Artist's impression of the proposed WestConnex interchange at St Peters.

A report into the NSW Government’s $16.8 billion 33 kilometre WestConnex has found the project’s updated business case has overstated the benefit-to-cost ratio, with an actual BCR of less than one “entirely possible”. It also labels the purported renewal of Parramatta Road as “questionable”.

When WestConnex was first floated the benefit-to-cost ratio was put at 2.55 – $2.55 back for every dollar spent. The updated BCR given in the recently released Updated Strategic Business Case is 1.71, though the report from SGS Economics and Planning, produced for the City of Sydney, says this figure is a mistake. With the data given in the business case, the BCR would be 1.64.

However, when factoring in induced demand; taking out travel time savings of less than five minutes; using more realistic construction cost estimates; and including costs such as reduced amenity on urban development, land acquisition and health impacts, the project was found to be “marginal at best”.

“When considering the number of benefits that are likely to be overestimated and costs that may have been underestimated, it is quite possible that the actual BCR for WestConnex is less than one,” the report says.

Parramatta Road renewal questionable

As previously reported in The Fifth Estate, the report finds that traffic along Parramatta Road will increase in some areas, even though the Updated Strategic Business Case says that WestConnex will help renew Parramatta Road.

The government’s own Environmental Impact Statement found tolls on a newly widened M4 would result in increased traffic of 35 per cent on Parramatta Road.

“Increased traffic on Parramatta Road would not support urban renewal objectives,” the SGS report says.

No alternatives canvassed

No other alternatives have been canvassed either, which the SGS report calls a “fundamental gap” in the business case, and against Transport for NSW’s Principles and Guidelines for Economic Appraisal of Transport Initiatives.

“For a project with the magnitude of WestConnex, it is highly concerning that an analytical study of potential alternatives is not considered in the Updated Strategic Business Case,” the report says.

“The transport modelling contains many unexplained and counterintuitive results. This raises some doubts about the effectiveness and accuracy of the transport demand forecasts and the economic benefits claimed for the WestConnex project.”

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