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Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (Infrastructure Australia)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 27 May 2015

Senator RHIANNON: Was Infrastructure Australia aware of analysis conducted by the Roads and Maritime Services, which was referenced in The Sydney Morning Herald, that shows significant traffic increases on 10 major Sydney roads following the completion of all stages of WestConnex, before it was published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 26 May this year?

Mr Roe : I am sorry?

Senator RHIANNON: Were you aware of that research by RMS before it appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald?

Mr Roe : I am not aware of analysis that showed-

Senator RHIANNON: So you were not aware?

Mr Roe : I was not aware of analysis that showed that the WestConnex increased congestion on 10 major arterial roads.

Senator RHIANNON: Does the business case that has been assessed by IA include similar figures to this? Considering it is RMS-the New South Wales government-that has found these levels of congestion, has there been a comparison between that data and your data? And are the figures similar?

Mr Roe : We analysed the business case provided by the New South Wales government from the WestConnex project office which uses the Sydney transport model. It takes into account impacts on the broader network from the WestConnex project. I think there are different points in time in the development of the WestConnex project so that during the construction of the project it has a different impact on the arterial road network and associated roads than when it is fully functional and when the three stages of the project are completed.

Senator RHIANNON: Do I take it that you have not done a comparison with this RMS material yet?

Mr Roe : We have undertaken an evaluation that we published on our website in February. We will be updating that evaluation when additional business-case material is provided midyear, which includes looking at any potential extension to the northern and southern sections of the motorway. As part of that analysis we will look at any broader material that is available from RMS.

Senator RHIANNON: When something like that happens-which obviously is surprising to people who are following this-and you are working officially on the project, do you respond to what is reported in the daily media? I understand that you had not seen the data before it was released. It is in The Sydney Morning Heraldso obviously you learn about it. Do you then take it up with the RMS officially, or with whoever you deal with in the government, requesting those studies?

Mr Roe : When the updated business-case material is available and we update the assessment, we will look at all publicly available information and other information.

Senator RHIANNON: When will you be doing that?

Mr Roe : The New South Wales government has indicated that they will be providing an updated case midyear.

Senator RHIANNON: So some time in June they will-

Mr Roe : Yes, some time over the next few months. As part of that evaluation, that business case, we will take into account all information that is available on the project.

Senator RHIANNON: Talking about some of the available information, Duncan Gay, the minister, who you would be acquainted with, told a business lunch, and it was also reported in the same article in The Sydney Morning Herald:

WestConnex will remove large volumes of through traffic off inner city residential streets.

Does that reflect the view of IA, and what is your evidence for that please?

Mr Roe : Was that a reference to CBD traffic?

Senator RHIANNON: Well it is Mr Gay's reference, and Mr Gay's comments were:

... will remove large volumes of through traffic off inner city residential streets.

Mr Roe : I guess the city may be defined as broader Sydney.

Senator RHIANNON: You are looking at inner city residential streets aren't you? Aren't you looking at the impact WestConnex will, or will not, have on them?

Mr Roe : The project does not directly connect to the CBD. It provides connectivity from Parramatta down to the international gateways of Kingsford Smith Airport and Port Botany. There is not a large impact, as far as I am aware, on inner CBD traffic because that is not-

Senator RHIANNON: Is that actually your conclusion, that it is not going to have an impact on the inner city?

Mr Roe : As far as I am aware that is the case. That is not how it is designed. It is not the purpose of the project to impact on-

Senator RHIANNON: I am not talking about the purpose. I am talking about the impact. They are two different things.

Mr Roe : Yes. That is not the impact of the project.

Senator RHIANNON: You are saying you 'do not think'. Is it what you think or have studies been made that it will not have an impact on inner city-

Mr Roe : The transport modelling I have seen does not materially impact on CBD traffic.

Senator RHIANNON: A WestConnex spokeswoman was quoted as saying:

WDA traffic modelling, which has been ticked off by independent infrastructure experts, shows the inner south will improve with WestConnex as opposed to a do nothing scenario
This is from the same report, RIA, the independent infrastructure experts, cited.

