WestConnex Inquiry Report - John Austen

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The Parliamentary inquiry into WestConnex is the type of thing that should happen before any major infrastructure project starts.
However, it let the supporters of the project off too lightly. [i]

As John Menadue and I argue for public inquiries into infrastructure projects – notably Sydney Metro – it is pertinent to consider the recent report of such an inquiry into WestConnex. [ii] 


WestConnex, originally conceived as urban renewal – ‘beautification’ of Parramatta Rd - has morphed into Australia’s most costly road program.  Its publicised purpose is to allow easier driving between Sydney’s south-west and CBD. [iii]

It comprises a series of mega road projects: extension of the M4 to near Sydney’s CBD, duplication of the M5 near Sydney airport and a new underground motorway between the two.  The much-touted link to Port Botany and Sydney Airport has been reclassed as a different project, presumably to minimise embarrassment from yet another cost overrun.  Initially costed in 2011 at $11bn, the present estimate – made in 2015 - is around $17bn. [iv]

The program, part financed by privatising early projects to pay for later ones, is being undertaken by a public-private partnership.  The Commonwealth is making a substantial contribution – the pre-matureness of which attracted ‘scathing’ criticism from the Audit Office[v]

There is a veil of secrecy around its merits and vociferous opposition from inner Sydney communities.

The inquiry

The inquiry was established by the NSW upper house in June 2018.  It was chaired by the Hon. Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party.  Its six other members comprised three from the Coalition (Government), two from the Labor Party and one from the Greens.

Terms of reference were set by the inquiry.  568 submissions were received, public hearings were held, transcripts etc. were published.  Its report, released 19 December 2018, was presented as supporting and opposing the project[vi]

The report

The report made 16 findings and 27 recommendations.  The first: there should be a public inquiry into each major infrastructure project before construction starts.

It damned the process behind WestConnex, concealment of information – including from the Committee - and treatment of citizens severely affected by the project.

Yet it recommended WestConnex proceed.  The reasons: an assumption a motorway is needed; the fact it is being built.

Four Committee members dissented.  While the dissents took opposing views, the report’s findings were largely unchallenged.  Only one – by Dr Phelps (Coalition) - challenged the value of the inquiry.

Assessment of the report

The report was more confident on straightforward matters where there was direct evidence – e.g. local residents being disadvantaged by construction; the process behind WestConnex omitting several important steps.

It considered a range of matters including health effects, traffic and tolls.  It supported the program’s finance model, although the basis of its endorsement is unclear.

However, in dealing with myriad matters it missed the two central questions:

  1. The transport effects of WestConnex;
  2. Why ‘independent’ experts disagree on pivotal matters.


Transport effects

To the extent WestConnex is ‘successful’ it will attract traffic into – through – Sydney’s CBD.  This includes new car trips and - worse - diversion of trips from suburban routes into central areas.

One implication: more motorways will be ‘needed’ to re-divert traffic just diverted into the city area.  Re-diversion appears to be the ‘strategic’ purpose of the mooted northern beaches link to the Warringah district and the F6 to the south towards Wollongong.  Construction costs of these roads is estimated at least $32bn. [vii] 

This is so perverse as to imply real motivations for WestConnex are not transport or urban renewal.  More likely: road building for its own sake.  Together with non-disclosure of the business case, hyper-sensitivity to criticism and deletions from the program to avoid perceptions of endless cost overruns the picture is of Government beatification of motorways rather than tidying up Parramatta Rd.

The inquiry should have considered whether cancelling WestConnex would be more effective and cheaper than incurring such sums and other road costs. 

Expert disagreement

The report observed, but did not comment on, conflicts among officials and - more importantly - the opposing views of ‘independent experts’ Infrastructure Australia and SGS Economics.  The former supported the program, the latter did not.

It is unsatisfactory for the report to leave such a fundamental conflict unresolved.  The job of a public inquiry is to determine such questions.  

Given SGS’s challenge it was also a mistake for the inquiry to accept WestConnex as worthwhile without strong evidence – the ‘business case’ is not public and was not apparently subpoenaed. The inquiry should not have assumed any new motorway is needed, and it should have discounted unsubstantiated NSW Government – proponent – claims about project merit and ‘commercial confidentiality’.

Infrastructure Australia’s slim positive assessment should have been ignored.  For one thing, as raised in Pearls and Irritations in 2017, it wrongly assumed the link to Botany and Sydney Airport was in the program. [viii]

For another its assessments are not properly independent – criteria are inadequate with undue reliance on proponents for information.  Also, as made clear by the NSW Auditor General, alternatives to WestConnex were not considered. The inquiry should have refrained from any support of WestConnex unless and until proponents provided compelling evidence and rebutted the views of e.g. SGS.

