WestConnex final stage gains approval despite lack of junction design

The $7.2 billion final stage of the WestConnex toll road has gained government planning approval, despite the fact that the final shape of a major underground interchange for the project at Rozelle in Sydney’s inner west is yet to be decided.

Just months before the Berejiklian government is due to sell a majority stake in WestConnex,  NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has cleared the way for construction to begin on the final stage, which includes twin 7.5-kilometre tunnels between Haberfield and St Peters.

The other components to get the green light comprise the underground interchange at Rozelle, and a 1.1-km tunnel from near the Iron Cove Bridge to the junction.

Details about the design and construction of the Rozelle interchange, to be built up to 65 metres deep, were deemed “indicative only” in the environmental report for the final stage.

And after only one bid was received late last year, the state’s roads authority took control of the tender process to find a builder for the junction from the corporation set up to deliver WestConnex.

Labor transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay said the lack of a design for the interchange showed that the government was rushing approval of the final stage to meet its objective of selling a 51 percent stake in WestConnex within the next few months.

“How can you approve something when no one knows what is being approved?” she said.

“In rushing this through to meet their objectives about the sale, they have disrespected the community.”

Under the plans approved, construction will be in two stages: the mainlines tunnels between St Peters and Rozelle, to be opened to traffic in 2022; and the Rozelle interchange and the Iron Cove link, to be completed a year later.

Three exhaust stacks will be built for the final stage: one at the former Rozelle Rail Yards, another near Victoria Road at Rozelle and the third at St Peters.

The government said strict conditions had been placed on the final stage to reduce disruption on local residents during construction. They included requirements to reduce noise levels and provide mitigation measures, as well as “strict and transparent air quality provisions”.

The project includes turning the disused Rozelle Rail Yards into a park of up to 10 hectares.

Mr Roberts said the final stage of WestConnex was part of a range of road and public transport projects that would “make Sydney a much better place to live”.

But Greens transport spokeswoman Mehreen Faruqi said the level of disregard for public and good transport planning was shocking. “Thousands of submissions were made against this project and yet it is allowed to proceed,” she said.

A spokeswoman for WestConnex Minister Stuart Ayes said the final M4-M5 link design would be confirmed as preferred contractors were appointed.

“The project will be built and operated in accordance with planning and environmental requirements and specific conditions of approval issued by the Minister for Planning,” she said.

The planning approval on Friday also raises questions about the progress of the government’s plans for a $1.8 billion motorway link from Sydney Airport to WestConnex at St Peters. A link to the airport was one of the original justifications for Australia’s largest toll road project.

The WestConnex business case states that the gateway “falls as part of stage two” and will not no later than 2023. However, the government has since said the gateway is not part of WestConnex.

Source: Canberra Times