‘No real choice’: WSROC hits back at M4 alternative claim

WSROC president Stephen Bali (right) with Prospect MP Hugh McDermott overlook the M4 at Prospect. Picture: Geoff Jones

WSROC president Stephen Bali (right) with Prospect MP Hugh McDermott overlook the M4 at Prospect. Picture: Geoff Jones

If motorists aren’t being funnelled onto the freshly tolled M4 now, they soon will be according to Stephen Bali.

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils president Cr Bali says the state government has contradicted its own plans by offering Parramatta Road as a free alternative to M4.

He said the government wants to reduce capacity on Parramatta Road, which would force more drivers onto the toll road long-term.

But WestConnex Minister Stuart Ayres hit back, calling on Cr Bali to resign from WSROC and accusing him of misusing his position to prop up a potential campaign for the vacant seat of Blacktown.

Mr Ayres has said that motorists traveling east on the M4 were saving 18 minutes, as many commuters bypassed the tolled section between Parramatta and Homebush.

“We have left the choice up to the driver. Previous governments have funnelled motorists onto toll roads...[but] we have not done that,” Mr Ayres said.

Stuart Ayres said the drop in traffic on the M4 was consistent with other new toll roads. Picture: Nick Moir

Stuart Ayres said the drop in traffic on the M4 was consistent with other new toll roads. Picture: Nick Moir

Traffic congestion has increased by about 20 per cent on Parramatta Road since the distance-based toll was reintroduced on the M4 on August 15.

Use of the M4 has dropped by 25 per cent during that same period, but Cr Bali does not expect that to last.

Cr Bali said increases in travel-time on “unviable” alternatives including Parramatta and Victoria roads had left drivers with “no real choice” but to cop tolls.

“The government’s own Environmental Impact Statement states that Parramatta Road cannot be considered a viable alternative to the M4 because it is designed to provide local access and is already at capacity,” he said.

“When WestConnex was put forward by Infrastructure NSW, one of its key objectives was to reduce pressure on Parramatta Road to allow for the corridor’s urban renewal.

The M4 East interchange at Asfield won't be ready until at least 2019. Picture: AAP

The M4 East interchange at Asfield won't be ready until at least 2019. Picture: AAP

“Plans for Parramatta Road aim to reduce its capacity as a thoroughfare and return it to the local community. This includes reducing the number of lanes, adding a cycleway, a dedicated bus lane widened footpaths and 27,000 additional dwellings.

“We do not for a minute suggest the revitalisation of Parramatta Road should not happen, but if increasing the capacity of one road and reducing the capacity of its alternative isn’t funnelling, I don’t know what is.”

Mr Ayres questioned the legitimacy of Cr Bali’s comments, saying they amounted to “shocking misuse of his position” as WSROC president.

Cr Bali, who is also Blacktown mayor, is in the running for preselection for the state seat of Blacktown left free by the retired John Robertson.

Mr Ayres called for Cr Bali to resign from WSROC “immediately”.

“After resigning he should also tell the people that if elected in Blacktown if he would remove the M4 toll? To oppose the toll with no intention of removing it is simply deceitful,” he said.

“The truth is Mr Bali and Labor had no plan to improve the M4 and even worse they now won't tell what the toll would be under a Labor government.

“Stop hiding behind WSROC. Resign and tell Blacktown what the toll would be under Labor.”

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