Infrastructure Australia’s assessment is irrelevant. 

For another its assessments are not properly independent - criteria are inadequate and there is undue reliance on project proponents for information. 

Also, as made clear by the NSW Auditor General alternatives to WestConnex were not really considered.

The inquiry should have required proponents to fully justify WestConnex and rebut the views of e.g. SGS.


The WestConnex public inquiry is beneficial in bringing significant matters to public attention. 

The electorate is now in a better position to pass judgement. 

However, it missed the essential characteristic of WestConnex – a ‘need’ to build more motorways in Sydney to mitigate the mess it’s about to make.

Given this, the unresolved conflict among experts, and the continuing lack of transparency by the Government, its recommendation the program proceed is mistaken. 

The recommendation is likely to reinforce the behaviour criticised in the report.

Future public inquiries should be tougher and only recommend projects whose merit is transparent and proven – the default position should be ‘not recommended’. 

Such inquiries are important.  However, they need to be tougher and have stronger support – like Mr Christie's public inquiry into Sydney public transport[ix]


John Austen is a happily-retired Sydney western suburbs dweller.  An extended version of this article entitled 'Urban Admonitions' can be found here and on his website The Jade Beagle.


[i] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2497

[ii] https://johnmenadue.com/john-menadue-the-best-of-2018-sydney-metro-a-forty-billion-dollar-deception/#comments


[iii] https://www.thejadebeagle.com/wonderland-glory-and-evaluation.html


[iv] https://johnmenadue.com/john-austen-doubts-about-infrastructure-go-beyond-sydney-metro/

[v] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/audit-office-highly-critical-of-government-funding-for-westconnex-20170214-guc9dr.html

[vi] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/westconnex-toll-road-project-panned-for-lack-of-transparency-20181217-p50moa.html

[vii] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/beaches-link-should-not-be-built-transport-expert-20181102-p50dmx.html


[viii] see note iv above.

[ix] https://www.smh.com.au/national/finally-a-plan-that-will-get-sydney-moving-20100212-nxm0.html

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No WestCONnex: Demands for Labor

No WestConnex: Public Transport is committed to the cancellation of the WestCONnex toll road project and the promotion of efficient and sustainable transport solutions for Sydney. These include publicly owned public transport, active transport and rail freight.

It is clear that the NSW State Liberal National Coalition government has no interest in stopping WestConnex and will continue to extend toll tentacles north and south across Sydney. In order to stop and reverse the damage, we call upon the Labor opposition to make the following commitments:

  • Cancel the WestCONnex Stage 3 contracts
  • Guarantee that under no circumstances will the Western Harbour Tunnel, Beaches Link or F6 toll roads ever proceed under a Labor government
  • Retrofit any partially completed sections of WestCONnex with railways and/or electric buses
  • Remove the tolls immediately from the widened M4
  • Implement an action plan to bring Sydney's air quality to within national standards and install filtration on all existing Sydney motorway tunnels
  • Compensate all homeowners fully for any structural damage caused by WestCONnex construction, with the onus on the contractor to prove that they did not cause any damage
  • Hold a Royal Commission into transport infrastructure planning, funding and delivery
  • Repeal the State Significant Infrastructure provisions of the EP&A Act introduced in 2011
  • Get shipping containers off Sydney’s roads by railing them to inland depots to the maximum possible extent.


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air pollution lies

MEDIA ALERT: Families lied to about danger from toxic air pollution


As families take their young children back to school they are confronting the disturbing evidence the Berejiklian government has lied to them about the threat posed by one of the most deadly forms of air pollution, PM 2.5.
The Coalition Against WestConnex (CAW) has revealed a report is being compiled using the State government’s own figures - collected by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and WestConnex monitors - that shows extraordinary levels of exposure to PM 2.5. This is a form of pollution known to cause heart disease, strokes and respiratory illness and, in Sydney alone, is responsible for 520 premature deaths each year according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
The first instalment of the report reveals air monitors in Sydney’s Inner West at Haberfield have recorded the higher annual levels of PM 2.5 than any other monitors in the Sydney basin – including those located in the coal-mining centre of the Hunter.
While scientific research has shown there is no safe level of exposure to PM 2.5, the national limit is 8 μg/m3 on a daily average over a year. Now that it can been seen from the whole year’s data, January to December 2018, Ramsay Street Haberfield was 46% higher than that with 11.6 recorded, the monitor inside Haberfield School was 40% higher at 11.2, and Powells Creek Strathfield was 22.5% at 10.2. (See graph above)

In June 2018 air quality monitors at St Peters public school in Sydney's Inner West recorded the highest average levels of PM 10 – another form of air pollution – than any other Sydney monitoring site during the first three months of that year.

