Transportation Planning Casebook/Northern Beaches Freeway

The Northern Beaches Highway project is a NSW Government initiative to provide extra road network across Middle Harbour and to improve connectivity to Sydney Northern Beaches. Construction of the Beaches Link and Gore Hill Freeway Connection includes a new tolled motorway tunnel connection from the Warringah Freeway to Balgowlah and Frenchs Forest, and upgrade and integration works to connect to the Gore Hill Freeway. Together the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link program of works would form a new integrated north–south motorway connection that would reduce congestion, improve journey times, support rapid movement of people and freight, and enhance the resilience of the road network across Sydney.[1]

Annotated List of Actors


Engagement with stakeholders and local communities began in March 2017, aiming to gather their feedback on the design of the project and the subsequent environmental impact statement. Engagement activities are ongoing, and will continue during the preparation and exhibition of the environmental impact statement.

Stakeholder Groups Members Issue/Interest
Commonwealth Government agencies Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

Royal Australian Navy

Vision planning and management of Sydney Harbour sites[2]
State Government Agencies Department of Planning and Environment

Department of Primary Industries

Department of Premier and Cabinet

NSW Environment Protecting Authority

Ministry of Health

Office of Environment and Heritage

Transport for NSW

Sydney Coordination Office

Infrastructure NSW

National Parks and Wildlife Service

NSW Treasury

Port Authority of New South Wales

UrbanGrowth NSW

Greater Sydney Commission

Sydney Motorways Corporation

Transport Management Centre

Sydney Trains

To show compliance with legislation

To justify the budget and strategic need

Preparing construction and environment management plan

Communicating with other stakeholder groups to provide information and receive feedback about issues and concerns

Environmental and heritage concerns

Local Council Inner West Council

North Sydney Council

Mosman Council

Willoughby Council

Lane Cove Council

City of Sydney

Northern Beaches Council

Consultation with communities

Control impact of construction on traffic and road users, public and active transport

Property acquisition impacts

Property value

Utility and Service Providers Jemena


Sydney Water Corporation

Vivo Energy

National Broadband Network

Environmental and technical field investigations

Relocating services

Harbour Transport HMAS Waterhen Commanding Officer and Ship's Commanders

Harbour City Ferries

Captain Cook Cruises

Fantasea Cruises

Mosman Rowers Club

Traffic management at Harbours

Harbour access

Local Communities and Recreation Groups Waverton Precinct Committee

Kirribilli Precinct Committee

Northbridge Progress Association

North Sydney Council community forum

Northern Beaches Council Sustainable Transport Forum

Seaforth residents group

Balgowlah residents group

Balmain-Birchgrove residents group

North Sydney-Cammeray community

School Representatives

Air quality and pollution control

Noise and vibration control

Local amenity

Pedestrian and student safety

Commuters Road Users



Road safety

Road access

Timeline of Events[3]

Time Event
1930s Plans were developed for a new Warringah Transport Corridor to the Northern Beaches.
1953 The Warringah Transport Corridor was adopted by the State Government as part of the Main Road Development Plan 1953.
2015-2017 Roads and Maritime Services began preliminary assessment work into the concept.[4]
Mar 2017 The NSW Government announced the commencement of a comprehensive community engagement program to inform the development of designs for the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link program of works.[1]
Nov 2017 State significant infrastructure (SSI) Application was lodged to The Minister for Planning for approval because this infrastructure is State significant due to the size, economic value or potential impacts that it may have.[1][5]
Until Mid 2018 A detailed design will be proposed.
Second Half of 2018 A environmental assessment will be carried out according to the final design.
Unplanned Planning Approval will be granted.
Tender opens for bidders.
Construction phase begins.
With in 0 -10 Years The project will finally open to Traffic.

Maps of Locations[3]

Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link

Policy Issues


Contract Arrangements and Cost


Beaches Link has been identified as a priority transport infrastructure project for New South Wales. The 2016-17 NSW Budget allocated $17.6 million for planning for the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link. The project, which has been estimated to cost at least $3 billion, will bypass up to 21 sets of traffic lights and slash travel times by about 40 minutes between Brookvale and the CBD. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Roads Minister Melinda Pavey confirmed construction of the Northern Beaches Link Tunnel on March 16, 2017. The details about final costings, funding, route analysis and the timeframe for construction are expected to be released by mid 2018, following up to nine months of geotechnical investigations. The government is currently doing "market soundings" with the private sector to decide on the best way to fund and deliver the project. Work currently underway includes detailed financial analysis, discussions with the private sector over funding options, community engagement, as well as extensive field work such as geotechnical studies, traffic analysis, noise and air quality monitoring, and flora, fauna and marine ecology studies. The possible procurement approach is thought of as a PPP. The government said motorists would almost certainly have to pay tolls to use both the Beaches Link and the Western Harbour Tunnel once opened. The work over the coming year will consider what motorists are likely to have to pay in tolls. The NSW Government has also committed $77 million towards geotechnical investigations for the projects which started in April 2017 and involve the drilling of 235 boreholes across the combined route of the projects. Coffey and AECOM are conducting the investigations. EIS documents are expected to be submitted in the second half of 2018. The project is expected to take around five to six years to build, and a more detailed construction programme will be included in the EIS. This would include: - detailed project design; - final project costings; - funding strategy including tolling options; - private sector involvement; and - construction timeline.

