Transportation Planning Casebook/Western Harbour Tunnel / Beaches Link
The Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link is a proposed north-south motorway in Sydney, between Burnt Bridge Creek Deviation at Balgowlah (A8) and Westconnex M4-M5 Link at Rozelle interchange, with connection to Warringah Road Underpass (A38) at Frenchs Forest, Gore Hill Freeway and Lane Cove Tunnel at Artarmon, Warringah Freeway at Cammeray and City West Link at Rozelle. This motorway program is designed to provide an alternative link from Westconnex M4-M5 Link to Northern Beaches, and it is mainly funded by NSW Budget.
|Western Harbour Tunnel||6.5 kilometres||Three lanes each way|
|The Warringah Freeway Upgrade||4 kilometres||Major streamlining, improved way-finding, reduced merging|
|Beaches Link (Cammeray to Balgowlah)||7.2 kilometres||Main tunnels three lanes each way|
|Beaches Link (the Wakehurst Parkway connection)||2.5 kilometres||Two lanes each way|
The Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway Upgrade project and the Beaches Link and Gore Hill Freeway Connection project are delivered as two separate but coordinated construction packages.
Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway UpgradeEdit
Western Harbour Tunnel which stretches from the Warringah Freeway at Cammeray, across Sydney Harbour, to the WestConnex interchange at Rozelle. The new Western Harbour Tunnel will be the second road tunnel to travel under Sydney Harbour. It is to be a 6.5-kilometre six-lane tunnel connecting the Warringah Freeway in North Sydney with the WestConnex Rozelle Interchange as well as the M4 and the M5 beneath the harbour. As well as the new tunnel it also includes a 9-kilometre upgrade of road surfaces for connecting motorways, 4 kilometres of which will include an upgrade of the Warringah Freeway. The aim of the Western Harbour Tunnel project is to relieve congestion in the existing harbour tunnel as well as on the Harbour Bridge, this would also ease congestion existing on the Anzac Bridge and the Eastern Distributor. As well as easing congestion, other targeted benefits of the project include the following:
- A new western bypass of the CBD
- Create a third harbour crossing and relieving pressure from the Harbour Bridge and tunnel
- Faster and more efficient journeys across Sydney
- A continuous (southbound) bus lane on the Warringah Freeway
- Greater resilience against incidents and breakdowns on the road network
Beaches Link and Gore Hill Freeway ConnectionEdit
Beaches Link which provides an alternative to the Spit Bridge for the Northern Beaches, connecting through to the Warringah Freeway and Gore Hill Freeway, which will create a single roadway along with the Western Harbour Tunnel to the WestConnex roadways system from the Northern Beaches. The new Beaches Link will involve over 11 kilometres of new tunnels in addition to approximately five kilometres of upgrades to road surfaces. The main portion of the proposed tunnel will stretch from Cammeray to Balgowlah, connect to the Western Harbour Tunnel and be three lanes each way. It will also have connections to Wakehurst Parkway and the Gore Hill Freeway, each to be upgraded to two lanes in each direction. The proposed benefits of the new tunnels and roadway systems include the following:
- A link between the Northern Beaches and the rest of the Sydney area
- A link from The Spit to Falcon Street bypassing 19 sets of traffic lights
- Decrease in congestion on Military Road, Warringah Road and Eastern Valley Way
- Improved connections to Sydney Trains and the new Sydney Metro from North Sydney to the CBD
- An opportunity for express bus services
- Faster and more reliable links to key centres (such as Macquarie Park and St Leonards)
- Less traffic on local streets
Annotated List of ActorsEdit
|Stakeholder Groups||Members||Concerned Issues|
|Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW)||Road and Maritime Services (RMS)||Monitoring facilities installation
Safety design Traffic impacts
|State Transit Authority (Sydney Buses)||Changes in operation time
Changes in priority lanes
|Sydney Trains||Potential decrease demand in T1 and T9|
|Sydney Ferries||Potential decrease in cross-harbour demand|
|Politications||Gladys Berejiklian (Premier of New South Wales)
Andrew Constance (New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads)
|Residents||Local residents||Air pollution during construction and operation
Noise pollution during construction and operation
Pedestrian and cyclist safety
Air quality in the tunnel
|Non-local Residents||Potential decrease in travel time
Air quality in the tunnel
|Project Funder||NSW Budget (NSW Treasury)||Estimated and actual benefit-cost ratio|
|Environment Department||DPIE (NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment)
Ministry of Health
|Environmental and heritage concerns
Air quality in the tunnel
|Local Council||City of Sydney
North Sydney Council
Lane Cove Council
|Pedestrian and cyclist safety
Construction and operation impact Traffic impacts
|Potential PPP Partner||Transurban||Benefit-cost ratio
|Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway Upgrade Timeline||Beaches Link and Gore Hill Freeway Connection Timeline|
|2014||Western Harbour Tunnel is identified in Infrastructure NSW’s 2014 State Infrastructure Strategy|
|March 2017||Preferred route for Western Harbour Tunnel is announced and the market sounding process commenced|
|March 2017||The NSW Government announced the preferred corridor (the northern route) for the Northern Beaches Link|
|April 2017||Coffey and AECOM engaged to conduct geotechnical investigations along the Western Harbour Tunnel|
|April 2017||Coffey and AECOM engaged to conduct geotechnical investigations along the route|
|November 2017||A state Significant Infrastructure Application (SSIA) is lodged to identify topics for a future environmental Impact Statement (EIS)|
|November 2017||A state Significant Infrastructure Application (SSIA) is lodged to identify topics for a future environmental Impact Statement (EIS)|
|December 2017||Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements issued for preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement|
|2018||Early works around the Warringah Freeway and Rozelle Interchange|
|July 2018||The NSW Government announced that the Western Harbour Tunnel would be tolled and indicating the Tunnel contract would include the Warringah Freeway Upgrade.|
|July 2018||The NSW Government announced that the Beaches Link Tunnel would be tolled.|
|2019||Environmental assessment and planning approval begins|
|November 2019||The NSW Government announced the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project is to be available for public exhibition from mid-2020.|
|January 2020||The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) placed the EIS for the project on public exhibition on 29 January 2020. The exhibition period will close on 12 March 2020.|
|February 2020||The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) extended the public exhibition period of the EIS from 12 March to 30 March 2020.|
|Mid 2021||Complete concept design, environmental assessment and obtain planning approval|
|Mid-late 2021||Commence construction procurement – pending planning approvals and finalisation of financing arrangements|
|Early 2022||Commence construction|
|Early 2023||Commence construction|
|2026||Open tunnel to traffic|
|TBC||Open Tunnel to traffic|
Maps of LocationsEdit
Overall, the Western Harbour Tunnel will extend under Sydney Harbour and connect to the WestConnex roadway system at the Rozell Interchange and the Warringah Freeway in North Sydney. The Northern Beaches Link Tunnel will also connect with the Warringah Freeway at Cammeray and the Gore Hill Freeway at Artarmon and lead on to the Western Harbour Tunnel.
Project Policy and IssuesEdit
The policies and legislation that may affect or be abided by are largely dictated by the nature of the project. When establishing the necessity for the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link upgrade, the project team had to determine if the project was of state significance to receive support from several governmental initiatives aimed at encouraging the expansion of Sydney’s infrastructure.
It was determined from the assessment committee that the project would be an integral component of assisting Sydney’s traffic network in several capacities:
- Sydney CBD possesses 40% of Sydney’s employment, which is heavily reliant on reducing peak congestion and efficient movement of people. Will also strengthen the operational capability of current and future public transportation means.
- Expanding Sydney’s dense economic centres to increase future capacity for growth.
- Improving supply chain efficiency and productivity through increased access and congestion alleviation. Improved delivery times for freight and shipping of products and materials.
- The upgrade will seek to increase traffic performance within the “Global Economic Corridor” which encompasses the regions from Macquarie Park to Sydney Airport via the CBD; an arc of lucrative business contributing to 41% ($195 Billion) of NSW’s GDP.
- Network Reliability
- Overall decrease in travel times around Sydney’s congested metropolitan district by heightening the resilience of existing expressways, linkages, main arterial thoroughfares and other primary connections
- Reduce periods of peak congestion around CBD and northern beaches areas
- Offer alternative routes of traffic flow and emergency detours in the event of accidents to promote usual network flow, reduce system strain and prevent widespread gridlock.
- Creation of new transport routes to service each side of the Harbour Bridge (Sydney CBD), Northern Beaches, North Sydney, Warringah Area and Gore Hill. With over 630,000 trips made through the CBD itself and over 1.2 million journeys made to its surrounding suburbs, the project would be a major asset to future-proofing the existing network.
- Contribute to the creation of the Western Sydney Bypass via WestConnex.
- Address future congestion concerns with an anticipated population boom from current 4.3 million inhabitants to around 6 million by 2031 - around a 30% increase in on-road users.
