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).
A tunnel may create more lanes for traffic in one corridor, but the increased number of vehicles will cause significant bottlenecks and congestion on the roads that feed into the tunnel, wiping out any travel time savings. These are indicated in the Beaches Link EIS as affecting Condamine St at Manly Vale / Balgowlah, Sydney Rd, and Warringah Rd / Wakehurst Parkway – but many more roads and intersections leading to these will also see increased delays.
For example, the EIS models travel times along the Wakehurst Parkway from Oxford Falls, over Warringah Rd, and to the tunnel portal near Judith St, Seaforth during the morning peak in 2027. Without the Beaches Link tunnel (and Western Harbour Tunnel), this trip takes 4 minutes, 27 seconds, but with these tunnels, it will more than double to 10 minutes, 7 seconds(12). It doesn’t take too many of these examples in a total journey for all time savings from the tunnel to be eliminated.
What do transport experts think about the Beaches Link tunnel?
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 were rejected by the current NSW government for many years.
A last-minute election campaign announcement from the NSW Liberal government in 2019 proposed building a B-Line bus in this corridor. NSW Labor matched this commitment, and bi-partisan support for improvements to public transport in this corridor is welcomed. This express bus service was due to start in 2020, but no announcements of progress have been made to date.
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.
Public transport options were directed to not be assessed as an alternative to the tunnel by the NSW government(6), despite claims in the EIS that alternatives were considered. Integrated public transport is the only long term solution for the Northern Beaches, and $12 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. This will leave us in a transport “black hole” for decades to come.
View a presentation from Dr Zeibots about the tunnel to the community here: https://youtu.be/sql8SPxlzSw