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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1875

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (10:40): I stand to oppose the motion. Like my colleague from Kingsford Smith, I support the development of infrastructure in Western Sydney, but it has to be the right infrastructure. When I see motions like this before the House, I wonder how many ways the current government can be a different government from the one they said they would be in the election campaign. They said they were a government with a plan and, if this is an example of their planning capacity, it is not a very good one. They said they would be an infrastructure government and, again, if this is an example of the quality of the infrastructure planning that we will see from the government, we are not looking forward to a particularly good decade ahead as the plans they put in place in this early stage come to fruition.

The WestConnex project is a nice announcement. We in the Parramatta area and further west know that we have a fabulous piece of infrastructure in the M4, but, like many of the pieces of infrastructure in our area, it is not complete. I have said quite often in my community that one of the things we would like to see in Parramatta is a piece of our infrastructure actually finished. If you look around you can see the Parramatta to Chatswood rail line, which stops at Epping, and the current state government and this federal government are withdrawing the funding from that, so that will not be finished. It just needs to be finished—you can almost see Epping railway station from Carlingford. The line to Richmond has been doubled to Schofields but then goes single, again putting extra cars on the road through Parramatta. The M4 stops at Strathfield, and this project moves that problem elsewhere but does not solve it. You cannot get from Parramatta to Bankstown or Blacktown across Western Sydney with any great ease. Of course, the M5 needs to be widened, the M3 needs to be finished and the freight corridors, which were funded and in large part completed by the Labor government, still need to be completed. So, when you look around the area of Parramatta, you can see lots and lots of infrastructure projects that were started at some point but were never actually finished. Strangely enough, as the second CBD, Parramatta seems to be ignored in most of those infrastructure projects, as with this one.

There are three ways you can get traffic off the road—three ways you can deal with traffic congestion. You can build public transport to get the cars off the road in the first place. Again, we have seen the current state government and this federal government walk away from that in a major way in the Parramatta to Epping rail line. That project, by the way, if it had started on time would have been finished in early 2015—it would have been finished before this project even begins, and they walked away from that.

You can look at finding ways to use both sides of a road. When the member for Lindsay talked about the M4 being chockers in the morning, she is right—going into the city it is chockers, but going out of the city we have an extraordinary piece of infrastructure that can move people but is essentially empty. Using both sides of a road requires that you plan your infrastructure to move people in two directions, and I will get to some of the flaws in the design of WestConnex as it relates to Parramatta as a major CBD in a minute.

But if you are going to build a piece of infrastructure as expensive as WestConnex, as expensive as all of our major freeways, any sensible planning requires that you find ways for people to use those freeways in both directions in both the morning and the afternoon. This is about moving people from the west to the city in the morning and from the city to the west in the afternoon, and not about two-way travel at all. The third way you can do it, which is probably the most expensive way, is just to accept that there will be cars on the roads and build bigger and bigger, and fatter and fatter, roads to move them around. WesConnex attempts to do that, but it does it in a way that only moves the congestion and the bottlenecks from one place to another.

I want to get into the detail of that. Stage 1, which you heard about from the member for Lindsay, deals with the section of road from Church Street to Haberfield, the section of road from Parramatta to the beginning of the City West Link. It is a really important stretch of road. At the moment, the M4 stops at Strathfield and you end up on Parramatta Road, which is a major choke point until you get to Wattle Street, a two-lane road that starts to move a little better. As you get closer to the city it too is essentially a car park. Stage 1 widens the M4 to Strathfield. It widens the bit of the M4 that we currently have to four lanes and puts a toll on it, and it finishes that in 2019. So, between now and 2019, we will see the widening of the M4 to four lanes. It will be three lanes until you get to Parramatta and then it will be four lanes from there until you hit Strathfield, where it will go into a tunnel and back to three lanes. So that is the first new choke point—four lanes to three lanes for the tunnel, and then as you come out of the tunnel at Haberfield you go to two lanes. So it fools you into thinking, as you enter the freeway just after Parramatta, that you are on a nice road into the city, but then as more traffic joins it you go to three lanes and then as more traffic again joins it you go to two lanes. I mean, it is almost backwards from what a decent plan would be, which would actually widen the road according to the amount of traffic that is entering it.

It also creates some interesting new choke points within Parramatta. We are very critical in Parramatta of the WestConnex design because it actually ignores Parramatta completely—the second CBD is ignored completely, except that there are a couple of extra ways to get out of Parramatta. You can get out of Parramatta, heading into the city, at Bridge Road, which is already an incredible choke point. It goes over a very narrow two-lane bridge across a railway station, a major choke point that people in the area are already critical of, and turns it into a bigger choke point. It also introduces a western lane out of Church Street. Again that is a good thing but Church Street also is a car park coming through Parramatta—the only way to get there is to go through the Parramatta CBD if you want to get onto the M4 at that one—and it turns what is already a major choke point into an even bigger one.

It is also worth looking at the time frames for this. By 2019 we will have a nice wide M4 that funnels down into three lanes just as more traffic joins it after Strathfield and then down to two lanes as you approach the city. One would have to question how that is going to cause traffic to flow in a better way. It bypasses the second CBD altogether. It does not provide extra access points into Parramatta. It does not provide any encouragement for traffic to flow the other way, only from the west into the city. Again, it is an extraordinary waste of half a resource for half a day. I doubt that a business would make a decision to build such an expensive piece of infrastructure and only use half of it at any given time, when both sides are available.

Stage 2, which will be completed by 2020, deals with the M5 motorway from St Peters to the airport. Again, it is incredibly important that the M5 motorway be widened. It was on the Labor government's plans and it is quite appropriate that it be widened; it is, in fact, too narrow. But the bit between those two, from Haberfield to St Peters, will not be complete for another 10 years. So it will be 10 years before people in the west will be able to use the motorway from Parramatta, through the four lanes and the three lanes, and then through the tunnel heading around to the M5 and back to the airport. It is at least a 10-year wait for that.

Between now and then, we have what can only be described as a project which will encourage more cars onto a road before funnelling them down into narrower bits. It is a plan which ignores the second CBD. It ignores it completely. It is a plan which worsens the choke points that are already in that CBD. It essentially, in a very short period of time, will leave us with the same sort of car park morning traffic and afternoon traffic flows that we have now. It is hard to imagine this WestConnex, given the way it is designed and the way it funnels into narrower and narrower roads as it approaches the city, will do anything other than encourage more cars into the car park which is currently the M4. Without encouraging traffic to flow the other way, without finding a way to get cars off the road through a better public transport system, without investing in infrastructure which gets cars off the road, this is just going to make the situation worse.