Transportation Planning Casebook/Western Harbour Tunnel

Summary Edit

Western Harbour Tunnel is a planned project involving the construction of a motorway tunnel in Sydney NSW. It is estimated to be completed in 2024. The proposal was approved and released by the NSW Government in March 2017, together with the Beaches Link project. The project is currently at its design stage. When in operation, the transport infrastructure will cross underneath the Sydney Harbour between the Birchgrove and Waverton areas while connected from WestConnex to Warringah Freeway.

Western Harbour Tunnel is designed to address the need of a crossing means of the Sydney Harbour, as identified in the 2012 NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. The harbour tunnel was proposed as an alternative to a conventional bridge, which has negative impact on the environmental and visual aspects of the Sydney Harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

List of Actors Edit

State Agencies Edit

  • The state agencies include the Department of Planning and Environment, NSW Environment Protection Authority, Ministry of Health, Department of Primary Industries, Office of Environment and Heritage, Port Authority NSW and Transport for NSW.

The Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy Edit

  • Required if referral or approval is required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Local Government Edit

  • This includes the Inner West, North Sydney, Mosman Willoughby, Lane Cove, City of Sydney and Northern Beaches Councils.

Road Users, Cyclists and Pedestrians Edit

  • Involved in matters where the project affects existing pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, new or upgraded facilities would be included in the project design to deliver an equivalent or better outcome than currently exists.

Aboriginal Stakeholders Edit

  • Assessment of the significance of the heritage to the Aboriginal community in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Utility and Service Provider Edit

Local Businessman and Industry Groups Edit

Directly Affected Residents and Communities Edit

  • Will be involved in discussions about the design, development and potential impacts of the project.

Timeline of Events Edit

2012-2014: The 2012 NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan and 2014 State Infrastructure Strategy Update both pointed out a need for a new crossing of the Sydney Harbour
Mar 2017 Project announced by NSW Government

Community engagement

April 2017 Beginning of:
  • Site investigations including geotechnical and harbour marine ecology studies
  • Market sounding
Dec 2017 Upon lodging of the SSIA, the Department of Planning and Environment issued SEARs to established subject matters to be included in the submission of the Environmental Impact Statement
2018 Q1 Submission and approval of project scope and final costings

Start of designing process and financial investigation of possible funding organisations.

Maps of locations Edit

In summary, The Western Harbour Tunnel will be an extension to WestConnex and will be situated at Rozelle Interchange. It will extend underneath the Sydney Harbour between Birchgrove and Waverton and connect with the Warringah Freeway at North Sydney. Eventually, the Western Harbour Tunnel will be connected to the current motorways and other on-going projects, to create the future motorway network on Sydney.

Policy Edit

In NSW, any significant project follows the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.This act requires the proponent to lodge a State Significant Infrastructure Application (SSIA) with the Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E).DP&E will then issue back a Secretary Environment Assessment Requirements (SEARs), the SEARs establish the topics that must be assessed and responded to in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Edit

EIS is an explanation of the all construction and operation components and activities, which also includes assessment of key issues. These key issues, as defined by the DP&E, include Transport and Traffic, Air quality, Health and Safety, Noise and Vibrations, Biodiversity, Urban Design and land use, Water Quality, Soils, Heritage, Sustainability, Waste, Climate Change and Hazards.

Assessment of Key Issues - SEARs Requirements Edit

The SEARs provides a list of requirements under each key issue assessment, which are expected to be included in the EIS.

Here are some examples of the requirements:

Construction Transport and Traffic Assessment  

  • Route identification and scheduling
  • Contrition vehicles
  • Construction access routes with existing traffic
  • Constraints and impacts on public transport and pedestrians
  • Coordination of construction schedule with other major events and projects
  • Risk analysis (both land and water)

Operation Transport and Traffic Assessment Edit

  • Estimation of traffic demand and volume
  • Impact on network capacity and neighbouring roads
  • Travel time and level of service analysis
  • Interactions with other transportation modes
  • Consideration of improvements to public transport
  • Impacts on neighbouring commercial centres and businesses
  • Safety of transport systems
  • Works are compatible with existing infrastructure.

These Assessments are should be based on Guidelines; such as, ()

Health and safety Edit

  • Minimise the health impacts arising from the project
  • Describe current known and potential health impacts
  • Propose designs that reduces health impact and prioritise health benefits
  • Potential health risk of the operation and construction
  • Assess current and future air quality

These health and safety Assessments should be based on recommended guidelines such as,

Place making and urban design Edit

  • Consideration of future urban renewal
  • Avoid locating infrastructure in sensitive areas
  • High quality landscaping in-terms of efficiency and aesthetics
  • Consider residual land treatments and utilisation
  • Crime prevention through surveillance, lighting, walkways and signage.
  • Consideration of accessibility referring to legislation

Sustainability Rating Edit

  • In accordance with the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Tool.

