Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi has criticised the O’Farrell government’s planning of the WestConnex motorway for lack of a clear business model to justify its cost.
Dr Faruqi said the government’s refusal this week to reveal details was ‘‘extremely concerning’’ given the motorway’s $11.5 billion price tag and declining car usage figures.
“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that (Roads and Ports) Minister (Duncan) Gay has no credible business case for this road,’’ Dr Faruqi said.
‘‘As The Greens have been warning for some time, an $11.5 billion toll road is very difficult to justify in an era of declining car usage, soaring fuel prices, and growing demand for public transport.
‘‘And it appears the government have no justification.’’
Figures from the Bureau of Transport Statistics show the number of car trips per person per day had declined in total across Sydney.
Between the 2007/08 and 2011/12 financial years, the number of car trips taken by people from Central Western Sydney, classified as Auburn, Holroyd and Parramatta council areas, decreased from 2.66 to 2.42 a day.
In the Outer Western Sydney area, the Blue Mountains, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Penrith, car trips decreased from 3.16 to 3.13 per day.
But the number of car trips per person from Blacktown increased from 2.69 to 2.89 a day.
Public transport by trains and buses increased in all western Sydney areas.
Dr Faruqi said car travel was on the decline around the country but that was not reflected in government transport investment.
‘‘Around the country ... we’re seeing motorway-obsessed governments imposing new, polluting toll road projects that are neither necessary nor wanted by their communities,’’ she said.
‘‘Sadly, Minister Gay’s insistence on WestConnex is part of a broader ideological fixation on tollways, which is not consistent with contemporary transport planning.
‘‘We need to invest in much-needed public transport projects, such as light rail on Parramatta Road and finally building the Epping-Parramatta heavy rail link.”
On Thursday, Mr Gay announced that Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd would chair a new government authority to deliver WestConnex.
The first stage will be widening the existing M4 to four lanes in each direction between Church Street, Parramatta, and Homebush Bay Drive, Concord. This motorway is free at present but will have a maximum toll of $4.
Federal Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said in September that WestConnex would save NSW billions of dollars in productivity lost through congestion.
‘‘Estimates have put the cost of congestion in Sydney at around $8.8 billion by 2020,’’ he said.
‘‘The 33-kilometre motorway linking the CBD, west, south-west, airport and port will return some $20 billion to the NSW economy.”
Mr Truss said the motorway would save up to 40 minutes in travel time between Parramatta and Sydney Airport.
It is expected to be completed by 2023.