Governmental Intervention PoliciesEdit
In light of the above considerations, the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link is poised to be of great state significance, making it relevant to numerous federal and state-run policies and programs attempting to subsidise projects of this nature. Specifically, the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link project was pertinent to the following:
Future Transport Strategy 2056 (NSW Government, 2017)Edit
The Future Transport Strategy 2056 sets out a plethora of plans and strategies aimed at guiding transport investment over the next 40 years within NSW, with the vision of advancing the network connectivity, mobility and circulation of the state’s transport system. By 2056, it has been predicted that NSW will be home to over 12 million people, consequently making Sydney similar to the megacities of London and New York. In order to withstand the estimated 28 million daily trips, the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link is but one puzzle piece in this long term plan.
Long Term Transport Master Plan (Transport for NSW, 2012)Edit
The Long Term Transport Master Plan seeks to marry both future land-use planning and transport planning into one integrated approach to strategise decision making around all modes of transport including road, rail, bus, ferries, light rail, cycling and walking. The Plan ensured that the spatial resources consumed by the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link were used effectively and that the purpose of the project kept users at its core.
NSW State Infrastructure Strategy (Infrastructure NSW, 2012)Edit
The NSW State Infrastructure Strategy was first proposed in 2012 as a 20-year plan to prioritise projects that would aid in nurturing culture and business development within Sydney and other population hubs just as Newcastle and Wollongong. With secondary aims of providing additional housing choices and improving societal connectivity, the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link project was very effective at achieving those outcomes.
NSW ‘Making It Happen’ Plan (NSW Government, 2015)Edit
The NSW ‘Making It Happen’ Plan describes a list of 30 priorities that have been formulated to improve several industries of the state from health and education, to infrastructure and the economy. In particular, the infrastructure priority describes the need to improve road reliability by setting a target of having “90% of peak travel on ket travel roads on time”. With the potential to re-route a significant portion of cross-harbour traffic and streamline travel to the north and west Sydney, the project sits at the core of achieving that target.
In order to develop the scope of a project, assess its feasibility, and be granted construction approval for implementation, numerous state policies must be addressed. The Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link is no exception to this legislature as any state-significant infrastructure project has to abide by them.
State Environmental Planning Policy Infrastructure (2007)Edit
The characteristics of the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link is that of a megaproject; being built on government-owned land under a public state body - the Roads & Maritime Service (RMS). All new infrastructure planning of this nature is required to follow the State Environmental Planning Policy Infrastructure (2007) (ISEPP) which is in place to assist the NSW Government, private infrastructure companies as well as local council and communities to simplify planning processes. It does this by bypassing the usual development consent procedures. In fact, the ISEPP will permit the development of any road infrastructure project on any land under a public authority without consent  The Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link satisfied these conditions to streamline the planning process.
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979)Edit
Similarly, the magnitude of the project will draw the attention of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979) (EP&A Act) which will ultimately guide the design of the project to mitigate environmental impacts, facilitate the sustainable development of land and promote the amenity of the built environment. The sheer size of the project means it will typically cause significant impact to the environment and local ecosystems. Consequently, the EP&A Act will demand the composition of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which will outline several key areas that must be identified, assessed and responded to. These areas, with strategies and resolutions intended to mitigate impacts to each area, often shaping the final design.
Planning Guideline for Major Infrastructure CorridorsEdit
The Planning Guideline for Major Infrastructure Corridors (PGMIC) falls under the umbrella of the ISEPP and is a sub-policy directly targeting the protection and development of these “ linear corridor(s) of land required to support the delivery of major infrastructure at some time in the future”  The Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link has had its corridor designated in both the Future Transport Strategy 2056 and Long Term Transport Master Plan for quite sometime before its construction, and the PGMIC outlines procedures for its land acquisition, exact alignment and complex project delivery. Large infrastructure corridors require immense planning spanning over several years to ensure their construction is feasible, responsible and does not inhibit future development.
Project Policy IssuesEdit
The Western Harbour Tunnel is a substantial infrastructure project in regards to size but is also quite notable as it is the first North-South road crossing since the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, which opened in the 1990s. Both the Harbour Tunnel and Sydney Harbour Bridge experience very high levels of congestion as they support approximately 80 percent of the traffic crossing Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River.
These two roadway system projects are said to be part of the NSW Government’s historic investment in roads infrastructure - their $51.2 billion  integrated transport solution (Future Transport Strategy 2056). It is part of their initiative to prepare the Greater Sydney Region to become a place where jobs, education and services become more accessible, and often reachable by vehicle or public transport within 30 minutes.
As part of the strategy to create a faster and more reliable network, the new roadways system is aimed to facilitate connections to public transport hubs and return local roads to their communities. It is also targeted to make it possible for public transport lines, motorists and freight movements to cross Sydney more easily by bypassing the CBD and avoiding dozens of traffic lights on the way, bringing down travel times and congestion.
