Digging out two ‘3 lane, 9 kilometre road tunnels’ will generate a huge amount of excavated waste material referred to as “spoil”. The anticipated total of 2.6 million cubic metres of spoil, will be removed from 4 sites:
(i) the northern end of the tunnel at the M1;
(ii) the southern end of the tunnel at the M2;
and in the middle two deep mine shafts;
(iii) at Trelawney St Thornleigh (depth 46m); and
(iv) at Wilson Rd Pennant Hills (depth 80m).
At our AGM last October at the Bowlo, the Pennant Hills Civic Trust was honoured to hear from Mr Mark Dowell, Construction Manager for the contractor building NorthConnex. He is responsible for bringing this massive project to completion — on time, on budget, safely. In his fascinating talk and open question time, Mark described some of the very advanced technology that will be used in tunnelling and bring the spoil to the surface, including electric boring machines and vertical conveyors. He described the attention to dust and noise control at various sites, drainage, ventilation, and OHS. On the surface there are extensive ‘before and after’ house assessments, even their best efforts at thinking through the traffic and parking issues for our local community as a result of all his workers coming to our part of the world each day. We really appreciate Mark’s engagement with our Pennant Hills community and want to maintain a constructive relationship with him and his team. We also recognize that he must follow instructions from above and meet his KPIs. If we have issues with NorthConnex, we try not to shoot the messenger – in the end our Government is responsible for roads.
According to the NorthConnex EIS, the tunnel excavation task will take 27 months and require up to 2630 trucks a day to transport the spoil away from the 4 sites. In its assessment of the EIS, the NSW Government determined that this additional traffic impact was insignificant given the existing traffic on Pennant Hills Rd. This might have been a reasonable conclusion if the exiting trucks simply joined the traffic flow northbound on to the M1 and southbound on to the M2. It so happens that the northbound volume equates to the Hornsby Quarry fill requirement.
But, the EIS also included 3 ‘turning circles’ for the purpose of getting trucks headed in the opposite direction. The first proposals for circling around West Pennant Hills residential streets and Phyllis Avenue Thornleigh were subsequently deleted following EIS submissions from the Pennant Hills Civic Trust and others. We count this as a small win for the community. The contentious Observatory Park, Pennant Hills turning circle survived the EIS and Planning Approval processes.
Early in the project, during the EIS stage in 2014, the Pennant Hills Civic Trust had two meetings with the NSW Planning Department in an attempt to draw its attention to the highly questionable spoil disposal component of the EIS, but they were intent on getting the project approved quickly. The important matter of spoil disposal was pushed to later, deflecting the implementation consequences to the ‘proponent’.
The ‘proponent’ in the NorthConnex case is not simple. The Planning Approval tells us it’s Roads and Maritime Services (the RMS or Minister Duncan Gay), but NorthConnex is the result of an ‘unsolicited proposal’ by Transurban who is also the majority funder, and all the supporting document has been provided by a third party. And now with the project approved and the construction contract awarded to the Lend Lease Bouygues joint venture it is very evident that they are acting as the contractor and the ‘proponent’. (Is that the fox responsible for the chicken pen construction and security plan? )
In Pennant Hills and West Pennant Hills the anticipation of hundreds of daily spoil disposal trucks is of great concern to residents and to the Civic Trust. However neither the Government or the contractor seem to care. Or perhaps it is more that without a balancing pressure they care more about how many cents per cubic metre per kilometre are involved (times billions of cents). We have repeatedly sought an assurance that the routes to be hammered by spoil trucks will not include residential streets, but have not yet been given this assurance.
Let’s get specific.
Most locals would be familiar with the large construction on the corner of Pennant Hills Rd, Wilson Rd and Killaloe Ave – opposite Observatory Park. When waiting at the lights at the end of Beecroft Rd, my son called it the biggest box he has ever seen. It is referred to on the NorthConnex website as the “Wilson Road Tunnel Support Facility”. Check it out at: http://northconnex.com.au/wilson_rd.php
That box will cover the 80m deep shaft, and thankfully provide dust control and noise attenuation for shaft equipment, fans and the loading of all those trucks. It is a huge shed, and the contractor appears to be doing a great job with construction. It is certainly not going to blow over in the next storm.
How many trucks will exit from Wilson Rd, Pennant Hills?
The reference above to 2630 trucks per day for the project is based on the NothConnex EIS, a public document. With 4 sites, I assume about ¼ of the spoil will exit Wilson Rd in trucks. On my calculation that is more than 600 trucks per day. Even if it is half this on any given day, it is a lot of big heavy trucks. Enough to give you a headache. The contractor has identified 2 exits from Wilson Rd:
Route 1 South:- From the Wilson Rd facility onto Pennant Hills Rd, turn right at Beecroft Rd and via the ‘Observatory Park turning circle’ trundle south down Pennant Hills Rd to the M2 and beyond.
Route 2 South:- From the Wilson Rd facility to Victoria Rd (suburban Pennant Hills), to New Line Rd (suburban West Pennant Hills), to Castle Hill Rd, the underpass and south down Pennant Hills Rd to the M2 and beyond.
There are mixed messages, but no assurance.
Today, the NorthConnex website on Wilson Rd, says:
“Trucks removing tunnel spoil will enter and exit the site via Pennant Hills Road and will not use local roads.”
The Trust wrote to the communications officer at NorthConnex, and received a reply on 4 December 2015 that:
the contractor is “currently continuing to assess alternatives for the haulage routes from the Wilson Road compound.
There are a number of stages, one of which will include consultation with stakeholders. The PHCT is an important stakeholder in this process and we look forward to receiving your feedback and input when we are at the relevant stage.”
Reps from the Pennant Hills Civic Trust attend the meetings of the Community Involvement Group (CIG) for NorthConnex. At those meetings the Trust raised its concerns that the contractor had succeeded through the approvals process in adding a ‘turning circle’ using Wilson Rd, Victoria Rd and New Line Rd. For its part the contractor has claimed the haulage route to be
“all sub-arterial or arterial roads currently used by the freight industry and public bus transport” and that
“local councils have been consulted and no objections have been noted”.
The Trust is continuing to challenge the Victoria Rd route.
On this subject we have written to the Minister for Planning in July, November and December 2015, and to the Minister for Roads in November and December 2015. After more than 7 weeks since the last letter, we have not received a reply from either Minister, not even an acknowledgement of receipt.
Victoria Rd is in the State electorate of Damien Tudehope, and we will be meeting face to face with Damien presently, to seek his support for his residents. We are optimistic that he will be able to satisfactorily resolve this concern.
The Pennant Hills Civic Trust plans to continue to participate in the NorthConnex implementation processes such as the Community Involvement Group, and we will try to defend the rights of residents affected by the construction process. We expect to see even more people from West Pennant Hills join the Civic Trust with the focus we are giving to West Pennant Hills issues. If interested in joining go to the website: www.pennanthillscivictrust.com.
And after the pain?
When it is finally completed and operational, we look forward to enjoying the stated benefits of NorthConnex of “5000 trucks a day off Pennant Hills Road” and “returning local streets to local communities”.
President, Pennant Hills District Civic Trust