Letter to Mr Albanese re Westconnex

Reply to Mr Albanese – 28 November 2014

Dear Anthony,

I appreciate your response and your concern. I have read your letter and op-ed previously, hence my statement saying that community expects more.

Specifically, though, can you answer:

  • Why there has been no official statement/press release from you in relation to WestConnex this year raising the concerns you outline below?
  • What has or is being done with regards to reduce the share of freight moved by truck out of Port Botany from its 86% share (2011)? I have read your comments to the AusRail conference, but this does not adequately address the question.  I also note that while rail makes up 48% of transport Australia-wide, only 25% of freight is moved up the Sydney-Brisbane corridor alongside the horrific Pacific Highway.  Presumably when the rest of the road is upgraded, it will make rail even less competitive, and that 25% share will fall.  Also, decisions to allow B doubles up the length of the highway, and the possible introduction of B triples will further erode the competitiveness of rail vs road.

It would seem to me to be logical to raise the cost benefit of any of these exercises. Surely it would be prudent to take the “low hanging fruit” like rail intermodals that can be developed at a fraction of the cost of a motorway that doesn’t even go to Port Botany. Again, trawling through Infrastructure Australia’s website, I see no document with a table of projects and their expected cost benefit. Wouldn’t a document such as this exist? If it does could you point me to it?

You’ll forgive me if I don’t have much faith in the disclosure of information by Infrastructure Australia. When you search for “WestConnex” on their website, you get 3 unrelated links mentioning the existence of WestConnex. Given that you were minister when WestConnex was announced, where is the disclosure of information for the public to make any assessment of what government is deciding to do?  Where is the effort to engage the community? How can we properly assess how our tax payer money is being spent if there is no transparency?  A $13bn project with no cost benefit analysis, no business case and questionable finances? Why are you not railing against this (excuse the pun) in Parliament and via official press releases?  You can bet that your numbers opposite would have levelled this charge against you, saying how reckless you are with taxpayers dollars etc.

Labor’s stated position in relation to roads and rail is that it “favours neither roads over rail nor rail over roads” (Senator Moore 24th November). I understand, and largely agree, that roads and rail both need investment, and I think the Labor Party’s policy as stated is prudent compared with that of the Liberal (roads only).  However, does Labor concede though that a disproportionate investment has been made in roads vs rail over the last 40 years?  For the forward years the amount of spending on roads vs rail is as follows and I’m afraid makes a mockery of Senator Moore’s statement to the Senate:

State Roads $m Rail $m Rail share %
NSW 32,727 1,273 3.89
VIC 15,074 98 0.65
QLD 16,585 988 5.96
SA 3,121 1.5 0.05
WA 9,886 329 3.33
TAS 896 303 33.82
NT 541 0 0
ACT 294 0 0
Australia 79,124 2,993 3.78

 

You’d have to agree that 3.78% is an awful long way from 50%.  Source: Infrastructure Australia

Here is a great historical example of a road to nowhere as you call it:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_North_Road_%28New_South_Wales%29

 

Sincerely,

etc

 

Response from Mr Albanese – 24th November 2014

Dear x,

Thank you for your email. Sorry for the delayed reply.

I too am concerned about the current proposal for WestConnex which I have described as a road to a traffic jam.

From what has been announced, the proposal to duplicate the M5 and dump traffic at a “St Peters Interchange” is absurd, particularly given that, as you say, the stated objective of any duplication of the M5 was to take freight to the Port.

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald this month, I have written to Chair of the WestConnex Delivery Authority, Tony Shepherd, and the NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay to inform them of my views on this. Here is the link to the SMH article: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/shadow-transport-minister-albanese-rubbishes-westconnex-interchange-plan-20141109-11jbyt.html

I have consistently fought to force the Abbott Government to have the WestConnex proposal independently assessed by Infrastructure Australia, a body I set up as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to make sure government investment in infrastructure was guided by evidence not ideology.

Here is the link to my opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph in May, calling for proper planning and assessment of WestConnex and other roads projects: http://anthonyalbanese.com.au/tony-abbott-is-taking-the-roads-to-nowhere-path-opinion-the-daily-telegraph

In government we invested $3.4 billion in freight rail, including building or rebuilding 4,000km of track. We also delivered more investment in urban public transport than all other federal governments since federation combined. Here is the link to my address to the Ausrail Conference earlier this month outlining the positive agenda you are calling for: http://anthonyalbanese.com.au/effective-rail-and-the-importance-of-integration-ausrail-conference-speech

I have raised questions in the Parliament about the Government’s failure to consult with local residents about WestConnex.

I have also raised directly with Mr Shepherd and the WestConnex Authority, the flaws in the current proposal and their failure to be transparent and properly consult with the community.

I will continue to argue for real solutions to Sydney’s congestion issues, which as Infrastructure Australia has identified, must include public transport and not just roads.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Albanese MP

 

Letter to Mr Albanese re WestConnex – 11th November

Mr Albanese,

According to your website, you have not issued a press release on Westconnex this year.

http://anthonyalbanese.com.au/media-centre/shadow-ministerial-media-centre/shadow-ministerial-media-releases

As a member of your electorate where we will see untold ramifications on local residences (albeit some told) and local businesses as a consequence of this “development” , and given your position as Shadow Minister for Cities, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, with due respect I would have expected some official statement from you to state your party position.  Again, with due respect, while an important step, your electorate certainly expects way more than a letter to the so-called “WestConnex Delivery Authority”.

Could you please answer the following?

  • What is the official position of the Federal Opposition in relation to WestConnex?
  • What is the view of the Federal Opposition about the positioning of the exit for Port Botany – the whole rationale for the WestConnex – being so far from the Port, and so close to areas like Newtown and Marrickville that will no doubt severely impact on the liveability of the area?
  • With road freight transfer rates currently at 86% (without a new motorway to increase capacity and reduce costs), what is being done to reduce the costs of rail freight transfers at Port Botany to intermodal transfer stations and therefore reduce the volumes of container trucks on the roads? A report done by the NSW State Government appears to identify the problems:

Capture

The stated rationale and design intent for the WestConnex was to connect Port Botany and reduce the numbers of trucks on surface roads – but the proposal as put forward ON MELBOURNE CUP DAY does nothing to address this.  The areas surrounding this “St Peters Interchange” will be swamped by trucks that could be easily replaced by rail, at a fraction of the cost of building this massive white elephant of a motorway.  It will most likely turn an already overburdened King Street into another Parramatta Road disaster.

I honestly fail to understand why the Federal Opposition is not taking an official position on this horrendous piece of transport policy funded by the Federal Government.  This clearly fails to address the design intent of the original proposal, making it just another motorway – but in this case a motorway to an already congested, high density area that will make living and working in the area intolerable.

We would expect from you and your party condemnation of this proposal, and for you to take whatever measures you can to at the very minimum return this unnecessary motorway back to the original design while at the same time promoting a positive agenda to reduce costs and increase efficiency of rail.  There is no justification for 86% of freight being moved by road in the middle of an already congested city – the Labor Party should advocate policies aiming to increasing the share of rail freight transfers to intermodal terminals to 100%.

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