Thousands of residents slam Transport NSW local roads plan

The WestConnex Action group calls for a halt to Transport NSW's plan for local roads in the Inner West of Sydney. Along with thousands of residents, community groups, the Inner West Council and local MPs, we argue for a more transparent process that takes the views of community stakeholders seriously, rather than using the planning consultation process as a cloak for forcing more traffic onto WestConnex tollroads. Here's our submission:

WestCONNnex has failed on its promise to remove traffic from local roads. Picture taken September 2016

 

Summary

  • Lack of consultation with the communities and key stakeholders affected – the exhibition period is too short and failed to take into account the extra pressure on people from the COVID19 lockdown, and consultation with the communities affected was inadequate.
  • Lack of data to support the changes proposed – neither real traffic data nor the modelling which it is presumed supports the proposed changes has been made public

  • Adverse impacts on the local streets network for pedestrians, vehicles, cyclists schools and childcare centres have been inadequately identified and provided for in the plan

  • The broader context of the whole WestConnex road project including Stages 2 and 3  is not taken into account despite its effects extending to the traffic in the Haberfield, Ashfield, Leichhardt and other Inner West and City of Sydney streets

  •   The lack of transparency about the basis for the proposed changes which gives rise to the suspicion the entire plan is proposed to funnel vehicles onto the private tollways for their profit at the expense of local traffic access, and adversely affecting community health (increased air pollution) and local amenity.

Recommendations

We therefore recommend:

  • The exhibition period for this plan should be extended until the end of June.
  • This planning process should be brought to a halt and a thorough review should be conducted before proceeding further. 
  • All further planning should take into account the Inner West Council’s WestConnex Local Area Improvement Strategy (LAIS).  
  • All further plans should also incorporate collaborative planning with communities rather than against them. There should be detailed face to face meetings with the Haberfield Association, Leichhardt Against WestConnex, No WestConnex Annand ale, the Inner West Councils, community representative nominated by Jo Haylen MP and Jamie Parker MP  to find the least worst solution to deal with this avoidable situation. 
  • Transport for NSW should publicly release the data that provides the empirical basis for this plan.
  • No changes should be made that increase traffic near schools or childcare centres as research shows that placing children beside busy roads carries unacceptable health risks.

Community warned that local traffic impacts were ignored in M4 EIS

It is clear from submissions, thousands of social media postings and news media reports, that the community is utterly appalled by this traffic plan. The Inner West Council is strongly opposed to it. Rather than solve traffic congestion, this imcompetent plan will create rat runs. 

If this plan is implemented, local residents will battle to get in and out of their own suburbs or across to the City West Link. No wonder they feel that their safety, health and the quality of their local amenity is being severely compromised.  This is especially upsetting because the community and local Councils warned that this would be the case five years ago during the Planning of the M4 East and other tollways. Ashfield Council (now part of the amalgamated Inner West Council) urged NSW Planning and the RMS to model the impacts on local traffic before approval. It was ignored

In its submission to the M4 EIS, Ashfield Council wrote, “Inadequate consideration has been given to traffic and transport impacts on the local roads during construction and operation.” ( page 23 Ashfield Council submission to M4 East). 

In fact, the EIS should have included a thorough analysis of impacts on local roads and traffic but instead, only a narrow analysis was conducted and failed to capture the impact on communities that had already been experienced. This is again reflected in this plan which subverts the planning process to meet the needs of tollroad and construction industries.   

This draft plan reinforces our view that WestConnex always lacked strategic justification. Again this has been persuasively argued by Council, independent experts and community groups. We continue to pay the price for a behind closed door decision by the NSW Government to proceed with a motorway. No other options were seriously considered. It was always clear from WestConnex EIS that the project would not solve traffic congestion. Instead of seeking a solution, traffic congestion is simply used as a justification to build even more motorways. This draft plan would seem to be part of this strategy.

