$17 million cost of Arncliffe pedestrian tunnel ‘shocks’ country cousins

Under way: Work has been undertaken to stabilise the rail embankment. Picture: Jessica Christodoulou

Under way: Work has been undertaken to stabilise the rail embankment. Picture: Jessica Christodoulou

St George and Sutherland Shire Leader: $17 million cost of Arncliffe pedestrian tunnel ‘shocks’ country cousins By Murray Trembath June 19, 2015

Roads and Infrastructure Minister Duncan Gay has defended the staggering $17 million cost of the Arncliffe pedestrian tunnel, saying comparisons with other projects are ‘‘simplistic’’.

Mr Gay was commenting on a YouTube video, The Tiny Tunnel that Costs More than a High School.

Producer Gavin Gatenby, the co-convener of public transport lobby group EcoTransit Sydney, said in the video a new selective high school in Victoria cost less than the 35-metre-long tunnel, and ‘‘35 Rolls-Royce Phantoms’’ could be bought for the same price.

He said that building the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Airport rail link cost less for each metre in today’s figures.

Mr Gay said constructing the pedestrian link below four operating train tracks was ‘‘a complex project, and simplistic comparisons to other infrastructure are misleading’’.

‘‘Longer tunnels are generally cheaper per metre because the fixed set-up costs are applied over further distances. The community wants this tunnel and welcomed the announcement.

‘‘The Arncliffe pedestrian link will provide safe access for pedestrians and cyclists crossing under the rail line near the Allen Street bridge, and will improve access to the nearby Al Zahra College, mosque, residential properties, train station and businesses,’’ Mr Gay said.

‘‘It’s a necessary investment to address a legitimate pedestrian safety issue in Arncliffe, particularly for the more vulnerable pedestrians such as local schoolkids.’’

Friday story:

The staggering $17 million cost of the pedestrian tunnel being built under the railway line at Arncliffe has outraged civic leaders in struggling rural areas of NSW, EcoTransit Sydney says.

Co-convener of the public transport lobby group, Gavin Gatenby, said there had been a huge reaction to a YouTube video he produced, titled, The tiny tunnel that costs more than a high school.

Since it was released on Monday, there have been 670 views.

UPDATE

Originally published 15 June, this video mysteriously disappeared from EcoTransit’s YouTube channel on or about 28 June, by which time it had been viewed more than 1200 times. It has been reuploaded without alteration.

‘‘I am getting responses from mayors in the bush saying, ‘this is unbelievable,’ ’’ Mr Gatenby said.

‘‘I have sent out notifications to Fairfax and independent newspapers in rural areas because I think people in the bush want to know what [Roads Minister] Duncan Gay [a National Party MP] is doing with their money’’.

The video includes Leader reports, including Mr Gay’s announcement the government was ‘‘going it alone’’ after losing patience with Rockdale Council, and the cost was expected to be $17 million.

It followed eight years of lobbying by Al Zahra College for a safer underpass for students and calls by others in the community for a better pedestrian link to Wolli Creek station and that suburb’s new Woolworths supermarket.

Mr Gay’s announcement in September last year came six months before the election in which Liberal John Flowers, who had promised the tunnel at the previous election, was seeking a second term.

The Leader highlighted the cost would be well above the $5 million the government had previously pledged and the $10 million estimated in a consultant’s report to the council.

Mr Gay said at the time the estimate was ‘‘subject to further investigation’’.

The U-tube video states the tunnel, while greatly needed in view of the area’s development, is ‘‘basically a pipe, 35 metres long and just possibly six metres in diameter, under the railway embankment.’’

It was costing more than Victorian taxpayers had paid for a new selective high school and as much as 35 Rolls Royce Phantoms, the video said.

Work to stabilise the rail embankment was carried out on Saturday June 13 and is scheduled to continue tomorrow, June 20.

School safety: Al Zahra College students with Duncan Gay (rear middle), John Flowers (rear left) and principal Bruce Handley (rear right) at the announcement. Picture: Chris Lane

School safety: Al Zahra College students with Duncan Gay (rear middle), John Flowers (rear left) and principal Bruce Handley (rear right) at the announcement. Picture: Chris Lane

COMMUNITY SAFETY

Roads Minister Duncan gay told Parliament in June the government was spending $17 million on the project ‘‘because we value the people and the children who cross the road to go to the nearby school every day’’.

He was responding to a question from Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, who sought an explanation of the ‘‘outrageous’’ cost and a guarantee there would be no surprise multimillion-dollar blowout.

Mr Gay said, ‘‘There is no community for which we will not do our best to deliver improved road safety’’.

‘‘Apparently, the Greens object to the fact that the Government is improving road safety for children in the area.

‘‘It is a bit rich that the Greens, who day after day want to blow the budget, question why this Government is spending $17.5 million to improve pedestrian safety at Arncliffe.’’

The Leader has sought comment from Mr Gay on the YouTube video.

Do you think the $17 million cost is justified or outrageous?