In June 2018, the WestConnex Action Group wrote to the Ministers for Health and Environment raising their concerns about the level of exposure to this around the St Peters and Haberfield sites. Mark Coure, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure, responded writing,
“I am further advised the readings experience at the Haberfield Public School monitoring station are much similar to other monitoring stations on the New M4 and NSW Environment Protection Authority monitoring stations across Sydney. The results to date do not indicate the Haberfield Public School monitoring station is measuring anything otherthan the regional pollution level with normal variations across the day.”
“The Premier knows that’s not true,” said Christina Ho, mother of two primary school-aged children in St Peters. “Yet she is asking me to send my kids into this toxic soup every day, knowing full well how dangerous it is for their health,” said Christina Ho. “Little kids are more vulnerable than any other members of our community and she expects them to study and play in this dangerous level of pollution.”
“Right now it is the communities of Haberfield and St Peters which are most exposed to these high levels of particle pollution,” said Anne Picot a local resident. “But as WestConnex – with all its unfiltered tunnels - rolls out across Sydney tens of thousands more will be exposed to it. My question is what are the Premier and the Opposition leader going to do about it? We expect PM2.5 air pollution will be made worse permanently once the tunnels open with unfiltered exhaust stacks. Why doesn't the Premier care about Sydney's kids?"
The health of the public in exposed localities, particularly children, the elderly and anyone with an existing chronic disease will inevitably be adversely affected. There will be more premature deaths and more chronic disease. Yet, according to medical specialists in respiratory health, it is possible to reduce the impact if the long road tunnels were fitted with adequate filtration systems. The question remains why won’t the government do this.
The reports can be found at:

PM 2.5
PM 10
For more information contact
Anne Picot: 0404 090 710
Wendy Bacon: 0409 403 774
The Coalition Against WestCONnex is a network of community groups opposed to WestConnex:

Camperdown Residents Against WestConnex (CRAW)
Haberfield Association
Leichhardt Against WestCONnex (LAW)
Newtown Residents Against WestConnex (NRAW)
No WestConnex Annandale
No WestCONnex: Public Transport (NoWPT)
Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW)
Save Ashfield Park (SAP)
Save Newtown from WestConnex
Stop WestConnex - Glebe and Forest Lodge
WestCON Community Action Group Haberfield/Ashfield
WestCONnex Action Group (WAG)

Note to Editors
The report has been prepared by researcher, journalist, and stop WestConnex activist Wendy Bacon, and software developer and open data specialist, Henare Degan.  For further information contact Wendy Bacon: 0409 403 774

Background on PM 2.5 air pollution

What is PM 2.5 and why does it matter?

PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that long-term exposure to PM 2.5 may lead to plaque deposits in arteries, causing vascular inflammation and a hardening of the arteries that can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. Scientists in the study estimated that for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) increase in fine particulate air pollution, there is an associated 4%, 6% and 8% increased risk of all-cause, cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality, respectively.

The American Heart Association has also warned about the impact of PM 2.5 has on heart health and mortality:
“Exposure to PM <2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) over a few hours to weeks can trigger cardiovascular disease-related mortality and nonfatal events; longer-term exposure (eg, a few years) increases the risk for cardiovascular mortality to an even greater extent than exposures over a few days and reduces life expectancy within more highly exposed segments of the population by several months to a few years.”

It is worth noting that while traffic on the WestConnex tollway will continue to produce dangerously high levels of PM2.5 for decades, the construction phase is anticipated to go on for at least seven years and this will also add to the toxic load of pollution.

An association between mothers’ exposure to fine particles and birth defects has also been established by several reports. Children, older adults and those who are suffering from lung and/or heart disease are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of fine particles in the air and should take special precautions when ambient PM 2.5 crosses unhealthy levels.
Extensive scientific research has shown that there is no safe level of PM 2.5, which is linked to heart disease, cancer, premature birth and can impact lung and brain development.
More recently, research has shown that PM 2.5 may be linked to increased risks of dementia.

In 2017, University of Sydney Professor of Respiratory Medicine Paul Torzillo told a meeting in Camperdown (where a major WestConnex Stage 3 construction site is planned) that,
“Every major program and project like this around the world leads to more cars and more vehicles coming into cities. It's been very well looked at by a number of research groups. Every single infrastructure project like this leads to more cars and more vehicles coming into cities and you have a greater contribution to air pollution from traffic-related pollution.

“Traffic-related pollution – there is a huge amount of evidence that air pollution increases death from cardiovascular disease, that's the leading cause of death in Australia. It leads to increased hospital admissions from heart disease. It leads to increased stroke. It leads to increased respiratory disease, and it leads to increased deaths from respiratory disease. It leads to higher rates of low birth weight in kids. And there are major reviews by WHO that occur every few years or from groups that are consulted by them and every time one of these reviews occurs the evidence about the strength of the relationship between pollution and bad health get stronger and stronger. There's no question about this...It’s absolutely true that pollution levels for half a kilometre each side of roads are much higher than they are outside that. Pollution levels will be higher at entry and exit points. They'll be higher at stack points. But there are big measurement problems here."