However, there is some scrutiny over whether a new tunnel or roadway system is the best option for connecting Sydney’s northern beaches to other areas of Sydney. Due to the fact that the northern sector is unlikely to generate large toll-paying traffic volumes, greater government subsidies would be required to build the proposed tunnels and system. It is suggested that the northern beaches and north shore area could possibly benefit more from a new rail line. This is also a concern due to the issue of possible induced traffic growth, being that rather than easing congestion and shifting traffic onto the new roads, new trips are actually going to be created.
Statutory Policy IssuesEdit
The protection of an infrastructure corridor (reservation) relates to the statutory controls of the land. It outlines the types of development able to be carried out on land inside, or adjacent to the corridor. The creation of this reservation by the agency also requires the agency to identify an aquisition authority for the land reserved. This then in turn automatically triggers owner-initiated acquisition provision under the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991. Clause 94 of the State Environment Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 (ISEPP) also permits the development of any land for the purpose of a road or road infrastructure facilities to be carried out by or on behalf of a public authority without consent. As the project is for a road and road infrastructure facilities, and is to be carried out by or on behalf of Roads and Maritime, the project is permissible without development consent under Part 4 of the EP&A Act.
Environmental and Health Policy IssuesEdit
As for all projects, but even more so with major transport infrastructure projects, the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches link were subjected to a comprehensive EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). The purposes of these assessments are to evaluate any and all potential social and environmental impact that may transpire during construction or as a result of the project, as well as propose suitable mitigation techniques to circumvent or manage these impacts. Some common issues that are considered include;
- Traffic flow and congestion
- Air quality - especially at tunnel entrances
- Noise and vibration
- Spoil disposal - during construction
- Sediment management
- Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage
- Fauna and marine ecology
There are two environmental impact statements, one each for the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link (including the Warringah Freeway upgrade and the Gore Hill Freeway connection). Both of these EISs will address the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) which were issued in December 2017. The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) manages the environmental assessment. There is also a public exhibition period where the documents are available to view on the DPIE website and formal submissions on the project are able to be made. The EISs will be reviewed by multiple parties including DPIE, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, NSW Chief Health Officer as well as independent reviews before planning approval can be granted.
Air quality is always a strong issue of concern to planners and governments but also local communities. In February 2018 the NSW Government announced stronger measures on emissions from motorway tunnels which resulted in all ventilation outlets of all current and future motorway tunnels located in NSW to be regulated by the NSW Environment Protection Authority. This demands tunnel operators to meet air quality limits and perform monitoring of air quality. Air quality also needs to be managed construction as there are usually temporary increases in emissions, gases and particulate matter related to construction plant and machinery. This would result in temporary ventilation systems being required during construction. The Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality also releases an in-tunnel air quality policy for new road tunnels greater than 1 kilometre in length. This policy sets out requirements for the average tunnel criterion for NO2 concentrations. To assist in the sustainability measures and reduce the effects on climate change The NSW Government Resource Efficiency Policy (GREP) (OEH, 2014c) also requires agencies to reduce the amount of energy, water and waste associated with project construction and operation to in turn reduce greenhouse gas emission and use renewable energy where practical.
The Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link are also one of the first significant transport infrastructure programs in NSW that are required to undergo further checks before planning determination. These checks include the following;
- The Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality (ACTAQ) coordinating an in-depth scientific review of the project’s air emissions from ventilation outlets.
- The NSW Chief Health Officer releasing a statement on the potential health impacts of emissions of tunnel ventilation outlets
- The motorway tunnel project not being approved by the Minister of Planning until the ACTAQ scientific review is considered
- Existing measured monitoring the air quality inside motorway tunnels remain in place
Land and Heritage Policy IssuesEdit
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s Aboriginal Heritage Information System (AHIMS) had conducted preliminary field surveys to identify registered Aboriginal heritage sites, which were found within and surrounding the design development corridor. An Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment would, therefore, be required and is to address the following issues:
- Establishing the potential for the venture to disturb Aboriginal heritage (sites, objects, remains, values, features or places)
- Evaluation of the significance of the heritage to the Aboriginal community in consultation with relevant stakeholders
- Assessment of the degree and significance of impact due to construction and/or operation of the project
- Mitigation and management measures (including measures to avoid significant impacts and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the mitigation measures) in accordance with relevant guidelines.
For Non-Aboriginal Heritage, no heritage items listed on the World or Commonwealth Heritage Lists were found to be within 100 metres of the design development corridor. However, there are seven State Heritage-listed items within the design development corridor. Possible issues related to construction include structural damage to a heritage item due to vibration and settlement associated with tunnelling or surface works as well as temporary impacts on views to or from heritage items and within heritage conservation areas. To help mitigate these risks, a non-Aboriginal heritage assessment would be prepared as part of the environmental impact statement.
