Inquiry criticises WestConnex project transparency19 December 2018
Australia – The government of New South Wales has published the results of an inquiry into the WestConnex road project in Sydney. The inquiry findings were critical of the project on grounds of poor transparency, value and a number of other issues.
The report cites Audit Office findings that business case reviews were not fully completed and assurances to government related to the business case did not meet best practice. One out of a recommended four reviews was undertaken.
Also significantly for project delivery, the report found that privatisation has had a major negative impact on accountability and transparency.
It also raises technical concerns regarding unfiltered tunnel ventilation stacks, arguing that these do not conform to best practice and will result in negative health outcomes for local residents. “Many called for the fitting of filtration systems and I agree with these calls. The committee has recommended that filtration systems be installed on all current and future motorway tunnels,” said Fred Nile, chair of the inquiry committee.
However, the committee does reject calls for the final stages of the project to be scrapped, pointing to significant investment loss without benefit.
Local pressure group, WestConnex Action Group welcomed the criticisms but rejected the conclusion that the project should continue. It said, “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.”
A Roads and Maritime Services (NSW government agency for road infrastructure) spokesperson told Tunnels and Tunnelling, “Roads and Maritime Services welcomes the findings of the Parliamentary inquiry into the impact of WestConnex and will review the recommendations of the committee in detail.
“We acknowledge the impact major infrastructure projects have on people’s lives and we work very hard to minimise those impacts. We recognise air quality is a key community concern with most motorways. Projects such as WestConnex enhance the road network and minimise disruption to communities. Removing vehicles from surface roads into an underground tunnel network reduces local traffic congestion and emissions.
“The tunnel ventilation system for WestConnex has been designed in line with the world’s best practice and meets strict guidelines on air quality. This includes tunnel designs which are wider, flatter and higher so ventilation works more effectively. Based on the state of the art design for WestConnex, filtration would not provide any measurable improvement to the air quality in the surrounding communities. Instead, communities along the WestConnex corridor stand to benefit from the removal of thousands of vehicles from local surface roads. Ventilation outlets effectively disperse tunnel emissions and ensure there is little, if any impact on air quality for local residents.”
The spokesperson added that no road tunnels in Australia utilise a tunnel filtration system and that Sydney’s air quality is considered good by world standards and has improved significantly over the past 30 years.
Readers interested in the 16 findings and 27 recommendations of the inquiry can read the full report here: www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2497/Final%20report%20-%20Impact%20of%20the%20WestConnex