Inner West Independent

WestCONnex: utopia or dystopia?

By Peter Hehir

Are the Australian Labor Party really the saviours that some who oppose WestConnex believe them to be?

Whilst it’s true that they are the only organisation that could put a stop to the insanity, if they choose to, the obvious question is; will they?

They support WestConnex. They always have. For most of this century their position on Inner City freeways – the tolled version that is – has always been full steam ahead. Not just in Sydney but in every capital city in the country.

They were right behind the Lane Cove Tunnel; that’s the one where the block of flats almost disappeared into the excavation.

If you bury your head in the sand and ignore the common experience gathered over the past 60 years everywhere else in the world, then their advocacy for tollroads appears to make some sense.

The roads are choked. So we either need more roads or less cars. Sydney is growing so more cars are inevitable, therefore the only solution is more roads. Has a nice sort of logic to it, doesn’t it…

But is it logical? Do more roads solve traffic chaos? Have they ever? More roads mean more cars, more cars mean more traffic and more traffic always results in chaos. That’s the global reality.

Glad the Impaler’s incredibly cynical approval of the Stage 3b contract, just one day prior to the findings of the WestConnex Parliamentary Inquiry being published, means that White Bay will become the largest road traffic interchange in Sydney, if not in the entire country.

With an estimated 40 lanes of traffic from the already choked Anzac Bridge, the City West Link, Victoria Road, The Crescent and the three new inbound/outbound WestCONnex portals, all converging within just a few metres of each other, peak hour gridlock will be inevitable.

Even though the NSW Branch of the ALP have said that they don’t support the Western Harbour Tunnel, this chaotic intersection – coupled with the fact that about 40% of the Western Harbour Tunnel (WHT) will be built as part of Stage 3b – will undoubtedly force their hand.

Once they’re elected in March the announcement a year or so down the track will be something like;

Oh, we’re really sorry… We know that we promised that we’d oppose the WHT but we just have to do something to fix the chaos at White Bay caused by the previous Government”; coupled with “As 40% of the WHT is being built it makes fiscal sense to complete it”; and “It would cost far too much to buy back that part of the Stage 3b contract. Sovereign risk precludes that”…

So the Western Harbour Tunnel will undoubtedly happen. If 13,000 objections couldn’t stop Stage 3 then, even if every one of the 20,000 households on the peninsular objected, their pleas will still be ignored and the WHT will proceed.

Less cars would be desirable but how could that possibly be achieved? Well how about taking the lead from major cities elsewhere in the world and pursue the public transport option?

We could completely ignore Abbott’s credo that the car is the only way to travel if you see yourself as successful; that travelling with the great unwashed is an admission of defeat; a daily reminder of your failure as a human being.

This syncs with the Neo Con’s core philosophy of privatise and make a profit. That the concept of “the greater good” is just a utopian fairy-tale. And with the right wing firmly in control of the ALP, they aren’t about to argue.

Clearly both parties have been bought and paid for by the fossil fuel lobby.

The WestConnex Parliamentary Inquiry also demonstrated that governance was completely lacking in relation to the awarding of the contracts for the earlier stages.

Highly critical articles by Carmen Lawrence, a previous ALP Premier of Western Australia and by Wendy Bacon, a Sydney investigative journalist – published in Bottleneck! in August of 2017 by Rozelle Against Westconnex – detail the stench of corruption hanging over both AECOM and CIMIC in their overseas dealings.

Both of these companies are heavily involved in Stage 3a – the M4 M5 Link and Stage 3b – the Rozelle Interchange and the Iron Cove Tunnel. They also had a hand in some of the recent monumental tollroad failures in NSW and Qld.

So what’s the answer?

Obviously public transport! If it was cheaper, more accessible, reliable, safe, frequent and comfortable, it would be heavily patronised and would significantly reduce vehicular traffic.

WestConnex was ostensibly designed by the dystopian Berejiklian government – with the support of the ALP – to do as the name suggests; to connect the West to the CBD. But major cities worldwide are doing their utmost to keep traffic out of the city centre by investing in public transport.

Then why not here? So is the ALP the solution or just another part of the problem?

Object to the WHT by all means, but don’t expect logic, reason and common sense to prevail. You do have one ace though. It’s your vote.

Use it in March to protest the bipartisan insanity of tollroads.


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