THE FEDERAL Government this week committed to providing funds towards Sydney's WestConnex road project, if planning currently underway identifies a detailed business case and direct routes through to the CBD and Port Botany.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday joined with Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and local Labor MPs to make the funding announcement, as part of Ms Gillard's tour of western Sydney this week.
The proposed 33-kilometre tollway linking Sydney's west with the airport and the Port Botany precinct was recommended by Infrastructure NSW in its State Infrastructure Strategy last year and included the NSW Government's Long Term Transport Master Plan.
However, the Federal Government said the current proposal does not connect motorists along the M4 motorway directly to the City or take freight directly to Port Botany from the M5.
Expected to cost at least $10 billion, Infrastructure NSW recommended that the project be completed by 2022 and be primarily funded by user contributions, with limited government support. The Federal Government's funding offer is conditional upon there being no tolls on existing roads.
"Premier O'Farrell has put forward a plan. He is calling it WestConnex. The problem with Premier O'Farrell's current plan is it doesn't get people to the city, it doesn't get freight to the port and people are at risk of paying tolls on sections of road they currently use for free," Ms Gillard said at the press conference.
"So my offer to Premier O'Farrell is the day that he produces for us a plan that meets those three conditions – people to the city, freight to the port and no tolls on current roads – we will make a funding offer."
The Prime Minister said that once the NSW Government produces a plan that meets its conditions and provides a final costing and schedule of works, the Federal Government will make a funding offer out of the funds available in the Nation Building 2 package.
The NSW Government has already made a submission to Infrastructure Australia for $1.8 billion of Federal funding under the National Building 2 package. However, Mr Albanese expressed some concerns regarding the costings of the project.
"This project has had an initial assessment from Infrastructure Australia that has raised a number of questions, including some of the costings that have been made… Previously the M4 project itself and the M5 project itself were costed together at greater than $15 billion," Mr Albanese said.
"So we need to make sure that the costings are got right. We need to make sure so that there aren't cost blowouts as we have seen on other road projects in New South Wales and around the country."
While no dollar amount was offered during the press conference, other reports have suggested it to be around $1 billion. Instead, Ms Gillard repeated that a funding offer will be made when the NSW Government produces an appropriate plan.
In January, the Federal Government provided an initial instalment of $25 million to the NSW Government to undertake initial planning work and identify a process for bringing the WestConnex project to the market.
In October last year, Federal Coalition Leader Tony Abbott called the project vital to Sydney's growth and promised that, if elected, a Coalition Government would contribute $1.5 billion towards the project.