WestConnex comes to a stop

More than 600 tradespeople have halted work on the WestConnex M4 East motorway tunnels at Haberfield on Friday following the release of an independent air monitoring report that recorded ‘extremely high’ fungal contamination and classified it as a ‘probable health risk’.
The Electrical Trades Union said the testing of the tunnels of the $16.8 billion motorway project recorded airborne fungal concentrations more than four times higher than the highest contamination category, while surface testing found rates more than five times what is considered ‘extreme contamination’.
The report, commissioned by management in response to safety concerns raised by workers about fungal contamination due to inadequate ventilation in the tunnels, not only stated that the contamination posed a probable health risk but also required ‘remediation or removal of all affected surfaces’.
ETU secretary Justin Page said workers were refusing to enter the tunnels due to the serious health risk posed by the air contamination.
“Workers have been raising concerns about moist conditions and inadequate ventilation combining to cause a serious mould problem in the tunnel, but no one realised just how bad the situation was or how great a health risk was posed until this testing was finally undertaken,” Mr Page said.
“After finally agreeing to undertake independent testing, management is now refusing to recognise the results that have shown extreme levels of contamination that are posing a significant risk to workers.
“This morning, management has continued to refuse to meet with workers to hear their concerns or outline a plan for removing this contamination from the tunnel, instead insisting workers go back into areas that have been identified as unsafe by the independent industrial hygienist.
“Our members need to know that they are not being exposed to a serious health risk before they return to working in what they now know is a dangerous and highly contaminated worksite.”
Mr Page said the NSW Government needed to get involved and identify how the fungal contamination would be remediated before commuters begin using the tunnels in the coming months.
“This is the signature infrastructure project of the NSW Government, yet from day one they’ve had a hands-off approach and refused to take charge of the very serious issues that have resulted in cost blowouts, poor planning and horrific workplace safety,” Mr Page said.
“The Berejiklian Government continues to put the safety of workers at risk rather than take action to address the serious issues facing this bungled project.
“Premier Gladys Berejiklian must take urgent steps to address these extreme fungal contamination before the general public begin using these tunnels, otherwise it risks becoming another mess like the light rail.”

Australia’s national truck laws must be substantially redrafted, the Australian Trucking Association said in response to the first issues paper of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review.

Don't sell WestConnex: ATA

The ACCC should not approve the sale of WestConnex to Sydney Transport Partners (STP), because in the long run it would push up truck tolls even further, the chairman of the Australian Trucking Association Geoff Crouch said.
“Transurban is the majority interest holder in STP. It already holds, or has majority control of, 15 of the 19 toll road concessions in Australia,” Mr Crouch said.
In a submission to the ACCC, the ATA said the proposed acquisition would reduce competition for the construction, ownership and operation of toll roads in NSW. The ATA said it would give Transurban an increased ability to secure new toll road concessions based on increasing the heavy vehicle multiplier on its existing toll road assets.
In Sydney, the NSW Government’s tolling principles require truck tolls to be at least three times higher than car tolls, and Transurban has demonstrated a willingness to use interstate truck toll multipliers as part of its case for increasing local multipliers.
“The 16,000 hardworking trucking businesses in New South Wales cannot afford the truck tolls they are charged now. The proposed sale would inevitably result in tolls becoming even higher,” Mr Crouch said.
“Motorists have the ability to hop on the train or catch the bus if they wish to avoid toll roads, but a freight transporter can’t strap their load to the back of a bicycle and hope for the best,” he said.
Mr Crouch dismissed the argument that high truck tolls simply reflected the increased road maintenance cost caused by heavy vehicle use.
“For a fully laden, six-axle articulated truck, the estimated marginal cost of road wear on an urban toll road is 16 cents per kilometre. On the M7, for example, the truck toll of $1.19 per kilometre is more than seven times the actual cost,” he said.
Read the ATA submission here.

Gillard promises new freight route for Sydney

Julia Gillard has promised $1 billion worth of funding to start building the western Sydney motorway network, claiming the project is now a national priority.

Under the plans, the existing M4 motorway is to remain toll-free, a freight link to Port Botany will be included, and a tunnel will connect the west to the CBD, The Australian reported.

"This is a big project, obviously the federal government would be prepared to make a contribution. That contribution would have billion associated with it, not million associated with it," Gillard said.

"The estimates are that, of the new jobs created in the coming years, one out of every three of them will be created along the corridors this WestConnex services.

Gillard said the project was now of national significance in getting freight from western Sydney to Port Botany.

The total cost of the project is expected to come in at around $13 billion.

The WestConnex has become a political battleground, as both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott campaign in Western Sydney this week.

Image: Wikipedia.com

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