Geotechnical Issues


Marine geotechnical investigations were carried out in Sydney Harbour and Middle Harbour between April and July 2017. These investigations have now been completed. The land based geotechnical program, with borehole sites being tested in suburbs including Balmain, North Sydney, Cammeray, Northbridge, Balgowlah, Seaforth and Frenchs Forest. These investigations have been feeding into engineering design, final costings for the project and further route analysis. Before geotechnical and other field work starts at each site, Roads and Maritime Services will notify the local community.

Air Quality Monitoring


Roads and Maritime Services is planning to carry out air quality monitoring to gather information about local air quality conditions across the project area. Sites identified by air quality advisers is near Rhodes Avenue, Naremburn; Bantry Bay Reserve, Seaforth; and Hope Street, Seaforth. Once installed, the station will operate at this location 24 hours per day, seven days per week for around 12 months, to record and establish baseline air quality data. After 12 months the weather station is to be reviewed and to see if it is required at the location.

Community Consultation


Communication and stakeholder engagement was identified by the NSW Government as one of three critical work streams required for the project as it progresses from the initial concept design to detailed design by mid-2018. Across 2017, Roads and Maritime undertook the first phase of communication and stakeholder engagement. Over 4,000 face-to-face conversations with people interested in the project were done, with over 2,400 written submissions received to date. The project team will continue to engage with the community as the project moves to the next stages. Community feedback will continue to assist in the decision making process for the project. Roads and Maritime Services have estimated owners of up to 71 home and businesses under threat of compulsory acquisition, the majority of which are in Artarmon, Cammeray, Seaforth and Balgowlah.

Narrative of the Case


As early as 1953, the Warringah Transport Corridor was adopted by the State Government as part of the Main Road Development Plan. In further study, the Warringah Freeway was recommended as a part of the long-term road network in Sydney, but the new surface road to the North Beach in the defined corridor would lead to unacceptable levels of community and environmental impact. The inquiry pointed out that the future tunnelling technology can mitigate some of the potential environmental and community impacts, thereby improving the feasibility of the proposal. Later, with the growth of population and dwelling in Northern Beaches, the 2012 NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan and the 2014 National Infrastructure Strategy Update continuously mentioned the need to improve the transport of northern beaches. In particular, the Mona Vale to CBD corridor is identified as one of the most congested strategic corridors in the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. The significant blockage, especially along Spit Road/Military Road, influences both travelling vehicles and buses. This congestion decreases the viability and engaging quality of open transport and causes a huge confinement on the flourishing and development of the Northern Beaches.[1]

Thus in 2015, Roads and Maritime Services started preliminary assessment work into the concept. Two initial alternatives for providing another motorway to the Northern Beaches included tunnels or a surface road. A new bridge was discounted early due to the exceedingly developed setting and visual sensitivity of Middle Harbour. A tunnel solution can give comparable connectivity and expected outcomes as a bridge while minimising visual, air quality, noise and property impacts. Five main corridors were considered for a new motorway tunnel connection to the Northern Beaches. After assessing these five options technically, socially and environmentally, the corridor option connecting to the Warringah Freeway, cross underneath Middle Harbour and connecting with the Burnt Bridge Creek Deviation at Balgowlah, is selected as the most efficient concept design due to its more southerly alignment and lower tunnel gradients (More detailed information see Beaches Link - Initial corridor options assessment). [4]

After two years' preliminary planning, on 16 March 2017, the NSW Government announced the preferred route, the start of field investigations, community engagement and market sounding for the proposed Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link. Current work in progress of Beaches Link incorporates itemized budgetary analysis, discussions with the private sector over financing options, community engagement, and extensive field work like geotechnical investigations, traffic analysis, noise and air quality monitoring, and flora, fauna and marine ecology studies. This next stage of work is expected to be finished by mid-2018 and will incorporate a detailed design, affirmed final project costs, funding strategy including tolling alternatives and private sector contribution and also a construction timeline including begin and completion dates.

The project would increase road network capacity across Middle Harbour. This additional capacity would relieve congestion on key corridors such as Spit Road/Military Road and would alleviate current limitations on access to the Northern Beaches. The Northern Beaches B-Line Program is being implemented to improve the performance of bus services in the short to medium term. However, additional road network capacity is required to provide a longer-term solution to road congestion and impacts on bus travel times. By shifting congested traffic from surface arterial roads, the project would also facilitate a greater range of options for enhancing or expanding bus services. The project would transfer traffic from Military Road/Spit Road corridor and Warringah Road into the new motorway tunnels. This transfer of traffic would reduce congestion on surface arterial roads and would improve amenity along these roads for local communities and businesses. The Northern Beaches B-Line would travel along Military Road/Spit Road, Burnt Bridge Creek Deviation, Condamine Street and Pittwater Road. The Beaches Link would be complementary to the Northern Beaches B-Line project, particularly through a reduction in surface road congestion. Northern Beaches bus commuters could see travel times reduced by up to 40 per cent and there will be less "rat-running" on local streets.[6]

Except transport area, the project would support the future growth and productivity of Global Sydney by improving access to labour markets in other regions of Sydney and improve the efficiency of connections between businesses and suppliers in Northern Beaches and other regions of Sydney.

