The Greens have called for public protest following the approval of the second stage of West Connex.
Construction is expected to start within a few weeks on the tunnels and spaghetti junction of motorway ramps in Sydney’s inner west. The Baird Government recently approved the second stage of the $16.8 billion road project but not everyone is happy about it.
Once the decision was announced, the Greens labelled the planning process a sham and have called for civil disobedience to put a stop to it.
The Greens have called for civil disobedience, saying that the time to act is now.
The M5 South Western Motorway, commonly known as The M5 is a motorway in south-western Sydney. The tolled motorway is operated by Interlink Roads and forms a part of the M5 Route and the Sydney Orbital Network.
Due to extremely slow moving traffic on the motorway because of high traffic volumes, it was decided the M5 be widened, giving relief to Sydney drivers.
This is what traffic looked like before the widening.
Photo source: DailyTelegraph.com.au
What is the M5 and Westconnex?
WestConnex or The M5 widening was the name given to project by the New South Wales and Australian governments involving the widening and expansion of the M4 Western Motorway. It also includes a new segment for the M5 South Western Motorway and alternate road for the Sydney CBD connecting the M4 and M5.
The M5 expansion project also known as WestConnex, widens and extends the M4 and M5 and connects them together to form one continuous motorway with connections to the city and airport.
WestConnex provides 33km of motorway connecting western and south-western Sydney with the city, Port Botany precinct and Kingsford Smith Airport.
WestConnex is constructed in the M4 and M5 Corridors and is made up of around 14km of road above ground level and around 19k of tunnels, including a new tunnel linking the 2 corridors.
The Decision to Expand
M5 Widening video:
The widening of the M5 began in 2012 after the then Premier, Barry O’Farrell announced an extension of the road in both directions. The extension was meant to ease congestion, having been used by more than 90,000 motorists on a daily basis.
The M5 is one of the busiest road corridors in Sydney, so the government decided on the expansion to benefit motorists as well as freight operators who drive the entire length of the motorway and anyone travelling shorter stretches.
The then NSW Premier explained:
“This major infrastructure project for western Sydney is a win for motorists and a win for the state’s economy.”
In addition to the expansion, the upgrade included replacement of the entire road surface and construction of 22 new electronic signs at important intersections to give drivers important traffic information.
Prior to 2011, the Labor government had already begun the expansion of the M5 west of The Camden Valley Way.
There were long held concerns the widening wouldn’t help ease the bottleneck at the M5 East tunnel near the airport narrowing down to 2 lanes.
There were also major concerns about the disruptions that would occur during construction as well as cost concerns. Roads Minister Duncan Gay spoke about the construction work, saying it would be conducted during hours when it would least disrupt traffic. He also reassured the public that tolls on the road would remain the same. He explained:
“There will be no increase in tolls,” .
“More than half of motorists travelling east-bound on the M5 leave the motorway before the start of the M5 East, so this project will provide benefits for tens of thousands of motorists. Construction is not expected to have any impact on public transport.”
The project was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 and contractors managed to meet this deadline, thus the motorway was widened during the construction which started in June 2012 and finished in December 2014.
The M5 West Widening was completed on time and on budget, making it easier and quicker to travel along one of the busiest road corridors in Sydney. It did this by increasing the capacity of the M5 South West Motorway by 50 per cent. A third lane was added in each direction.
The project was estimated at $400 million and was funded by Interlink Roads as well as the NSW Government who provided $50 million towards new and improved noise walls and noise mitigation measures to ensure nearby residents weren’t affected.
Key Points About M5 West Widening Project
Concrete pouring commences on M5 West widening Photo source: www.rms.nsw.gov.au
The WestConnex project will be delivered in stages to 2023. The stages are as follows,
Stage 1A: M4 Widening from Parramatta to Homebush. As well as widening the existing M4 Motorway from Parramatta to Homebush.
Stage 1B: M4 East from Homebush to Haberfield, extending the M4 Motorway in tunnels between Homebush and Haberfield via Concord. Also includes the future connection to M4-M5 Link.
Stage 2: A major part of the project that will upgrade connections across Sydney for businesses, freight vehicles, buses and all road users. This stage will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of road users battling traffic daily.
The New M5 between Beverly Hills to St Peters.
