Should there be a link between the F3 (now M1) and the Sydney Orbital – absolutely!
In the 1980’s, prior to the Berowra to Wahroonga section of the F3 being completed in 1989, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) had plans to provide a link between the F3 at Wahroonga and the planned Castlereagh Freeway, now known as the M2. This link would have addressed the increasing traffic congestion on both the Pacific Highway south of Wahroonga and Pennant Hills Road. The planned surface route options, known as the B2/B3 options, were eventually abandoned by the NSW Carr Government in 1996 because of environmental impacts on the Lane Cove valley bushland.
In 2001 the Australian Government, with its National Highway hat on, initiated a study to “identify a route for the National Highway from the WSO (Western Sydney Orbital or M7) to the F3 (now M1) to relieve pressure on Pennant Hills
Road (the interim National Highway route) recognising that there is no scope for further upgrading on the current route”. (Note – the M7 not the M2, and for traffic growth through to 2025).
Had the powers that be delivered on the above proposals it would have been an all round win – for Sydney (the global city), for interstate and inter-regional traffic, for metropolitan and Central Coast commuters, for western Sydney’s burgeoning industrial and population growth, and for inter-suburb and local traffic. But –
– they got diverted from long term problem solving and fixated on Missing Links
Northconnex is a missing link that suits Transurban above all else.
The study, known as the SKM “F3 to Sydney Orbital Link Study”, got diverted and, focusing on traffic growth to 2021 only, recommended a Pennant Hills Road tunnel solution linking the M2 to F3. The Australian Government endorsed this recommendation in May 2004, but it attracted considerable challenges over the following three years, from academia, industry and resident communities. Two ‘corridor selection’ reviews were undertaken and in 2007 the independent Pearlman review, stepping outside its Terms of Reference, recommended “a Type C (western corridor) Corridor be planned now”. In December 2008 the F3-M2 Link appeared in the new Labour Government’s first Infrastructure Australia list of “projects for further analysis, submitter NSW, approximate cost $4.75bn”, before quickly being dropped as lacking detail in terms of benefits and costings. In July 2012 the F3-M2 Link was resurrected in the form of a $2.65bn ‘unsolicited proposal’ from Transurban. Following two years spruiking and backroom negotiations the Government released an Environmental Impact Statement and the public was expected to accept that the
ensuing evaluation process was other than a predetermined approval formality. This approval amounts to a strategic failure by both the State and Federal governments.
In January 2015 Transurban’s Northconnex tunnel became a reality.This adjunct to Pennant Hills Road does nothing for the Pacific Highway south of Wahroonga or Pennant Hills Road south of the M2, and flies in the face of the 2004 Study forecast that, without significant investment in the Northern rail line, “the F3 would reach its peak capacity a few years before 2021”.
For Pennant Hills the only benefit is the promise of 5000 trucks a day being removed from Pennant Hills Road. Against this the ‘approved’ EIS tells us that in 2019 and beyond, after the tunnels opens, the traffic on Pennant Hills Road will be significantly higher than it was in 2013.
It is inevitable that Pennant Hills Road and its traffic will continue to divide and dominate our suburb.
The Trust’s 15 year interest in this subject will now turn toward making the best of Northconnex.