The NSW Greens have attacked the state government’s transport plans for the south-coast, demanding that it release report documents evaluating both the F6 motorway, for which $15 million for planning was allocated in last month’s budget, and a mooted Thirroul to Waterfall tunnel.
The ABC recently reported on government assessments indicating the tunnel would cut the travel time for commuters from over 90 minutes to just over 60. The cabinet-in-confidence proposal also estimated the project would cost $3.6 billion, a great deal less needed to build the F6 motorway, which estimates put somewhere between $8 billion to $18 billion.
However, the government appears to have put the rail tunnel project to the side while it pursues the extension of the F6 freeway through southern Sydney to Waterfall, with state transport minister Andrew Constance ruling out investment in the public transport scheme.
“At this stage we have no plans to build a Thirroul tunnel,” the minister was quoted by the ABC as saying.
Indeed, speaking to ABC Illawarra, Constance said that Thirroul tunnel was “pixies at the bottom of the garden kind of stuff” and that such a project was “not possible”, comments that have drawn the ire of Greens MP and transport spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi.
“The transport minister is on the one hand saying the Thirroul tunnel is ‘pixies at the bottom of the garden kind of stuff’ and on the other that a detailed assessment hasn’t even been done. Well which one is it?” Faruqi asked.
“If rail options are so unviable, why doesn’t he release the full documentation, including business cases, of the F6 and the Thirroul tunnel and let the public decide.”
Faruqi also said the decision to ditch the rail tunnel project and instead provide “rivers of gold” to the road development indicated the government was “plain negligent” in its planning for the transport needs of Illawarra.
“Choosing between a railway tunnel that would massively speed up the commute from the Illawarra or another polluting toll road would seem like a no brainer for most people, except the NSW government,” she said.
“This is what happens when toll road companies are able to set the agenda of transport in NSW. Every hare-brained toll road idea gets money, while real public transport improvements are starved of money.”