The local communities impacted by this plan have already suffered enough from WestConnex. The NSW Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into the Impacts of WestConnex found that the impacts up until the end of 2018 were unacceptable and profound. Rather than compensating for those impacts, this plan would only add to those impacts The solutions that are being suggested will expose residents to rat runs, make other streets more congested and waste community time. 

Improvements' is a euphemism for what the NSW Roads and WestConnex wants to do

To call the proposed changes ‘improvements’ is simply to use a euphemism for what NSW Roads wants to do. The proposed traffic changes, less than one year after the opening of the M4East tunnel in July 2019, show the poor planning, lack of foresight and waste of money inherent in the WestConnex project.  

While the plan may result in slightly less traffic on some roads, the overall impact will be to worsen the living conditions for residents in Haberfield, Ashfield, Leichhardt and beyond. It also appears to our group that some of the suggestions are designed to push motorists into the private tunnel, which we regard as unethical. 

Underlying this plan is an agenda which prioritise the needs of WestConnex and through traffic rather than community needs. It is alarming that WAG understands that TNSW representatives at Community Reference Group meetings have suggested that some local roads are underutilised. From what point of view might that be, we ask.

We are concerned that there is a lack of any systemic examination of how extra traffic pushed onto local roads will impact on schools in the Inner West Council area including in Haberfield, Leichhardt and Ashfield. 

Lack of Transparency

WAG is concerned about the lack of evidence on which this proposal is based and calls on Transport NSW (TfNSW) to reveal all relevant empirical data for an independent analysis. 

It beggars belief that the community is asked to comment on a traffic plan that does not include any traffic count data or modelling forecasts. This is insulting to many residents who use their scarce time to come to grips with the proposals.  Without this data it is not possible to assess how the TfNSW proposals address current and future traffic issues or how they will interact with Council’s LAIS. 

We are concerned that Transurban, which is under commercial pressure to maximise traffic, is applying pressure on the government behind the scenes to facilitate traffic flows into their tollways. All material supplied by WestConnex should be made public. Local connectivity and local amenity should be the goal, not the needs of operators of poorly planned tollway projects.

Poor consultation 

As has so often occurred since the beginning of the WestConnex planning process, insufficient time has been allowed for consultation. Despite this the community and IWC have come up with detailed proposals, demanding that TfNSW halts the process and now collaboratively consults with community stakeholders.

 

Broader context needed

We oppose the idea that these changes are considered in isolation from other impacts that are occurring in St Peters on Edgeware Road, Enmore Road and streets in Stanmore. A comprehensive independent traffic study should be undertaken throughout the Inner West.

Haberfield and Ashfield 

  • Haberfield has borne an unfair burden of destruction caused by WestConnex with the loss of more than 180 homes including 53 Heritage ones. The residents whose properties had not been acquired have endured many years of devastating dust, noise and disruption, which continues. The Stage 3 EIS especially noted continuing impacts on Haberfield. Yet here we find TfNSW wantonly imposing more impacts that are clearly unacceptable to the community. Although there may be some very small improvements, these are far outweighed by the destructive impacts opposed by the community, 

 

  • WAG will not comment on every detailed proposal because we believe the plan is so flawed that it should be abandoned. However the changes proposed at the Intersection of Dalhousie Road and Parramatta road are especially worthy of comment. The changes appear to be the result of the M4 East tunnel ramps and merge lanes being inadequate. Haberfield residents and businesses are being made to suffer reduced local connectivity as a result of poor design by TfNSW and its contractors. This further supports our view that the main purpose of this plan is to keep traffic flowing in and out of WestConnex tunnels rather than improve connectivity and amenity for the local community. Removing the traffic lights at the Dalhousie Street / Parramatta Road intersection would ease congestion along Parramatta Road at that location and would likely reduce traffic levels on Dalhousie Street. It would, however, reduce local connectivity for vehicles and increase traffic on other local streets. 

