6.1 Tunnel construction methods 4-33
4.6.2 Spoil disposal 4-34
5 Project description 5-1
5.1 The project 5-2
5.2 Design criteria 5-5
5.2.1 Design standards 5-5
5.2.2 Urban design principles and objectives 5-5
5.2.3 Landscape framework 5-6
5.3 Project footprint 5-6
5.4 Tunnels (continues in part 2) 5-7