The WestConnex series of tunnels, interchanges and surface freeways is based on an already weak business case. It has a poorly articulated demand analysis that to a large degree fails to meet its own stated objectives. When confronted with this reality, and the local impacts of a seven lane freeway through its urban area to receive the discharged traffic from the St Peters Interchange, the City of Sydney asked if there was an alternative. This alternative would meet the objectives of WestConnex in improving urban amenity, relieving congestion, servicing Port Botany and supporting access to Sydney Airport. It would also reduce the required investment, be more sustainable and substantially reduce negative impacts.
The City used the general planning principals that underpin Transport for NSW, Infrastructure NSW and Infrastructure Australia’s guidelines for considering major proposals. They are, in short, that governments should always:
• seek to minimise the need for major infrastructure first
• consider all options to maximise the use of existing infrastructure before proposing new infrastructure
• avoid planning one piece of infrastructure in isolation from other infrastructure or land use changes.
There are no demand management plans in place to minimise use of existing roads or manage congestion in the WestConnex footprint. The business cases for WestConnex have minimal regard to options. Since WestConnex was approved, major new competing transport infrastructure and land use changes have been approved that significantly alter the modelled demand for WestConnex. The case is very strong to pause the Stage 3 M4 –M5 Link and continuation of Stage 2 New M5 works. We need to rethink the need, shape and scale of WestConnex and consider what could be done that is better economically for NSW. The City proposes a three phase approach that meets the objectives of WestConnex, combining demand management with right -sized infrastructure.