Why the tunnel may not be the right solution for the Northern Beaches
Anyone looking at Sydney traffic quickly realises that when more roads are built, the only result is more traffic. Traffic experts and researchers demonstrate tunnels and motorways built recently reach comparable levels of congestion within a few years, and do not work as long term solutions for transport globally(1) or in Sydney(2)(3).
Independent transport expert Dr Michelle Zeibots reports traffic problems in the area will be back to the same as exist now within 2 years of the tunnel opening, and that the tunnel should not be built(4). Even short term gains in travel times by the tunnel will be eaten up by extra delays and congestion on arterial roads leading to the tunnel – such as Condamine St, Pittwater Rd, Wakehurst Parkway and Warringah Rd.
Dr Zeibots states the most critical infrastructure for the Northern Beaches is mass public transport on the East-West link between Dee Why, Mona Vale and Chatswood via Northern Beaches Hospital. Significant public transport improvements in this corridor has been supported by Northern Beaches Council, but have been rejected by the current NSW government for many years.
A last-minute election campaign announcement from the NSW Liberal government has supported building a B-Line bus in this corridor – but no time frame has been included or funding allocated. NSW Labor has matched this commitment, and bi-partisan support for improvements to public transport in this corridor is welcomed.
Alternatively, instead of a B-Line service, there are many new technologies that are being implemented around the world that could be commissioned, including electric trams that do not require any tracks or overhead wires, and are automated by satellite.
But this could be just the start; connections from homes to main bus stops and many more improvements could be made to public transport all across the Northern Beaches. To cancel the tunnel and allocate only a portion of it’s funding to integrated public transport would transform our travel – for far less cost, and many years sooner.
The tunnel relies upon a significant increase in traffic to justify the expense to build, and profitability for a private company when the tunnel is privatised. Over the longer term, the tunnel will mean an increase in traffic due to population density increases, supported through current NSW government planning laws (e.g. medium density housing and boarding house regulations), without council having input.
Public transport options were not assessed as an alternative to the tunnel by the NSW government. Integrated public transport is the only long term solution for the Northern Beaches, and $8-10 billion spent on a tunnel will mean no significant investment in public transport is actually spent over the next few decades – as it reduces the profitability of a tunnel.
View a presentation from Dr Zeibots about the tunnel to the community here: https://youtu.be/sql8SPxlzSw
What about buses in the tunnel?
The government has stated that express buses could use the tunnel with general traffic, but have refused to include a dedicated bus lane. Some sections of the tunnel are only 2 lanes wide, and limiting the road space for vehicles by having a dedicated bus lane would reduce the profitability of the tunnel.
Government have suggested that buses could have priority at intersections into the tunnel, indicating that long traffic queues are expected at tunnel entrances.
However, there are no improvements planned for access to bus interchanges at North Sydney or the city, meaning buses will continue to sit in long queues to reach their destination, and promises of significantly improved public transport times will not be realised.