WAG strongly objects to the fact that AECOM, the company contracted to compile this EIS, has deep interests in the planning and construction of the $16.8 billion motorway project, raising questions about the independence and integrity of the planning assessment process.
The same firm is the subject of ongoing legal action in Queensland. Last year, AECOM paid approximately $200 million to settle negligence claims for its traffic modelling for a privately owned toll-road in Brisbane. Legal firm Maurice Blackburn is representing 650 investors who are seeking to recover losses of more than $150 million from AECOM.
Brisbane’s Clem7 RiverCity tunnel carried less than one quarter of the traffic forecasted after it opened in 2010. According to Maurice Blackburn’s website, the case alleges that AECOM made forecasts without reasonable grounds, and left critical information out of its report published in RiverCity's Disclosure Statements.
It also allegedly failed to reveal that earlier traffic forecasts it had developed for Brisbane City Council showed traffic volumes substantially lower than those in the RiverCity Disclosure Statements.
We note that an international spokeswoman for AECOM told the media that the company would not be doing traffic modelling any more. It beggars belief that the NSW government could put some much reliance on AECOM for its traffic modelling in a project where the government is carrying the risk. AECOM has been paid $13 million to provide the NSW Baird government with this EIS.
This is one of six contracts the company has been awarded by the proponent over the last 18 months. The contracts have a combined value of over $9 million, and cover a range of services.
AECOM may have been awarded more recent contracts since Sydney Motorway became private, hiding anymore information from the public. The whole idea that such a massive project could be taken outside the normal rules of basic government accountability is shocking and demands its own investigation. The previous contracts can be found here. http://whywestconnex.herokuapp.com/.
Even before its assessment was published or any feedback received, AECOM already endorsed the motorway on its website. It claimed - though these references seem to have been removed now - that “WestConnex will assist in making Sydney a more liveable city by reconnecting communities, enhancing centres and significantly improving the urban domain along Parramatta Road” and will “provide welcome relief from congestion on the M4 and Parramatta Road…”
These claims are hotly contested. An independent study commissioned by City of Sydney found that WestConnex will actually increase traffic congestion on Parramatta Road. In May the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the proponent’s own traffic assessments show that the $16.8 billion WestConnex will not stop Sydney traffic from worsening.
AECOM’s other work on WestConnex includes a contract to prepare the proponent’s proposal for a new Stage 2 M5 East tunnel; a $4.9 million contract to conduct geotechnical investigations for the M5 Tunnel from South West Sydney to St Peters; a $700,000 contract for “Traffic Director” services; and two contracts worth more than $777,000 to work on the Stage 3 of the motorway, which is a tunnel linking the M5 and M4. These Stage 3 contracts include design engineering, business development, and environmental and technical services for the tunnel, about which almost no information is available. These are huge conflicts of interest when it comes to its contract to deliver this EIS.
WAG formally and strongly objects to the New M5 due to these conflicts of interests and serious doubts over AECOM’s ability to produce a truly independent EIS, and we ask that the Minister for Planning reject the WestConnex New M5 project. We note that many members of the community and groups including WAG raised concerns about the conflict of interest in their submissions to the M4 East process. In its brief unconvincing response to these concerns, AECOM failed to respond to how it responds to conflict of interest.
It is this conflict of interest that leads to feeling in the EIS document that a project is being sold rather than independently evaluated. Every serious objection that is raised is simply batted away as insignificant. We would like to hope that there are professional planners in the NSW Department of Planning who are concerned about these matters and trying to do something about them.