This includes duplications of the M5 East from King Georges Road in Beverly Hills and tunnels running from Kingsgrove to the new interchange at St Peters. The St Peters Interchange provides for connections to the Sydney Gateway. The New M5 tunnels includes contingency for a future connection to the M4-M5 Link.
King Georges Road Interchange Upgrade at Beverly Hills includes the upgrade of the King Georges Road Interchange between the newly widened M5 West and the M5 East at Beverly Hills.
Sydney Gateway from St Peters to Kingsford Smith Airport and Port Botany. The construction of a road from the newly built St Peters interchange and the Kingsford Smith Airport and Port Botany precinct, both high in quality and capacity.
Stage 3: Providing new opportunities for urban renewal, the new connections will improve liveability and transport.
M4-M5 Link between Haberfield to St Peters. The tunnel connection to the M4 East and New M5 via Rozelle and Camperdown. This link includes ramps connecting to the St Peters Interchange and an interchange at Rozelle. It also includes provision for a future connection to the Western Harbour Tunnel.
Project Funding History
The Australian Government decided on the contribution of $25 million in 2013 to help the state government advance planning and business case development for the project. The NSW Government contributed $30 million to this endeavour.
The Australian Government committed to contribute a further $1.5 billion to deliver WestConnex, in collaboration with the state government. The federal government also provided a concessional loan of $2 billion to ensure the new M5 was delivered on time. It was the first road project to receive this funding from the federal government, highlighting its importance.
The government explained on its’ website:
This innovative financing model is enabling Stage 1 and Stage 2 of WestConnex to be delivered concurrently, enabling the New M5 to be delivered at the same time as the widened and extended M4 in 2019. It has also helped unlock private sector expertise and ensure that maximum value is achieved from taxpayer dollars.
The New M5 tunnel section construction is expected to start this year and will be open to the public by 2019, if it goes according to schedule.
The Leighton Dragados Samsung Joint Venture was selected as the preferred tenderer for the New M5 tunnel last year.
Back in 2012 Abigroup secured the $315 million contract to design and carry out the expansion to the M5 South West Motorway, building an additional lane in each direction along a 21km section of the motorway.
Safety has also played an important role in the project with all the thousands of workers involved being required to possess the construction safety induction White Card, as is mandated by Federal workplace health and safety legislation, which proves that workers have received basic construction safety training and can safely work on a construction site in Australia, as well as comprehensive on-site inductions, at the various locations and Stages.
The upgrade to the King Georges Road Interchange began in July 2015 and is scheduled for completion by 2017. In May 2015, Fulton Hogan Construction won the construction contract for the upgrade and planning approval was granted in March 2015.
Construction of the M4-M5 Link will commence in 2019, with the final stage of WestConnex expected to open to traffic by 2023.
The M5 South West is 50 per cent owned by Transurban with a contract in place to operate the road until 2026. The private ownership has been another contentious issue.
In addition to the widening of the road, the project included a new operations management control system as well as variable message signs on the motorways to warn motorists of road conditions ahead.
It also included approximately 18kms of noise walls to protect nearby neighbourhoods from the noise generated by traffic.
M5 West Widening project
Photo Source: DailyTelegraph.com.au
Once all stages of the WestConnex project are complete, these are some of the expected benefits:
Reduction of travelling time between Parramatta and Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. As much as 40 minutes travel time could be saved.
Those travelling by bus between the Inner West and the city will have the duration of their trip halved.
The project generated around 10,000 construction jobs.
The capacity on the M5 East corridor was more than doubled.
The expansion allows for the bypassing of 52 sets of traffic lights
4000 trucks were removed from Parramatta Road to travel underground instead.
The economic benefits to the state of New South Wales are estimated at $20 billion.
Travel times for north-south public buses, accessing the Western Rail Line at Burwood and other stations, has also been improved.
Fully electronic tolling for convenience
View our regular blog posts below with current information and updates on the M5 West Widening and WestConnex projects.
Road safety expert and co-author of a South Australian road safety study has called for vehicle speed limiting across the board.
Craig Kloeden, research fellow at the University of Adelaide said he was in favour of speed limiting vehicles including cars. He says limiting cars with very high speeds would be best for safety, particularly on rural roads.
He has called for the reduction of speed limits on the state’s rural roads from 110 to 100km/h. The most effective way to minimise injuries due to car crashes is to reduce speed limits.