March 06, 2013

Horse 1445 - Is Western Sydney A Separate City?

Is Western Sydney a separate city because the people can't get to Eastern Sydney?
- Alan Kohler, 5th Mar 2012. (from Twitter)

No Mr Kohler. Western Sydney a separate city because the people of Eastern Sydney who own and run the city, won't spend the money on public infrastructure like they have done in Eastern Sydney.
As a resident of Western Sydney who works for a majority of clients who live in Eastern Sydney, it is my experience that few of them ever venture out to Western Sydney and even then only have a vague idea of where it is, let alone the names of any suburbs.
I'd suggest that great numbers of people living in Eastern Sydney would barely recognise that there even was a Western Sydney; let alone recognise the issues and concerns of the people living there.
You can nicely divide Sydney into two distinct halves just on the basis of postcode. 2000-2108 and 2109 onwards.

It's a funny thing, this whole business of 'recognition'.
The Prime Minister, Ms Gillard is treading the pavements of Western Sydney in an effort to recognise the issues which uniquely face the region.
The Premier of New South Wales, Barry O'Farrell appointed himself the Minister For Western Sydney, probably also in an effort to recognise the issues which uniquely face the region.
As a resident of Western Sydney, I think that I possibly recognise the issues which uniquely face the region more than Ms Gillard or Mr O'Farrell by virtue of living there.
The two biggest issues are the cost of living and the lack of decent public transport; both are linked in ways that Ms Gillard or Mr O'Farrell fail to address.
But Mr Darley said western Sydney's problems, like cost of living pressures, lack of good infrastructure, crime and closed shops, could be found across Australia.
- The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 6th Mar, 2013

When the consultation for the M2 was being done, residents' groups quite loudly and longly asked for heavy rail services to be built through Castle Hill and the North West. In the original Environmental Impact Study, this was recognised over and over again but instead of acquiescing with the people who actually live out there, Macquarie St in its wisdom decided that another toll road was in order. It took about five years but eventually after toll road operators whinged that they weren't collecting enough in revenues, lanes were diverted to shove more cars onto it and now, the M2 twice daily becomes a slow moving car park.
When the M7 was being built, it was touted as being the road from nowhere to nowhere. It also had a lovely toll slapped on it. Whilst being far harder to divert traffic on and off, the operators installed electronic toll collectors at every entrance and exit to ensure that maximum revenue is collected.
Now that Julia has been to Western Sydney, she's suggested that a $1B extension to the M4 should be built, by West Connex and that it should have a lovely shiny new toll slapped on it.
Compare the impact of more toll roads with the concerns of Western Sydney residents; namely the cost of living and the lack of decent transport. Obviously it stands to reason that more toll roads will only add to the cost of living; with the added bonus that within five years, those new toll roads fill up and become slow moving car parks, which doesn't really do anything in addressing the issue of decent public transport.

I could be wrong about this but the nine toll roads in Sydney (M2, M5, M7,Harbour Bridge, Harbour Tunnel, Falcon St, Gore Hill Tunnel, Cross City Tunnel and Eastern Distributor) are the largest number of toll roads in a single city and possibly province in the world. Sydney has more toll roads than quite a number of nations.
People used to joke about carrying a bag of coins if you wanted to travel down the Autostradas in Italy. Thankfully in the twenty first century we have dispensed with the need from coins and now toll road operators can collect revenues directly from your credit card via electronic tags.

Toll roads in Australia and especially Sydney are different in spirit to the freeways and interstates in the United States or the Autobahn in Germany and even most of the Motorways in the UK, in that instead of bring built in advance to cope with traffic not yet even thought about, they're invariably built after the event; through transport corridors originally earmarked for railways and with the express intent of collecting revenues. In most cases there aren't the same number of exits say in the US and so traffic is channeled into tighter currents, simply waiting to be dumped out at their end; anyone who's driven through Strathfield and the end of the M4 or at Hornsby where the F3 still remains unconnected to the M2 (if it is connected, expect toll road number ten), experiences this twice daily.

Barry is at least trying though. Since cancelling the North West Metro project and even promising to fill in the holes if work was ever started, there is a new project being built to help alleviate traffic in Western Sydney - the King St pedestrian tunnel at Wynyard.
Okay, maybe it falls short by only about 56km but building a tunnel which covers a full 1% is better than none, right?
It also has the added bonus of conveniently blocking the transport corridor underground, should any future government decide to build a railway line. Barry knows that if the last 80 years since Premier Lang proposed the idea of a railway line to Castle Hill are any indication of future progress, that maybe by 2093 a tunnel might stretch all the way to Pyrmont.

London experienced traffic troubles which choked the city in the 1850s. 150 years ago in 1863, the first few cuts underground were made and by 1890 the system was electrified. Without the Underground in London, the city would come to a standstill. One train draws two thousand cars off the road; prevents a great deal of traffic from ever being created.
The big problem with the Underground and indeed all public transport systems, is that unless they're built or run by private firms, they stand in direct competition to things like toll roads. Private firms often do not want the immense capital outlay to even start such a project and governments who at the moment are swinging through that part of the long ideological cycle which dictates small government, also do not wish for the immense capital outlay to even start such a project; preferring half-baked Build-Own-Operate-Transfer schemes which in the short term, continue to ensure that these things remain unbuilt.

The building of M4 East by West Connex really won't solve or address the two issues of the cost of living and the lack of decent public transport. If anything, yet another toll road merely adds to the cost of living for those people who choose to use it, funnels traffic to a different point in the city and if you're living far away enough not to be able to use it, isn't a public transport solution either.
I can sit in relative smugness because I live in a suburb with its own train station. It's somewhat disappointing that the line was built in the 1890s at around the time that the Underground in London was being electrified and more than 100 years later, remains one of only a few feeble ribbons of public transport infrastructure through a population which accounts for almost a quarter of this great metropolis.

I thought it was obvious that making people pay to drive on toll roads was going to add to their cost of living and building toll roads instead of railways merely perpetuates the lack of public transport. Then again what would I know?

Addenda 1:
As an aside, this in essence is why Julia and the Labor Party will lose seats in Western Sydney and possibly with them, the election in September (as well as the 2016 and 2019 electionpublic transport.s). For some reason or another Labor wouldn't or couldn't properly address the issue of Western Sydney whilst they were in government and as far as Sydney is concerned, the Liberal Party doesn't care to, and doesn't really need to address the issues facing the people of Western Sydney because they don't really care if they vote for them or not, expect when it comes to making governments.

No comments: