Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Bennelong Electorate: Traffic Congestion
As the representative for the people of Bennelong, I have spoken in this place about a large range of issues of concern to my constituents: cost of living, aircraft noise, economic management, leadership, education, private health insurance, animal welfare and local developments to name a few.
The single issue that is brought to my attention every day, both from constituents and through my own experience, is an issue that causes incalculable stress in my community. That is the never-ending daily grind of traffic congestion. Bennelong incorporates four of the 10 most congested roads in New South Wales. Every person and business in our region is impacted on in some way by this unacceptable situation.
There is a combination of reasons for this problem, many of which have their foundations in broken promises from both state and federal governments. For more than 12 years the former New South Wales Labor government promised the construction of the Epping to Parramatta and North West rail links. These two railway lines would allow tens of thousands of commuters who currently have no option but to use our road network to travel from the fastest growing region in the nation to Sydney CBD, and also between our city's next two biggest CBDs of Parramatta and Macquarie Park. Ten days before the 2010 election the Gillard government pledged $2.1 billion to build the Epping to Parramatta rail link. This money was listed in the 2010-11 MYEFO papers, but has since disappeared from sight. There have been no announcements and no information about pre-construction activities, and no mention of any costs of this project in this year's forward estimates, which take us through to 2015-16. This is in sharp contrast to the New South Wales government, which promised construction of the North West Rail Link during the 2011 state election, allocated $2.8 billion in the 2011-12 budget and immediately commenced pre-construction activities, including community consultations and environmental assessments.
In a perfect symbol of the Gillard government's politicisation of these important infrastructure issues, they have rejected a request to make a financial contribution to the North West Rail Link. This is despite the New South Wales government submitting a 2,200-page impact statement that outlined the creation of 16,000 jobs and injection of $25 billion to the state's economy through massive productivity increases from tens of thousands of commuters not wasting hours every day stuck in traffic travelling through Bennelong. In contrast, when the announcement was made to build the Epping to Parramatta rail link, this project did not exist anywhere in the state government's 10-year infrastructure plan and the only submission received by the federal government was a five-page document.
It would seem that if the NBN can be committed to from a few squiggles on the back of a drink coaster, then perhaps five A4 pages is overkill for a $2.1 billion rail network! Traffic congestion in Bennelong is also exacerbated by the costly 'point-to-point' tolling on the M2 Freeway, pushing thousands of cars onto local roads, and the lack of connectivity between the F3 and the M2, with flow-on effects throughout the region.
Recently I joined my colleagues the members for Bradfield, Mitchell and Berowra and Senator Sinodinos to form a Missing Link Action Network to fight for the prioritisation of the F3-M2 link. Despite the government admitting this is a vital piece of infrastructure, no funding has been listed for this in the budget.
Our roads are victims of poor planning and cooperation is required across governments to resolve bottlenecks. I host the regular tri-level government meeting to ensure cooperation and communication between all three levels of government in our region. Our June meeting in a couple of weeks will include a presentation from a senior manager of New South Wales Roads to continue this conversation. Short-term thinking has left Bennelong with a significant infrastructure deficit. Only genuine policy commitments that are prioritised by community need, not the political stripe of the particular electorate, will get commuters out of their cars, will clear our local roads and regain lost productivity, and will get our local community and our nation back on track.