Hazard Edit

  • Assess potential impacts on aircrafts in accordance to Airports Act 1996 and Airport Regulations 1997

Heritage Edit

  • Assessment of direct and indirect impacts to the heritage items including;
    • Significant Aboriginal places and objects (definition provided by National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974)
    • Significant environmental heritage (definition provided by Heritage Act 1977)
    • Items listed on the State, National and World Heritage lists (including Cockatoo island)
    • Archaeological investigations of Aboriginal objects are required to be conducted by a qualified in accordance to Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigations of Aboriginal objects in NSW (DECCW 2010)

Issues Edit

There were several concerns raised by the general public regarding the Western Harbour Tunnel. Some of the issues are as follows:

  • Uncertainty about the strategic need and cost of the development of the tunnel. Some stakeholders raised the issue of whether the money spent on the project might be better used for public transport.
  • Doubts about the project design. They were concerned about the tunnel depth, particularly the depth of the tunnel beneath residential properties.
  • Residents living close to the potential compound sites and permanent infrastructure had issues related to property acquisition impacts. The general view on this matter was to convince the government to avoid the need to acquire private property. Further broad concerns were raised about the potential for the project to adversely affect property values particularly in locations near ventilation facilities.
  • Community members were concerned that geotechnical drilling would impact on property structures. This included concerns around potential noise and vibration from geotechnical work. Concerns were also expressed around field investigations and impacts on flora, fauna and indigenous heritage.
  • Concerns were raised about the air quality and potential health risks, including the potential location of the tunnel ventilation facilities in proximity to residential areas.
  • Concerns were raised by sporting groups around potential location of ventilation facilities near sports grounds.
  • Concerns were raised over the duration and intensity of construction noise, including on residential and other sensitive receivers.

Environmentalists Edit

The Environmentalist expressed broader environmental concerns.

The concerns raised were:

  • The impacts on waterways
  • The impacts on flora and fauna around Wakehurst Parkway.
  • Impacts on tunnel and subsurface ground conditions and groundwater.
  • Impact of tunnel portal on environmental assets.
  • General environmental impacts on motorways.

Aboriginal Australian Community Edit

The Aboriginal Australian Community expressed several concerns around heritage considerations.

Key areas where heritage concerns were raised included:

  • North Sydney heritage buildings
  • Balmain-Birchgrove heritage buildings
  • St. Leonards Park, North Sydney
  • Birchgrove Oval
  • Garigal National Park
  • Manly Dam
  • Manly-Warringah War Memorial Park

Road users and public transport sector Edit

The road users and public transport sector also raised their concerns regarding the project.

Some of the suggested local traffic impacts that need to be mitigated are:

  • Reducing rat runs on local streets by motorists attempting to access tunnel portals.
  • Local traffic controls calming measures in residential areas to complement the motorway.
  • Avoid funneling of traffic into the tunnels.

Narrative Edit

The Western harbour tunnel (WHT) will essentially be an extension To the WestConnex project which will provide a greater connectivity between Sydney’s west and CBD, essentially taking pressure off the Sydney harbour tunnel and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The final location of the WHT was selected from a batch of four concepts. However, due to steep terrain gradients, the need for longer ramp designs and negative implications towards heritage sites and shipping channels, all prior projects were scraped.

The proposed location for the WHT will provide good connectivity to North Sydney, Beaches link and Gore Hill Freeway, Whilst avoiding interference with Sydney Harbour National Park, Sydney Metro tunnels and property.

Even though the project has now reached the second phase of design and promises to publish additional details to the public over the next few years, Community feedback is still quite large. With parties both for the project and against.

Nevertheless, stakeholders of the WHT project has promised to

  • Engage only with the public about the project by offering face-to-face consultation and email/mail services.
  • Minimize property acquisition and consumption.
  • Reduce construction impacts, which include noise and vibration, air pollutants and waste.
  • Perform activities in an Environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.

During the Second stage of the project, extensive field work (Currently, 90% complete) and studies will be commenced, these include geo-technical studies, noise and air quality monitoring and ecosystem studies.

The Second stage of the project is expected to be completed by Mid-2018, and will include a detailed design, project costs and funding strategies (For example tolls).

The key project benefits are expected to include:

  • Proof Sydney’s transportation will meet the needs of the increasing population
  • Cut congestion across northern Sydney and the Sydney CBD
  • Better connectivity for jobs, education and travel

The project Is expected to cut travel time between major locations by an average of 40 minutes, preventing the $8 billion congestion cost expected by 2020.

In conclusion, it is expected that the positive benefits promoted by the proposed tunnel will outweigh the negative backlash encountered during development and completion. However the project is still in its early stages, Hence, no conclusions can be suggested a of right now.

Discussion Edit

  1. Will induced demand result in the congestion levels to be worse than expected?
  2. Can the funds being put towards road transportation be better used on Rail for example?
  3. Will the Western Harbour tunnel promote long tern sustainability?
  4. Do the benefits published by the stakeholders justify the projects construction?
  5. What are the positive and negative of this project, in terms of your place in it?

Reference Edit

[1] Roads and Maritime Services. (2018). Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link. [online] Available at:

[2] Services, R. (2018). WHTBL - Overall project fact sheet. [online] Available at:

[3] Roads and Maritime Services. (2018). Project Notifications. [online] Available at:

[4] Fusai, G. (2018). Encyclopedia of Quantitative Finance. [online] Available at: