A long needed link in the transport chain in Sydney is to go ahead, as the NSW Government has reached an agreement with Transurban and the Westlink M7 shareholders to deliver the project they are calling the NorthConnex motorway. The road consists of twin nine kilometre tunnels to link the freeway heading south from Newcastle to the M2 and its connections into the Sydney motorway system.
“NorthConnex will significantly ease traffic congestion in Sydney by taking up to 5,000 trucks a day off Pennant Hills Road, while vehicles using the tunnel will bypass 21 sets of traffic lights,” said NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. “This link will provide a continuous motorway between the Hunter and Central Coast and Western and South Western Sydney and be a quicker alternative for journeys between the Central Coast, Hunter and Sydney’s CBD.
“NorthConnex will make it possible to travel by road from Newcastle to Canberra and Melbourne without encountering a single traffic light. We are building for the future by constructing the tunnel with a capacity for three lanes of traffic each way. The more efficient movement of freight will deliver major benefits to the Australian and NSW economies.”
This major road development comes at a high cost, around $3 billion, of which the Federal and NSW Governments are stumping up around $405 million each. The rest of the funding comes from tolls to be charged to those using the tunnels. Tolling levels are predicted to be similar to those already being charged on Sydney’s M2. This will work out to be around $18 each for trucks, for a 15 minute trip time saving.
In order to make this work, the NSW Government is going to have to put severe mass restrictions on trucks travelling on the, now free running, Pennant Hills Road and avoiding paying tolls. There will have to be ongoing crackdowns on toll-dodgers to make the tunnels economically viable as the authorities will have no easy way to assess whether any truck has a right to be on some roads for genuine delivery purposes, or are just saving $20.
The project now goes to the planning stage with community consultation and a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) expected to be available for comment by mid 2014.