Ms O'Connell : I do not believe so.

Senator RHIANNON: You do not believe so?

Ms O'Connell : No. The WestConnex Delivery Authority people there, I think, are reporting to independent entities who have reviewed their work, not IA in this instance. Otherwise, the spokesperson would have said 'IA'.

Senator RHIANNON: That is what I am trying to establish. Can you elaborate on what and who the independent infrastructure experts that you have just called independent entities are?

Ms O'Connell : Some of the traffic modelling companies who do traffic modelling. AECOM is one.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, AECOM is one. What others do traffic modelling?

Mr Mrdak : There are large number of consulting firms in the private market who do this. And usually proponents will bring in independent experts, who have not been involved in the initial traffic modelling, to effectively do a QA assurance on that work. There is a large number of firms in the market that can provide that quality work.

Senator RHIANNON: You have called it 'quality work' and the term 'ticked off' has been used. So have you ticked off the traffic analysis? Was IA given access to the underlining assumptions here? You have explained you have got independent experts, independent entities. They have done their work. Has IA now accepted that?

Mr Roe : We were provided full access to the traffic modelling. The department engaged RV Consulting to undertake a review of the approach to traffic modelling. We were provided access to that review material.

Senator RHIANNON: We now have that RMS data that we now know about because of the report in the Herald and we have got the independent entities with their work as well. Mr Roe, when you said earlier that the assessments had been done, is this all the data that you were referring to?

Mr Roe : At last estimates we discussed the traffic modelling as well. The assessment at that point in time was based on the traffic modelling available for the project up to that stage of the business case development. We expect further traffic modelling to occur in the next stage of the business case development and we will continue to review that and evaluate that when that is available.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that what you used to update the assessment?

Mr Roe : The assessment that was released earlier this year, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: And you will be updating the assessment based on the RMS data and all of this modelling?

Mr Roe : Yes, we will certainly look at that.

Senator RHIANNON: Have you actually requested the RMS analysis now?

Mr Roe : Not at this point in time. But we will certainly, as part of the business case, if it is not provided to us, inquire about any additional data that is not provided.

Senator RHIANNON: Inquire or request?

Mr Roe : We will request.

Senator RHIANNON: When will you do that?

Mr Roe : When the updated business case is provided to us in the next few months.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that the one you expect to get in about June I think you said?

Mr Roe : Yes. New South Wales indicated mid-year.

Senator RHIANNON: If you see that it does not have the RMS analysis on it then will you request it?

Mr Roe : That is right. We will undertake an objective analysis of the traffic modelling and we will interrogate and follow-up with questions based on that analysis. And we will look at all publicly available and other information that is available to inform our judgements.

Senator RHIANNON: When we had estimates earlier in the afternoon with Infrastructure Investment, again about this project, I understood from Ms O'Connell that there is ongoing adjustment of the assessment. Is it a problem that The Sydney Morning Herald has access to more up-to-date data on the WestConnex project than IA has at the moment, Mr Mrdak?

Mr Mrdak : I do not know what The Sydney Morning Herald has and whether that is actually the-

Senator RHIANNON: So you have not read the report?

Mr Mrdak : I have read The Sydney Morning Herald, but I cannot, from that, tell whether that is actual RMS data or not. It is a media report.

Senator RHIANNON: This is such a huge project. We are talking about billions of dollars. Don't you pick up the phone and ask RMS for the data or just say, 'Is this another dodgy media story or is this something that we don't know about?' Don't you do that?

Mr Mrdak : RMS and the New South Wales government have made a response to the article. We have seen that. We are comfortable, as IA has indicated. We have been working with RMS on these issues. We are comfortable with their handling of the matter.

Mr Jaggers : We have also engaged a world-renowned expert in traffic forecasting, through RV Consulting, that has looked at the traffic modelling and the processes that have been undertaken by RMS, and they have been providing us with assurance about the forecasting work that has been undertaken by New South Wales. So that also adds to our satisfaction with the process.

CHAIR: Thank you for your cooperation and kindness. I now call CASA.


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