Professor Paul Torzillo, Executive Clinical Director and Head of Respiratory Medicine at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) hospital, May 2017.

Watch the video of Professor Torzillo's speech.

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WestCONnex Parliamentary Inquiry on Youtube

Thank you to the Inner West Council for uploading all of the WestCONnex Parliamentary Inquiry videos onto their Youtube channel.

Details of the inquiry sessions can be found on the parliament website here:



9th of October, morning sessions:

9th of October, afternoon sessions:

11th of October, morning sessions:

11th of October, afternoon sessions:

15th of October:

7th of November:


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2018 Wrap up and the challenge ahead


2018 was another great year in our ongoing battle to show westCONnex for what it really is: "the biggest waste of public funds for corporate gain in Australian history". Our combined efforts have made westCONnex a toxic project and one of the top NSW election issues.

Here are the key events of 2018 along the way:

Read more
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When you’re in this deep, stop digging


Media Alert: Community responds to Parliamentary Inquiry into Impacts of Westconnex report

This Inquiry was important because it finally gave a voice to the community and a committee that was prepared to listen to their experiences.
“After more than four years of being ignored and fed lies by WestConnex and the NSW government, it is reassuring and a welcome relief that the Committee listened to us,” says Rhea Liebmann, a spokesperson for the Coalition against WestCONnex.
This report should alarm all citizens of NSW, especially hundreds of thousands impacted by infrastructure projects. It reveals shocking evidence of unacceptable impacts on the quality of life and the health of communities. There was no consideration given to alternatives such as public transport before starting the project and the business case was established retrospectively.  There has been a failure in consultation and complaints procedures, leaving residents helpless.
We welcome some of the findings but completely reject the first finding that WestConnex is: “...a vital and long-overdue addition to the road infrastructure of New South Wales. The committee supports complete construction, including Stage 3 and the Rozelle Interchange.”
It’s not credible, in light of this report, to justify this recommendation. When you are in a hole this deep the first thing to do is stop digging.
“The NSW Gladys Berejiklian government has just granted a $3.9 billion contract to CPB a company that have been involved in all stages of WestConnex. This decision is a recipe for further disaster, and demonstrates the failure of good governance and transparency that we should be able to expect from a modern democracy,” said Rhea Liebmann, spokesperson for CAW.
We agree with the dissenting report by Greens member, Cate Faehrmann, that WestConnex and the planning of other tollways should be halted before more damage is done and a full review conducted in which all alternatives are considered.  There should be a Royal Commission into the many questions that remain unanswered.
As the dissenting report makes clear, the rest of the world is moving in an entirely different direction, finding:  "The committee heard compelling evidence of the benefit to other cities around the world which have chosen not to invest in new motorways and instead invested in reducing car use and improving public transport. If an assessment of alternatives to WestConnex had been completed, then it would have been clear that public funds should have been spent on improving public transport instead."
At a time when the world is trying to take action to prevent a climate crisis, it is extraordinary that the most expensive infrastructure project in Australia’s history has not even considered the impact this thing will have on carbon emissions.
“We’re relieved that the Committee did not accept RMS’s assurances that non filtered ventilation facilities are ‘best practice’ and welcome the recommendation for filtration of stacks. The government told the Inquiry that it could retrofit tunnels with ventilation - it’s time for them to do that on all tunnels in Sydney. Surely the Berejiklian government is not going to wave aside the evidence of senior doctors that say there are “serious health risks, “ said Kathy Calman.
The Inquiry committee finds that transparency and accountability are weakened by privatisation, making it harder to fix weaknesses and problems in infrastructure delivery.  We say that lack of privatisation, lack of transparency, revolving doors between government and private companies are the heart of the problem.
“We will intensify our campaign against destructive, deceptive and unfair tollway policies of the Gladys Berejiklian government from now on until the March election. But if Labor is elected they will inherit an awful mess. Labor needs to step up now and act in the public interest to stop Stage 3 going ahead.”
The failure of logic at the heart of this report is contained in this finding: “Stage 3 of the WestConnex is strategically important to New South Wales and should be constructed, not merely because of the massive financial penalties which would apply were it to be cancelled, but because without Stage 3 the benefits of the WestConnex project as a whole would not be realised“.
The report makes it clear no one knows the true cost of this project, that the ‘success’ of the project relies of continuing forward traffic demand and ongoing privatisation will make all of these issues more acute, while the benefits to the NSW community and the opportunities lost in terms of alternative public transport remain unclear, so why continue?
We call on the government to respond in particular to recommendation 11: That the NSW Government immediately publish a full account of all costs to be incurred by NSW taxpayers if Stage 3 contracts were cancelled.
The Campaign against WestConnex welcomes and agrees with the dissenting report by Greens member Cate Faehrmann. “It’s dangerous and frightening that major infrastructure projects can be sold off before they are even designed, “ said Kathy Calman. “We hope that all the trauma caused by WestConnex will lead to more rigorous planning and assessment in the future.”

