Contributed from New South Wales
As Sydney’s population rises and the roads become more congested, the new South Wales government continues to build the WestConnex project. It is now pushing Stage 3.
Meanwhile, the public transport system goes from bad to worse. The fiasco in the underfunded, overcrowded and unreliable rail network is testimony to this. While most other cities around the world have discovered that the only effective way to meet the growing demand for transport and have a clean city, is to rely on the building of public transport and reducing road traffic, the New South Wales government marches in the opposite direction.
For instance, Shanghai, a city of some 23 million inhabitants, now enjoys an extensive rail, trolleybus tram, bus and taxi system. Free rail travel is now going to be introduced. The plan is to markedly reduce the use of fossil fuel driven vehicles to clean up the air. Bus , taxi fleets and vehicles in general, are been transferred to electric power. Other cities around the world are also making positive changes and this includes Amsterdam. London and New York,which are also extending to make public transport faster and more reliable, and shifting to electric power.
Although the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has raised serious concerns about the level of pollution that will be emitted close to schools and populated areas, Gladys Berejiklian and her government, remain bent on pushing through stage 3.
The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has ignored 13,000 objections to the WestConnex Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Anthony Roberts, the Minister for Planning, has gone along with this.
At least $17 billion has been tied up with building WestConnex. Much of this money, which could be put to much better use, is coming from taxpayers. A part of it will be raised through the imposition of tolls.
So far, the project has failed to reduce congestion and its continuation is unlikely to make any improvement. Commuters seeking to avoid tolls are crowding alternative routes.
Stage 3 is the most destructive part of the project. Its purpose is build a new link between the first stages (M$ and M5). Construction will cause major damage through the North Shore and South Coast.
But the government faces a formidable list of community groups that are fighting back. The WestConnex Action Group has brought together residents from western, inner and south-west Sydney. They have been battling to have hidden documentation associated with the project made public. The leaks that have occurred up to now do not reveal good news. One example is a plan to extend tools and the intention to hand over the roads to private operators, who will enjoy a guarantied $10 billion over 40 years, out of thew pockets of the traveling public..
The broad campaign is being organised by the Coalition against WestCONnex. In addition to the WestConnex Action Group, it includes NO WestConnex Public Transport, Rozelle Against WestConnex, Leichhardt Against WestConnex, Save Newtown and other groups within its ranks.
This coalition has become a formidable force, drawing large scale public support behind it.
Reaction against the indecent haste in pressing on with Stage 3 has been strong and this is going to take the battle onto its next chapter.
If the Gladys Berejiklian government continues along its present course, it is going to land itself in serious trouble.