May 16, 2014

Abbott invests in traffic congestion

Tony Abbott is ignoring his own advice by backing a detailed Westconnex project that will not take traffic to the Sydney CBD or freight to Port Botany.

In his 2009 book Battlelines, Mr Abbott correctly identified the key objectives of long-proposed M4 and M5 upgrade, noting on page 175 that:

Sydney, for instance, should fill the gaps between the CBD and the M4 at Strathfield…. There should be a link between the northern beaches and the city and between the western suburbs at Port Botany.

But in a joint statement issued today with NSW Premier Mike Baird, Mr Abbott outlined a Westconnex project that does not deliver either of these transport imperatives.

The statement makes clear that Stage I is an extension to Haberfield, not to the CBD, and Stage II goes from Beverley Hills to St Peters. Port Botany is not at St Peters.

On its current design, Westconnex will dump traffic into the already congested area to the west of the airport.

It will be little more than a road to a traffic jam.

In his haste to appear decisive, Mr Abbott is backing a proposal that does not meet the traffic needs of Sydney as he outlined in his own book.

Properly targeted investment in upgrading and building roads can drive genuine improvements in economic productivity and create jobs.

That includes getting people to the city and freight to the port.

It is therefore critical that Mr Abbott gets the planning right.

His approach risks wasting scarce public funds and inconveniencing communities without delivering the desired productivity gain.

Labor supports investment in an integrated transport system incorporating both roads and rail.

Mr Abbott’s Budget, delivered on Tuesday, scrapped billions of dollars in funding previously allocated to urban rail projects around the country because of his bizarre prejudice against public transport.

Now, as he moves to his preference of investing on roads, Mr Abbott is at risk of making the wrong call when it come comes to the planning detail on Westconnex.

He should take his own advice and go back to the drawing board to ensure the project delivers on its stated aims.