For more information contact:
Julie Macken: 0400 925 217
Kathryn Calman: 0421 181 057
Rhea Liebmann: 0410 517 343


CAW is a network of community groups opposing the WestConnex project.

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Campaigners call for halt as they wait for Inquiry report release



What we don't know about Westconnex is a scandal

This week has been another bad one for the WestConnex project as the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) were again forced to stop work over safety concerns on the M4 East site and one of the project’s major contractors - Leightons now known as CIMIC - saw a senior ex-executive Peter Gregg found guilty of falsifying company records in relation to an allegedly corrupt $15 million payment during his time at construction giant. The company, which is heavily involved in WestConnex Stage 1 and 2 has been involved in WestConnex since its beginnings in 2013. But next week will probably be even worse.

The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the impact of the WestConnex Project will publish its report on Monday December 17th . Given a mountain of evidence, we expect the report to reveal a mass of problems with WestConnex. But what the evidence also shows is that the NSW government and WestConnex refused to answer basic questions about the project. This shows a contempt for parliamentary and public accountability and lends weight to community demands for an immediate stop to the project and a Royal Commission into WestConnex.

The scandal is that despite a huge effort in a very short time, the Inquiry will reveal the community is still no closer to having basic questions answered about this controversial multi-billion dollar private toll-way.

Spokesperson for the Coalition Against WestConnex Rhea Liebmann says: “It’s shocking that so many questions were not answered and that so much basic information is ‘commercially in confidence’. Nothing less than a Royal Commission will get to the bottom of this white elephant – a project now destined to go down in history as the most expensive and corrupted projects in NSW history. Until then work and funds must stop, when you’re down a hole this big, you need to stop digging. That’s why we welcome Labor's Shadow Spokesperson for WestConnex promise of a Royal Commission if elected.”

The The Gladys Berejiklian government told the Inquiry it had done 36 business assurance reviews on WestConnex since it released the Strategic Business case at the end of 2015. Although the 2015 version is now very out of date, all further reviews are confidential.

The following is a list of some of questions asked during the current Inquiry. The refusal to answer is nothing less than contempt for basic parliamentary and public accountability.


Disappearing Sydney Gateway
The first question asks the most basic question of all: what constitutes the WestConnex project. One of the terms of reference for the inquiry was; (h) the circumstances by which WestConnex and the Sydney Gateway were declared to be separate projects in 2017.

Question: When was the decision made to make the Sydney Gateway project a separate project with the WestConnex project making a contribution towards it.

Answer: The WestConnex Delivery Authority was dissolved on 1 October 2015. Subsequently, in November 2015, Roads and Maritime Services began developing a separate business case for Sydney Gateway. Sydney Gateway is not being developed or delivered by Sydney Motorway Corporation – Roads and Maritime Services is the responsible delivery agency, with the WestConnex motorway program contributing $800 million to the road component of Sydney Gateway.

No exact date was provided and Inquiry government witnesses either professed not to know the date or provided conflicting responses. In fact various players including the RMS CEO Ken Kanofski continued to refer to the Gateway project as part of WestConnex for the next two years. Three years ago RMS were working on a business case that has never been made public.


What’s in the air?
The second goes to the vital question of safety for school children. There is evidence before the Committee that WestConnex gave assurances to the St Peters P and C Westconnex sub-committee that results of air monitoring would be made available to school committee. The results were never been sent to the school.

Question: How many Pm10 or Pm2.5 exceedances have been recorded at St Peters School?

Answer: Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) and its contractors continue to meet all regulatory requirements regarding the publication of air monitoring levels. Changes to PM10 and PM2.5 levels can be caused by broader regional emission events, for example a bushfire, rather than a local emissions source related to the project. SMC and its contractors are continuing to meet all regulatory requirements in the management and reporting of air quality levels as construction on WestConnex continues.

Note that the SMC does not answer the question. There have been exceedances at St Peters school.

This is just one point to emerge from evidence on air quality which overall demonstrated that RMS claims to be using ‘best practice’ have no solid foundation.

Noise and neglect
The third non-answer reflects the contempt with which WestConnex treats communities in their path.

