WestConnex Twin Tunnels Work Kicks Off

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Work on the WestConnex twin tunnels has begun.

The project heralds the beginning of one of Australia's most ambitious tunnelling projects. The WestConnex twin tunnels will connect Homebush with Haberfield.

Foundation work at Cintra Park in Concord has begun. This is just one of four tunnelling sites, with the other three to come online soon. Federal Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, said that the Westconnex twin tunnels project is one of the widest tunnel construction projects in the southern hemisphere. At up to 30m wide, the WestConnex twin tunnels are an ambitious and much-needed civil infrastructure project.

Roads Minister Duncan gay said, "If you think of it in terms of the Snowy Mountains project, it's double the Snowy Mountains project."

In terms of jobs, the WestConnex twin tunnels will deliver thousands of new jobs. “The M4 East will generate more than 2500 direct jobs alone, and support a further 1500 indirect jobs. The M4 East will also employ more than 100 apprentices and trainees," said Paul Fletcher, Minister for Major Projects.

Each tunnel will be 5.5km long, and the entire project is costed at around $15 billion. The overall project (of which the WestConnex twin tunnels are just one aspect) will deliver:

  • Widened M4 from Parramatta to Homebush.
  • New M4 East Tunnel from Homebush to the City West Link at Rozelle.
  • New M5 East Tunnel from Beverly Hills to Tempe.
  • New connecting tunnel from Rozelle to Tempe.

Once complete, a motorist taking the toll road would avoid 52 sets of traffic lights when driving from out past Parramatta into the city.

The main objections to the WestConnex twin tunnels are pretty basic. Michiel Bliemer, from the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney, argues that "the WestConnex project... adds significant extra road infrastructure to the city and therefore makes travelling by car more attractive."

Others question the ability of the NSW state government to pay for it, as only around one third of the total funding has been sourced. The remainder will come by selling sections of motorway to private interests, and money from tolls.

However, some analysis indicates that there's no way that the government can make enough money for the entire project by selling off sections of the motorway, based on sale prices for other road areas, such as the Lane Cove Tunnel and Cross City Tunnel. There are fears that the government will be forced to resort to selling off other sections of motorway to bridge the cost gap.

The Greens have already claimed they would scrap the entire project, given the opportunity (typical). Labor has indicated that it would only build certain sections, and would dispense with the connecting tunnel, which is the most important aspect of the entire project according to the authority delivering it.

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Sources: WestConnex, Wikipedia, Sydney Morning Herald, Construction Industry News, Urban Circus.

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