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The legal requirement was clear: in building the M4 East tunnel section of WestConnex, the state government needed to also dedicate two lanes along Parramatta Road solely for public transport.
This requirement was a condition imposed by the then planning minister, Rob Stokes, three years ago. At the time, Mr Stokes’ office said the imposition of such conditions was “unprecedented”.
Perhaps. But they have also not been followed.
With the twin tunnels from Homebush to Haberfield soon to open, the government has not dedicated any space on Parramatta Road on that corridor solely to public transport. Nor has it said what else it might do to improve public transport along the corridor.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) and Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance inspect the almost-completed M4 WestConnex tunnels in Sydney,CREDIT:AAP
The requirement to improve public transport on Parramatta Road comes from Mr Stokes’ planning condition B34.
The condition states that "at least two lanes of Parramatta Road, from Burwood to Haberfield, are to be solely dedicated for the use of public transport unless an alternative dedicated public transport route that provides an improved public transport outcome for the area, when compared to two dedicated public transport lanes on Parramatta Road, is approved.”
The condition does not impose a deadline. But failing to meet the condition might not only be a legal breach, it would also undermine much of the analysis used to justify the motorway.
Traffic modelling prepared for the M4 East’s environmental impact statement – and which was in turn used to assess the pollution impact of the motorway – assumes there would be dedicated bus lanes between Burwood and Haberfield as soon as the project was opened.
Those lanes, which do not exist, are assumed to improve bus travel times by 14 minutes. For the pollution and traffic modelling, that assumption increased the attraction of public transport and lowered surface traffic and pollution levels.
A spokesman for Roads and Maritime Services, which is being absorbed into Transport for NSW, said: “The government is not in breach of this condition.”
But the spokesman did not say when improved public transport services would be delivered.
“We recognise appropriate and effective public transport options for this corridor should be implemented as soon as possible.”
Compliance documents show Transport for NSW is giving itself up to five years to meet the condition. The department is targeting completion dates ranging from “12 to 60 months from the opening of M4 East.”
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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