Question to Andrew Head, Head of WestConnex:

You say that WestConnex does everything it can to minimise impacts, so why did you not put in place noise mitigation measures on homes greatly affected by noise generated by the construction phase on the New M5?

Answer: We are committed to minimising disruption to residents who are living through and impacted by construction. As part of our review of the WestConnex business, we will seek to ensure that we are adhering to all requirements of the New M5 planning conditions of approval, EPA requirements and other requirements relating to mitigation measures.

Evidence to Inquiry from residents made it clear that impacts are horrendous and that contractors are doing nothing to minimise impacts on residents. The NSW government has contracted out its obligations and on many occasions during the Inquiry, it was clear that there had been a collapse in public accountability and transparency.


How much?
Finally there is the enormous question of just how much this now private tollway is costing the taxpayers of NSW – a question the organisation still refuses to answer.

Question to WestConnex CEO, Andrew Head: In respect to stage 3A, you say Lendlease Samsung has been awarded the design and construct… what is the value of the construction part of the contract?

Answer from Mr Head: Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is currently in contract negotiations for Stage 3B (Rozelle Interchange) construction and has indicated that releasing the value of Stage 3A (mainline tunnels) at this point may impact its commercial negotiations.

This means that a contract for the Stage 3A M4/M5 that was awarded in June 2018 and is worth billions has not been made public.

It’s worth remembering that at this point, many believe the cost is now closer to $20 billion than the $16.8 billion put forward by the NSW government. Even the $20 billion estimate does not include the many billions of additional costs that the Committee heard were not included in the WestConnex cost/benefit ratio.


On Friday December 14th, the government announced that the Stage 3b contract for the Rozelle Interchange had been given to CIMIC (CPB) and John Holland. The only second bidder was paid $20 million to enter the race. CPB is the same company that has caused the noise impacts referred to above. The government has stated that the cost of 3b is $3.9 billion, so the Coalition Against WestConnex assume that $3.3 billion is the cost of the tunnel between St Peters and Haberfield. If the Rozelle Interchange is not finished on time, the government will pay penalties to Transurban that now controls WestConnex.


For further information call:

Rhea Liebmann: 0410 517 343

Kathy Calman: 0421 181 057

Julie Macken: 0400 925 217


Coalition Against WestCONnex is a network of community groups opposing the WestConnex project.

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WestCONnex Parliamentary Inquiry videos


A NSW Parliamentary Inquiry was established on 21 June 2018 to inquire into and report on the impact of the WestConnex project.

Public hearings were held on the 9 Oct, 11 Oct, 15 Oct and 7 Nov.



Tuesday 9 October 2018
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

9.15 am Government panel – Transport cluster
Mr Ken Kanofski Chief Executive, Roads and Maritime Services
Ms Camilla Drover Executive Director, Motorways Division, Roads and Maritime Services
Facebook video link

10.45 am Government panel – NSW Treasury and DPC
Mr Phil Gardner Deputy Secretary, Commercial, NSW Treasury
Mr Jim Dawson Executive Director, Commercial Assets, NSW Treasury
Ms Kim Curtain Executive Director, Infrastructure and Structured Finance, NSW Treasury
Ms Sally Walkom Executive Director, Commercial Branch, Department of Premier and Cabinet
Facebook video link

11.45 am Rozelle community panel
Mr Peter Hehir Convenor, Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW)
Mr Brian Gorman, Representative, North West Rozelle Residents
Ms Denise Corrigan, Representative, North West Rozelle Residents
Facebook video link

1.30 pm
Dr Patrick Harris Senior Research Fellow, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney School of Medicine, representing the Public Health Association of Australia
Facebook video link

2.00 pm Local government panel
Councillor Darcy Byrne Mayor, Inner West Council
Mr John Warburton Deputy General Manager, Community and Engagement, Inner West Council
Mr Kendall Banfield Manager, WestConnex Unit, Inner West Council
Councillor Gulian Vaccari Mayor, Strathfield Council
Facebook video link Part 1 Part 2

3.00 pm Annandale and Leichhardt community panel
Mr Kelvin Riordan Convenor, NoW Annandale
Mr Richard Dudley-Smith Co-convenor, NoW Annandale
Ms Ann-Therese King Vice president and WestConnex Liaison Officer, Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt P&C
Ms Jane Crawford President, Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt P&C
Facebook video link (until 46 minute mark)

3.45 pm
Dr Glen Searle Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney
Facebook video link (from 47m24s mark)

4.15 pm
Ms Mary Court Secretary, Penrith Valley Community Unions, Spokesperson, No M4 Tolls
Facebook video link


Thursday 11 October 2018
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

9.30 am
Mr Marcus Ray Deputy Secretary, Planning Services, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr Glenn Snow Acting Executive Director, Priority Projects, Department of Planning and Environment
Facebook video link

