WestConnex parliamentary inquiry hard to swallow. Photo: Supplied

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BY PETER HEHIR

 

What can this possibly have to do with the WestConnex Parliamentary Inquiry (WPI) that wrapped up on Monday?

Nothing to do with false teeth – more to do with falsehoods actually. And on the proponent’s side, there were many. Like the statement by RMS CEO Mr Kanofski that none of the tunnels associated with Stage 3 B, aka the Rozelle Interchange, will have a gradient steeper than 4%. This is good news, if only it were true, as trains can handle that sort of gradient.

But sadly this 4% lies in the realm of fantasy, like much of what was uttered by the touters at the WPI. It is inconceivable that tunnels three layers deep in Rozelle, each beneath the other in more than a few places, could magically defy the laws of geometry and emerge from the depths in just a couple of hundred metres, without exceeding this 4% grade.

Why trains? Surely the tunnels are being built for vehicles? Yes. Cars, buses and trucks only, if you believe the latest blurb from the RMS, promoting the Western Harbour Tunnel Community Information sessions this Thursday and Saturday at the Balmain Town Hall.

But what’s that got to do with trains?

Well, the word is that driverless, electric taxicabs are just around the corner and they will put paid to private vehicle ownership. No driver, no fossil fuel, way less servicing costs means a 90% saving over owning a vehicle.

Sure, I won’t be giving up my 1951 MG, the classic that I’ve hung on to over the past 50 years and that I’m determined to see back on the road ‘one day’, come hell or high water. I guess there are more than a few of us who feel the same way about the beloved pile of metal in the garage.

But for the majority of commuters, the driver, no pun intended, is simply to get from A to B in the most efficient and economic manner possible. So private vehicle ownership will take a hit, maybe even as rapid a dive as the film camera did when digital technology arrived.

For those with a statistical bent, Kodak was at its peak in 1998 and the company was then worth $30 billion. By 2012 Kodak were in bankruptcy and the digital camera was king.

So in the not too distant future, with tollroad users conspicuous by their absence, the tollroad cash cow will be on its last legs, soon to shrivel up and die. And with it will go the toll companies. I won’t be shedding a tear though. A nice irony here. Tollroads that companies like Transurban picked up at fire sale prices when their operators went belly up, could then find themselves back in Government hands, again at fire sale prices.

And maybe, just maybe Professor James Weirick might see the tunnels repurposed for trains as he and his Planning students from the University of NSW foreshadowed in 2017.

But ten dentures? Well tendentious is simply another word for bias which, from the community perspective, is clearly the position conservatives on the Inquiry were projecting.

Countering genuine community concerns expressed about imported pollution from Cammeray and St Peters and then having it released via the four unfiltered stacks in Rozelle, by introducing into the argument pollution generated from the coal fired White Bay Power station, which was closed almost half a century ago, was patently absurd.

The implication being that the Rozelle community and the Inner West in general should be used to pollution – so just suck it up people, suck it up!

Statements suggesting, because the vehicles were now underground that the air in the Inner West would be so very much cleaner, were beyond tendentious and caused those members of the public in the gallery to groan in disbelief.

Where’s the arm’s length approach with public servants from the RMS, who possessed considerable inside knowledge, suddenly working for the SMC and its contractors?

Mr Cliché – who until quite recently was the CEO of the Sydney Motorway Corporation, stated that he was not aware of any breaches of the Planning Implement of Consent! This in spite of the thousands of complaints from the communities in Haberfield, Ashfield, Alexandria and St Peters.

Telephone complaints about asbestos, dust, noise, smells, access, parking, 24/7 operations and a succession of rolling night works making sleep impossible for days on end. Complaints shunted from one PR section of the SMC to another and finally ending up with the contractor, who would then often deny that any works were actually taking place!

Replies to emails stating that the concerns raised would be investigated and addressed within 5 or 21 days. Promised email responses that never came.

Complaints about bullying tactics used by the issuers of the PAN’s (Proposed Acquisition Notices) and their follow up teams, pressuring those compulsorily acquired to accept the below market valuations, under considerable duress. Apparently these never made it to Mr Cliché’s attention, in spite of his assertion that he’d receive a text if ever there was a breach.

Tendentious or perfidious? You be the judge.