Social Policy IssuesEdit
Like many infrastructure projects, there are many social issues that need to be mitigated as well as the potential to create social benefits. Project construction is one of the main issues for communities, often involving the following issues:
- Potential disruption or lack of access to private properties, businesses or community facilities
- Temporary loss of community spaces or local roads due to worksite or construction vehicles
- Potential visual impacts and odour associated with construction and waste disposal
Most areas of concern expressed by communities relate to environmental issues, whether it be visual impacts or health concerns related to air and noise pollution. To address these issues, the Department of Planning and Environment actively engage with all potentially affected stakeholders, including local governments as well as landowners and communities as part of the SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policies) for the corridor. It is also required that the draft SEPP, as well as all supporting material (including the Strategic Environmental Assessment), be subject to public consultation. This exhibition period is a minimum of 28 days. Although there is the potential for socio-economic, land use and property impacts during the construction and operation of the project, it also has the capacity to generate socio-economic benefits such as the creation of additional jobs in construction as well as possible increased business turnover, particularly for food and beverage outlets in close proximity to construction worksites.
|2016–2017||NSW Budget allocated $17.6 million for planning both the Beaches Link and the Western Harbour Tunnel.|
|2017–2018||NSW Budget allocated $103 million towards planning works for both the Beaches Link and Western Harbour Tunnel.|
|2018–2019||NSW Budget allocated $556.2 million over the forward estimates towards planning and early works of both the Beaches Link and Western Harbour Tunnel projects.|
|2019–2020||NSW Budget allocated $165 million in FY2019-20 towards planning and preconstruction of both the Beaches Link and Western Harbour Tunnel.|
Community Engagement and FeedbackEdit
As with many large infrastructure projects, especially those that spread throughout large areas of the community, feedback from those communities are essential to the success of the projects. Both the Beaches Link and Western Harbour Tunnel projects received feedback on their proposed reference designs, this is recorded in the project databases and was also considered by the project team in preparation for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) exhibition. As of now, access for both projects are closed for comment.
Narrative of the CaseEdit
The Western Harbour Tunnel and Northern Beaches Link projects were proposed in order to provide better connectivity from the North Shore to and past the CBD and to WestConnex for vehicles and public transport, as well as to ease congestion on the pre-existing roadways.
The preferred route and concept design were released in 2017 after many proposed routes, this was due to constraints such as steep surrounding terrain as well as nearby heritage sites such as the Sydney Harbour National Park as well as the Sydney Metro infrastructure. Since the announcement of the final route location and the project entering phase 2, there has been a high level of community engagement with people who live and/or work, in and around the project area.
Phase 2 of the project involved considerable studies and fieldwork, including geotechnical investigations, monitoring or noise and air quality as well as plans to ensure the well-being of the local flora and fauna.
The proposed reference design for both projects was released on 26 July 2018 and community engagement was undertaken from then, up until 1 December 2018. The engagement included 20 community information sessions in communities along the alignment such as Balmain, Crows Nest, North Sydney, Mosman, Cammeray and Balgowlah. More than 2,600 people attended the sessions and more than 7,300 items of feedback were received. This included 4,000 comments pinned to two online comment maps. The following design changes were implemented due to community feedback:
- Maintaining the ramps on Earnest Street in order to keep the connection between Earnest Street and the Warringah Freeway
- Minimisation of the impact of work at the Ridge Street North construction site
- Committing to the development of a new public open space with the community at Berry’s Bay
- Reduction of land use needed at Cammeray Golf Course during construction
- Minimising visual impact of work by retaining more trees and plantings along project boundaries
- Moving motorway facilities within Warringah Freeway corridor to reduce impediment on communities
- Revision of construction staging to reduce the impact on communities at night
- Improvement of pedestrian and cycle paths along Warringah Freeway
- Why would a roadway system/tunnel have been chosen over a new rail line?
- Will traffic be shifted to the new tunnels off congested roads once more tunnels are built, or is it likely to cause new trips to be made?
- Are these new tunnels and links actually needed? Why else could they be built?
- How accurate is the benefit-cost ratio? Will the benefit-cost ratio of the whole new highway system (Westconnex, Southconnex, West Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link) higher than looking at each individual project?
- Is this project suitable for future development? For example, automates vehicles?
- Why there is no walking and cycling tunnel to be built alongside the traffic tunnel?
- How is the emergency vehicles accessibility from North Beaches Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital to this project?
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