10.30 am
Dr Raymond Nassar Specialist anaesthetist
Facebook video link

11.15 am
Mr John English Chairperson, Beverly Hills North Progress Association
Ms Kathryn Calman Member, Beverly Hills North Progress Association
Facebook video link

12.00 pm
Mr Jim Betts CEO, Infrastructure NSW
Ms Marina Grobbelaar Acting Deputy CEO and Head of Investor Assurance, Infrastructure NSW
Facebook video link

1.45 pm
Mr Richard Olsen State Secretary, Transport Workers Union 
Mr Robert Rasmussen Official, Transport Workers Union
Facebook video link

2.30 pm
Ms Margaret Crawford Auditor-General of New South Wales, Audit Office of NSW
Mr Scott Stanton Assistant Auditor-General, Financial Audit, Audit Office of NSW
Ms Claudia Migotto Assistant Auditor-General, Performance Audit, Audit Office of NSW
Facebook video link

3.30 pm Haberfield community panel
Mr Malachy Ward WestConnex Liaison Officer, Haberfield Association
Ms Cynthia Moore Member, Haberfield Association
Ms Sherrill Nixon Head of the WestConnex subcommittee and Member, Haberfield Public School P&C
Ms Rachel Brittliff Member, Haberfield Public School P&C
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4.15 pm
Ms Merilyn Fairskye Co-convenor, Newtown Residents Against WestConnex
Mr Ben Aveling Co-convenor, Alexandria Residents Action Group
Dr Lesley Treleaven Convenor, Camperdown Residents Against WestConnex
Professor Paul Torzillo Head of Respiratory Medicine at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, appearing with Camperdown Residents Against WestConnex
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Monday 15 October 2018
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

9.00 am Sydney Motorway Corporation
Mr Dennis Cliche Former Chief Executive Officer, Sydney Motorway Corporation
Mr Peter Jones Former Project Director, Stage 3, Sydney Motorway Corporation
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10.00 am
Mr Andrew Head Chief Executive Officer, WestConnex
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11.00 am
Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Mayor, City of Sydney
Ms Monica Barone, Chief Executive Officer, City of Sydney
Mr Kim Woodbury, Chief Operations Officer, City of Sydney
Mr Sebastian Smyth, Executive Manager Access and Transport, City of Sydney
Mr Terry Rawnsley, Principal and Partner, SGS Economics and Planning
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11.45 am
Professor John Sheehan AM Chairman, Desane Group Holdings Limited
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1.30 pm VALUERS
Mr Michael Parker, Acting Valuer General, Office of the Valuer General
Mr Paul Goldsmith, Principal Valuer Compensation, Valuation Services, Property NSW
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2.15 pm
Mr John Lozano, No WestConnex: Public Transport
Mr Matthew Doherty, EcoTransit
Mr Jim Donovan, Action for Public Transport
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3.00 pm
Dr Michelle Zeibots Research Director, UTS Transport Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney
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3.45 pm
Ms Janet Dandy-Ward, Treasurer, WestConnex Action Group
Ms Rhea Liebmann, Spokesperson, WestConnex Action Group
Dr Jane Durie, Spokesperson, WestConnex Action Group
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4.30 pm
Ms Kate Cotis, Resident, St Peters
Ms Tamara Regan, Resident, St Peters
Dr Sarina Kilham, Spokesperson, WestConnex subcommittee, St Peters Public School P&C
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5.15 pm
Mr Richard Capuano, Former resident, St Peters
Ms Shelley Jensen, Former resident, St Peters
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Wednesday 7 November 2018

Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

10.00 am 
Mr Marcus Ray Deputy Secretary, Planning Services, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr David Gainsford Executive Director, Priority Projects Assessment, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr Glenn Snow Director, Transport Assessments, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr Mark Gifford Chief Environmental Regulator, Environment Protection Authority
Mr Stephen Lancken Independent Chair, M4 East Air Quality Community Consultative Committee

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1.00 pm
Mr Ken Kanofski, Chief Executive, Roads and Maritime Services
Ms Camilla Drover, Executive Director, Motorways Division, Roads and Maritime Services
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WestConnex M4 Widening Stage 1a Submission by No WestConnex

The first stage of WestCONnex was Stage 1a, the widening of the M4 from Parramatta to Strathfield. This is the submission from No WestCONnex: Public Transport on the Environmental Impact Statement, from September 2014

Submission to SSI 13_6148
Regarding the M4 Western Motorway - WestConnex M4 Widening

From NoW Public Transport Inc - September 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing on behalf of the members and member groups of the non-profit NSW incorporated association: NoW Public Transport. I am writing to oppose the widening of the M4 Motorway as detailed in the Environmental Impact Statement attached to the application #SSI 13_6148.