Some criticisms from community come inevitably since the project was proposed. These criticisms mainly focus on loss of open space, demolition, impacts on native wildlife, air quality and other environmental impacts, and increased traffic on local roads. More assessments and analysis are required to carry out by the government.[7][8]





The Northern Beaches Population showed a 32,744 population increase from 2006 to 2016 (233,600 – 266,344),[9] assuming this value follows predicted growth trends, the population of the Northern Beaches in the near future is predicted to be 309,333 in 2036. As a result, the implementation of the Beaches Link Tunnel attempts to safeguard the future of Northern Sydney's traffic system and provide a solution to the imminent congestion problem. Despite theoretical evidence, it is difficult to provide a conclusive solution towards congestion problems due to many factors of traffic systems and human nature as they are susceptible to fluctuation. 2016 Survey data saw that 35% of Northern Beach commuters and residents believe that traffic congestion is a key challenge within the next four years.[10]  

As 53% of Northern Beaches households own two or more vehicles, it justifies that cars are the main form of transport within the area. This calls upon the Northern Beaches Freeway to provide a reliable means of transportation to alleviate the pressures on current roads such as the Warringah Road (90,000), Mona Vale Road (100,000 Daily Traffic Counts), Pittwater Road (58,526) and Forest Way (38,822),[10] as they both showed their highest morning peak usage on record last year. The freeway is also backed by the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan 2012 stating the Mona Vale to the CBD corridor is ‘one of the most congested strategic transport corridors in NSW’.[6] Hence, the project aims to relieve this road congestion and in turn, promote a faster, reliable and safer means of travel. The project predicts that 19 sets of traffic lights are skipped, hence cutting up to 40 minutes in travel time between Brookvale and the CBD. Additionally, it promotes public transport use which possesses a myriad of social and environmental pro's, as ‘bus commuters could see travel times reduced by up to 40%’.[6]

Environmental Impacts and Air Quality


The project incorporates the use of underground travel to minimize excessive pollution amongst the surrounding air quality. Therefore, the use of smokestacks, which enable exhaust fumes to escape from the vehicles travelling underground is used. This is used simultaneously with air quality monitoring system by the Roads and Maritime Services[11] about the local air quality conditions across the project area. The information would then be used to shape the Western Habour Tunnel and Beaches Link project during the design stage such that ramifications are implemented to adhere to a standard. Furthermore, the data will govern an environmental assessment process and impact statement, which would be made publicly available where the community is able to voice their opinions on the air quality.

Whilst the environmental concerns of the project has been taken into consideration through the construction of tunnels underground, it fails to cater for numerous groups of society. Notably, the Wenona School in North Sydney, Anzac Park Primary School and Seaforth Public School are all 200m from the sites designed for smokestacks [12] which will ultimately release exhaust fumes. Smokestacks enable exhaust fumes o escape from the vehicles travelling underground, where six of these locations are on residential streets, parklands and the Warringah Expressway. Moreover, further investigation by the World Health Organization saw that unsafe levels of contaminants (carcinogens) PM2.5 and PM10 existed at several of the sites.[12]

Alternative Investments: Public Transport


A common controversy exists when the prospect of a new roadwork systems is introduced. The funds contributed to the Beaches Link could estimate to a potential $14 billion, hence the question remains as to whether this could be invested into reducing delays in public transport and bettering the overall system. Despite recent advancements by the government on public transport via Sydney West Metro etc., they fails in providing a wholistic solution towards problems such as congestion, whereas a road network is capable of serving a range of purposes.

2016 Data showed that 23% of residents in the Northern Beaches believes ‘access to public transport’ is a key challenge that requires attention.[10] Therefore, the implementation of the Beaches Link is a multipurpose solution that decreases bus delays, faster commutes and increases traffic flow, efficiency and public transport use.


  1. a b c NSW Government. 2017. Beaches Link and Gore Hill Freeway Connection Scoping Report.
  2. Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, 2016.
  3. a b NSW Government. 2018. Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link.
  4. NSW Government. 2017. Beaches Link Initial corridor options assessment. [1]
  5. NSW Government. 2018. State significant infrastructure.
  6. a b c NSW Government, 2017.
  7. The Daily Telegraph, 2017.
  8. The Daily Telegraph, 2017.
  9. Id Community, 2018 Welcome to the Northern Beaches Council area population forecasts[2]
  10. a b c Move North Beaches Transport Discussion Paper
  11. Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link – air quality monitoring equipment installation from 17 July 2017 [3]
  12. a b Sydney Morning Herald Schools, parks, homes in frame as sites for Beaches Link smokestacks revealed[4]