Inner West Independent

Westconn’ highway of hell looms closer

A five-year-old child laying on the footpath at Euston Rd, just 1.8 metres between a front door and the new seven lane Westconnex highway. Credit: supplied

BY ALEX EUGENE

The trees and grassy paths of Euston Road, Alexandria this week became the most recent casualties of the Westconnex roadworks.

Residents were in some cases allegedly given only a week’s notice before bulldozers moved in to demolish everything in its path, leaving less than one metre of footpath between family homes and the impending seven lane highway.

Pauline Lockie, a spokesperson for the Westconnex Action Group said that residents have been told they will not be eligible for compensation. At best they have been told they “might” be eligible for soundproofing, mechanical vents and air filtration.

“They’re not going to be able to open their windows and doors with seven lanes of road outside, because it will be too noisy and the air will be too polluted,” said Ms Lockie.

The Westconnex Action group has been petitioning to stop the works since 2016, demanding that residents be consulted and properly informed before any clearing took place. But the calls have been ignored and now brushed aside as work commenced this week.

Protestors gathered early last Friday morning to stand off with bulldozers and policemen, joined by Acting Federal Greens leader Scott Ludlam, NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and Greens NSW transport MP Mehreen Faruqi on the day.

“Enough is enough; we must stop this environmental, social and personal toll on people,” said Ms Faruqi.

“Sydney is being choked by toll road after toll road. The almost $17 billion WestConnex has already blown out by almost 70% and that’s not even counting the new toll roads being announced to the North and to the South.”

John Millar, an inner west resident, believes there may be grounds to launch a class action against the government.

He says the government will likely dismiss any responsibility for damage caused to people’s homes by vibrations from construction sites, even though works occurred in Alexandria last week less than 2 metres away from many houses.

But Westconnex provided a 104 page document to residents about vibration damage where they state construction sites up to 200 metres away from homes have been shown to cause structural damage.

“They’re ignoring their own document, making up their own ad-hoc rules,” said Mr Millar.

Mr Millar, who understands engineering jargon because he worked in state government project procurement,
says the document is “full of graphs and engineering data” which is difficult for an ordinary resident to interpret, meaning many will not even be aware of the contradiction.

Senator Lee Rhiannon said the project is all about money, leaving residents last.

“Corporations are the big winners out of this project. As well as the construction companies building the project, there is an army of legal and PR companies doing very well along with international toll road operators like Transurban, all lining up to profit from the public purse,” she said.

Ms Lockie says the worst part is that the new roads will not even solve traffic jam problems, as the seven lane highway will only turn into a bottleneck when it converges back into four lanes further down.

“It really is hard to comprehend that the government would actually do this to people,” she said.

“A narrow footpath is all that’s separating people from what will be seven lanes of traffic carrying 70,000 cars and heavy trucks a day. Some of the residents’ front doors, and childrens bedrooms are going to be 180 centimetres away from a massive interchange and intersection.

“So as well as the noise and pollution, there are horrendous accidents waiting to happen,” Ms Lockie said.

Stephen Nixon, a member of the action group has written an open letter to the Minister for Westconnex, NSW Liberal politician Stuart Ayres emphasisng the safety issue.

He included an alarming photo of his five year old son lying on the footpath, showing just how close the roadside will be to children and parents who must walk past to get to their homes.

“How can anyone say this will be safe?” he asks in the letter.

“This is a five year old we’re talking about. Imagine if this was a grown adult? Their head and upper torso would be thrown into oncoming traffic should they trip.
“With no safety barriers and such a short distance (1.8m) between the entrances and highway – you’re asking for a serious accident or even a fatality. When this happens the blood will be on your hands,” wrote Mr Nixon in the powerful message, posted on the Minister’s and Westconnex’s Facebook pages.

The Greens are currently pushing for a Senate inquiry into Westconnex.