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How the planning process was corrupted to prop up the toll road corporations

How the planning process was corrupted to prop up the toll road corporations
by Dr Chris Standen


Recent modelling by Veitch Lister Consulting confirms the $17 billion WestConnex toll road will increase traffic and congestion in inner Sydney, making getting around more difficult for many of us. But isn’t the purpose of new transport infrastructure to improve mobility?

Well, WestConnex wasn’t conceived by skilled transport planners, aiming to improve mobility and access for Sydney’s growing population. In fact, I don't know of one independent transport expert who thinks the scheme makes sense from a transport, or economic, perspective.

Rather, the scheme was designed to optimise revenues and profits for private toll road corporations – much like the West Gate Tunnel that Transurban, already earning $2.1 billion a year from tolls, has proposed for Melbourne.

These corporations’ business models depend not on improving mobility or liveability, but on cramming more traffic onto metropolitan roads, and on locking us into paying ever-increasing tolls. Indeed, Sydney Motorways Corporation chief, Dennis Cliche, recently described the new M4 toll as “exciting”.

WestConnex has been supported by the Liberal and Labor parties – both receive large donations from toll road corporations.

It was crudely shoehorned into the final version of the 2012 NSW Transport Master Plan. Objectives such as "reducing congestion" and "linking Western Sydney to the Airport" were drafted retrospectively, to try to justify the scheme.

Embarrassingly, even these objectives won’t be met. As the new modelling shows, WestConnex will significantly increase congestion. Traffic on Parramatta Road has already surged, due to motorists avoiding the new tolls on the M4. WestConnex won’t actually “connex” to the Airport – and because the existing Airport motorway (M5 East) will be tolled $14 for a round trip from 2020, many people driving from Western Sydney will be switching to slower local roads.

A financial flop before it’s even built

The Commonwealth and NSW governments committed billions of dollars to this private enterprise before a very unconvincing business case was crafted. This funding included proceeds from the sale of income-generating public assets (electricity network).

In a reversal of a normal Public Private Partnership arrangement, the NSW Government then volunteered to build WestConnex on behalf of the private sector – saddling taxpayers with all the financial risk.

Despite public subsidies of over $5.6 billion to date, WestConnex still won’t be able to pay for itself through user charges – it’s a financial flop before it’s even built. To make up the shortfall, new tolls are being slapped on existing, publicly-owned motorways (M4 and M5 East), and extended on the M5 Southwest after 2026, when this motorway will have been paid off. Further substantial taxpayer subsidies are likely.

Will the scheme meet its objective of increasing corporate profits? Probably. While there is still significant uncertainty around future toll revenues and construction costs, the financial risk continues to be borne by taxpayers – because the NSW Government is yet to hand WestConnex over to the private sector.

I expect the future operator will acquire it at a fire-sale price. It will also want revenue guarantees. This is where this week’s announcement of a vehicle registration refund scheme for frequent toll road users comes in. This subsidy, likely to cost taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years, will encourage some travellers to switch from free roads and public transport to the private toll roads, shoring up traffic and revenue.

In terms of political popularity, a $358 incentive to use toll roads is unlikely to make up for new tolls of $3,300 a year on the existing M5 East, and $2,000 a year on the M4.

The biggest misuse of public funds in Australia's history?

Clearly, WestConnex is not in the public interest. The scheme involves arguably the biggest misuse of public funds for private gain in Australia's history – billions of dollars that could otherwise have been used for worthwhile infrastructure or services.

The harm to people’s lives is immeasurable. Construction is already destroying communities, affecting people's health, and disrupting sleep and travel – with years more to come. The new tolls on the existing motorways will hurt lower-income households, particularly in Western Sydney. The extra traffic generated through induced demand and toll-avoidance will lead to more road trauma and traffic noise. In particular, we can expect more trucks on local streets day and night, as they avoid the new tolls.

Traffic pollution  an invisible killer

Sydney's air already has unhealthy levels of traffic pollution. Diesel exhaust is a carcinogen in the same class as asbestos. Invisible and odourless petrochemical particulates penetrate deep into our lungs and into our blood supply while we work, exercise and sleep – and we may only become aware of the health consequences years later.

The toll road bosses and their government backers know WestConnex will cause more people to die and suffer chronic illness from traffic pollution in future. Is profit more important to them?

But it’s not a done deal. Stage 3 is still unfunded, and has major engineering challenges. Other cities worldwide have been saved from inner-city motorway schemes in the past. With jobs decentralisation, affordable housing policies, and investment in efficient and rapid mass transit, they are prospering without costly, destructive and polluting tollways.


(This article was originally published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-planning-process-corrupted-help-toll-road-chris-standen/ on 1 Nov 2017 and has been reproduced here with Dr Standen's kind permission.)

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