Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Driving the "improved" M4

On the occasion of the return of road tolls to Sydney's M4 motorway, here's a video showing a journey along the "upgraded" section from Parramatta to Homebush (and onwards to Concord) and back, on a random weekday the week before the reintroduction of the tolls.

A couple of thoughts:

Before the "upgrade", with frequent lane merges, such as 4 lanes being reduced to 3 at the Church St, Parramatta exit, then 3 reduced to 2 at the James Ruse Dr exit (eastbound), the speed limit was 90 kph. Now with 4 lanes in each direction for most of the "upgraded" section, and therefore less potentially dangerous spots, the max speed limit has been lowered to 80 kph. So while the elimination of a few bottlenecks may reduce travel time in peak out traffic to some extent; paying the exorbitant toll on, say, a lazy Sunday afternoon, will not save you any time, regardless of what the WestConnex crooks and their NSW government accomplices keep telling us – quite the contrary.

Furthermore, that 80 kph limit is exactly the same that applied during the construction phase of the upgrade. We must therefore conclude that 4 wide, straight, unobstructed lanes are no safer than 2 narrow, often winding, lanes in a roadworks zone with its turning trucks and all the other hazards that come with, well, roadworks.

That said, I'm not all that sure the "upgrade" improves traffic flow all that much anyway. Even in light traffic (weekday around 3 pm), the actual speed frequently drops below even the low speed limit of 80 kph. Below is the speed chart from my westbound journey (includes section from Concord to Homebush, which at the time still was a roadworks zone).

Then, there's the blatant lie of what the "upgrade" actually includes. According to WestConnex, the M4 Widening project delivers

"Widening the existing M4 Motorway from Parramatta to Homebush from three to four lanes in each direction"

To, me, and presumably to many other, apparently misinformed, readers, this implies 4 lanes all the way. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this isn't so. At the Silverwater Rd exit, lane 1 (the leftmost lane) becomes the exit lane, leaving the actual freeway reduced to 3 lanes. Granted, the 4th lane returns after the exit, in the form of the non-merging on ramp from Silverwater road; but it only takes common sense to realize that any reduction of lanes, no matter for how short a distance, will always cause congestion in heavy traffic. After all, the elimination of exactly those lkinds of bottlenecks was supposed to be the point of this expensive project.

To sum up; As of August 15, 2017, you get to pay AUD 4.56 each way (with future regular increases already legislated), to drive, even in perfect condition an light traffic, slower than before the "upgrade", on a road that doesn't actually deliver the key promise of the project ("4 lanes each way from Parra to Homebush").

After this experience, some questions remain:
- Is the NSW Government merely incompetent, or outright corrupt?
- Does the NSW Government have employees that are specifically tasked with finding ways to stuff up Government projects?
- Should the company building delivering the M4 "upgrade" (and charging motorists exorbitant tolls for it), Sydney Motorway Corporation, be classified as a criminal organization?