Deep excavation set to take place in the Inner West has raised concerns with the Rozelle community about the ramifications to their lives and properties.
Excavation as part of the Rozelle Interchange, a three-storey spaghetti junction connecting the M4-M5 Link Tunnels and the City West Link, began last month after 60 per cent of the Interchange’s tunnelling had been completed. With the junction varying in depths of 35 and 65 metres, deep excavation will be a crucial part of the interchange’s construction, which will also provide a connection to the Western Harbour Tunnel.
Rozelle Against WestConnex Convenor Peter Hehir conveyed the frustration that residents are forced to endure with construction occurring just metres below their homes.
“It’s impossible to sleep at night with the noise of the construction that goes on,” Hehir told the Independent.
“I have to take medication to get to sleep because of the jackhammering happening directly beneath me, it’s been going on constantly since June of last year, it’s a nightmare.”
With works occurring underneath his home for over 12 months, Hehir has lived through the immediate implications of underground work in Rozelle.
“There’s vibration, noise, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, parking is almost impossible, already we’ve seen rat-running,” Hehir said.
“Excavation doesn’t just happen without person power, the contractors essentially park the local streets, so amenity is impacted in a great many ways.”
A concerning precedent
The Western Harbour Tunnel aims to create a western bypass of the CBD, whereby the 6.5 kilometre, six-lane motorway will connect commuters from the Warringah Freeway in Cammeray to the Rozelle Interchange. The project was awarded $108 million in June’s NSW Budget and is expected to begin formal construction next year, with a completion date scheduled for April 2026.
Deep excavation techniques expected to be used in construction has alarmed Rozelle residents concerned by the effects to property evident in previous stages of WestConnex related works around the Inner West.
Beverly Hills resident Kathryn Calman is one of many Sydney residents whose homes have been damaged by deep excavation. First eroded in 1999 and then again in 2014 after works to the nearby M5 Motorway, Calman has suffered through much of the State’s underground construction works.
“The project didn’t make sense, because they weren’t telling you the overall plan, they were just telling you bits and pieces,” Calman told the Independent.
“We don’t have tunnelling near us, we have deep excavation, and they brought the deep excavation many metres down, close to 18 metres to our home.”
With Calman’s Californian Bungalow sitting on Ashfield Shale sentiment, excavation caused extreme changes in soil level moisture contract, making the soil in direct vicinity to the construction contract much faster than the earth situated below the back of her house, forging irreparable damage to her home.
“What happened was something called differential settlement – that’s when your house is tilting,” Calman said.
“One section of our house is sinking, and the other is not.
“We have, as many of the Inner West … an older home, on brick peers, not as flexible as the modern structures of houses today, so it’s not been able to cope at all with the changes in soil moisture.”
Engineering advice appraised Calman’s restoration job at $500,000 – one that would prove useless when cracks begin reappearing years later.
“In a short couple of years it’ll all be cracking anyway, probably cracking worse, so when you find your damage bill to be about half a million dollars to repair your home, and when you find out it’s not worth it, the only option we have is to have our homes demolished.”
Calman has failed to garner any compensation from the State.
“Transport for NSW are not providing the information such as soil moisture content records, geotechnical records and draining records,” Calman said.
“[They] have perfected the art of institutionalised abuse, because it’s nothing short of abuse.”
Inner West disillusion
With impending deep excavation procedures set to be carried out by the State contractor for the Western Harbour Tunnel, concern for similar property damage has shifted to the Inner West community.
Inner West Councillor Pauline Lockie expressed concern for residents vulnerable to the effects of the construction method.
“Based on what we’ve seen elsewhere in the Inner West with the WestConnex project, I think residents are right to be concerned about these excavation works,” Lockie told the Independent.
“When the previous stages of WestConnex were announced, the NSW Government downplayed the risk of property damage, and promised that anyone who had an issue would be compensated.”
Lockie understands that her constituents have now become disillusioned by the promises of the State.
“I’ve now lost count of the number of residents along the WestConnex route who’ve come to me with reports of serious property damage and not been paid a cent.”
Transport for NSW maintains that Inner West property owners will be safeguarded throughout the construction.
“All eligible properties will be offered a property condition report before works commence,” a Transport for NSW spokesperson told the Independent.
“An independent body will verify building condition survey reports, resolve any property damage disputes and establish ongoing settlement monitoring requirements.
“If any damage is found to be directly related to these projects, the damage will be fixed at no cost to the individual in question.”
Transport for NSW estimates Western Harbour Tunnel works to begin sometime in 2022.