 

  • There are also issues associated with the proposed Parramatta Road U-turn arrangement for vehicles. Whilst the U-turn would likely be a suitable compromise for regular users, new users may find it confusing.

 

  • The proposed changes would likely result in a proportion of vehicles turning left onto Chandos Street (Haberfield) instead of Dalhousie Street after passing through the U-turn. 

 

  • Some of this traffic would pass the Haberfield Primary School. The Inner West Council has previously called for investigation into the full or partial closure of Chandos Street, Haberfield at Parramatta Road to reduce vehicle movements in the street. This proposal will instead increase those movements. 

 

  • We are concerned that additional traffic will be diverted to Sloane, Tebbutt, Brown and Marion Streets. During periods when there is significant traffic undertaking the U-turn at this unsignalised intersection, excessive queuing may result. 

 

  • We oppose the removal of parking on streets such as Bland Street, not because we want to make it easier for car owners but because it will encourage traffic and more cars on local streets and reduce safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

 

  • We are also opposed to any change in the right turn from Parramatta Road to Liverpool Road because this would increase traffic on the already congested Liverpool Road and the Ashfield Shopping Centre.

 

  • It is not clear what will happen to buses who use existing routes but will no longer be able to do so. ( e.g right turn from Dalhousie onto Parramatta Road. The plan is silent on this issue. This shows how little emphasis Transport for NSW puts on the public transport needs of local residents. 

 

  • If this plan goes ahead we fear that it will have a serious impact on the Haberfield Shopping Centre. 

Leichhardt 

  • The changes at Norton Street / James Street / City West Link (CWL) intersection would lead to an overall negative impact on connectivity and safety for pedestrians and cyclists and reduced residential amenity.

 

  • The ‘no right turn’ restriction from Norton Street onto CWL northbound will create a traffic thoroughfare along William and Hubert Streets, and possibly add traffic to other local streets 

 

  • The proposed ‘no right turn’ restriction from Timbrell Drive onto CWL northbound would be very likely to lead to more traffic on Mortley Avenue, Boomerang Street and Waratah Streets, and possibly other local streets 

 

  • By augmenting the left-turn movement from Timbrell Drive onto CWL east-bound, more traffic would be loaded onto the James/Norton/CWL intersection and is short-sighted and will only add to the congestion that the TfNSW purports it is attempting to resolve.

 

  • The suggested removal of the right-turn option from Norton Street (northbound) onto CLW purports to increase  ‘traffic efficiency’ of the intersection but would lead to more traffic at increased speed which is dangerous at the expense of increased traffic at higher speed and much reduced amenity on William and Hubert Streets. The increased traffic would result from these streets becoming the main alternative means of accessing CWL from Norton Street. This increased traffic may include a proportion of heavy vehicles moving illegally against the existing Truck Bans in the local streets bound by Darley Road, William Street and Norton Street. 

 

  • The draft plan denies access to Darley Road from James and Norton Streets north of CWL. Traffic seeking to access Darley Road would then likely use Norton, William and Hubert Street to access Darley Road. This would add further traffic and add to the amenity impacts on these local streets. Removal of the roundabout on William Street would further reduce amenity which could encourage an increase in traffic speeds. to increase. The plan for an intersection at William/Francis Street intersection roundabout looks potentially difficult and even dangerous. Overall these plans just look like they are shuffling traffic from one spot to another, all of which risks loss of amenity for residents. 

 

  • The plans could even have a negative impact on Council’s proposals for a cycleway along Lilyfield Road. 

 

  • IWC planners and well informed local residents have so many objections to these plans that it is clear that they should never be approved without thorough review and input from more stakeholders. Collaborative planning is called for not a top down approach, driven by hidden vested interests.

Conclusion

In summary, WAG calls for a halt to this plan and for TfNSW to conduct a fresh, transparent approach to dealing with the unfortunately and foreseeable impacts of WestConnex.

 

 

 


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