Question: What is the NorthConnex project?
NorthConnex is a nine kilometre twin tunnel that will link the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga to the Hills M2 Motorway at West Pennant Hills. Once complete it will connect Sydney's north to the Orbital network and form part of the National Highway route
The $3 billion project is a successful example of an unsolicited bid by Transurban, delivered by Lend Lease and Bouygues Construction joint venture. Government contributions include $573 million from the NSW State Government and $412 million from the Australian Federal Government.
Question: When was the project approved?
NorthConnex was approved by the NSW Minister for Planning on 13 January 2015. Lendlease Bouygues Joint Venture (LLBJV) was awarded the contract to design and deliver the project on behalf of the NorthConnex Project Company. The final binding agreement, referred to as ‘Financial Close’ was achieved on 2 February 2015.
The Construction Environmental Management Plan was approved by the Minister for Planning on 18 June 2015.
Question: What are the benefits of NorthConnex?
NorthConnex will allow motorists to bypass 21 sets of traffic lights along Pennant Hills Road, providing more reliable and safer travel conditions, while also returning local streets to local communities.
Using NorthConnex as an alternative route to the CBD from the north avoids up to 40 traffic lights on the Pacific Highway. It will also allow motorists to drive from Newcastle to Melbourne, without a single set of traffic lights.
NorthConnex will redirect around 5,000 heavy vehicles each day off Pennant Hills Road into the tunnel, improving local air quality and reducing traffic noise. The tunnel will create opportunities for improving public transport services on Pennant Hills Road and create 8,700 jobs for NSW.
NorthConnex will also boost the state and national economies by providing more reliable journeys and shorter travel times for the movement of freight.
Question: What is the cost of the project and who is funding it?
The $3 billion project, consisting of a construction budget of $2.65 billion in addition to land and project delivery costs, is being funded through toll charges.
Government contributions include $573 million from the NSW State Government and $412.3 million from the Australian Federal Government.
The funding of the NorthConnex project will include the M7 concession changes, including increasing the truck toll and extending the concession term on the M7. There will be no car toll increases above current concession arrangements.
This funding model was made public in 2013 when the State Government and Transurban progressed NorthConnex into Stage 3 of the unsolicited proposal process.
Question: Why is a tunnel being built?
A tunnel is the lowest impact solution to improve the journey for motorists between the M1 and M2 motorways. The construction and operational impacts are less than the impacts caused by other types of road projects, such as bridges and overpasses.
A tunnel will ensure a smooth transition between the M1 and M2 motorways without negatively impacting surface properties and traffic.
Question: What are the main features of the tunnel?
NorthConnex will be twin motorway tunnels about nine kilometres in length with two lanes plus a breakdown lane in each direction, and a speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour. Each tunnel will be built with future capability to provide three lanes in each direction. The clearance will be higher (5.3 metres in total) than other tunnels in Sydney to reduce the risk of impact from tall vehicles.
The proposed gradient of the NorthConnex tunnel is 1.5 per cent, compared with the M5 East Tunnel with a gradient of 8 per cent. The gradient in the tunnel will help reduce vehicle emissions by enabling all vehicles to maintain a consistent speed and eliminate stoppages as they bypass 21 sets of traffic lights along Pennant Hills Road.
Question: When did tunnelling start and when will it be completed?
Tunnelling started in April 2016 and the tunnel is due for completion in 2020.
If your property is directly above the tunnel route, we will write to you approximately one month before we plan to be tunnelling in your area. An example of the letter can be found here.
Question: Where are the tunnelling sites?
Tunnelling will be carried out from four major compounds located at M1 Northern Interchange at Wahroonga, Trelawney Street at Thornleigh, Wilson Road at Pennant Hills and at the M2 Southern Interchange in West Pennant Hills.
When the project is completed, three of the compounds will be transformed into operational facilities. The Southern Interchange Compound will be home to the Motor Control Centre, Southern Ventilation Outlet and maintenance facility. The Trelawney Street and Wilson Road compounds will become unmanned utility portals. The Northern Compound will be rehabilitated and returned to Roads and Maritime Services.
Question: How is spoil removed from the tunnel?
Trucks carrying spoil leave the main tunnelling sites via purpose built access points directly onto Pennant Hills Road and the M1 Pacific Motorway, reducing the need for trucks to use local roads.
All of the spoil generated from our tunnelling work will be reused. One of the main sites is the Hornsby Quarry, which will take up to one million cubic metres of spoil. Spoil is also being transported for reuse at residential and other project sites across Sydney.
Question: Will there be a toll on the tunnel?
Yes. Car and truck tolls for NorthConnex will be aligned with the Hills M2 Motorway pricing.
Toll prices will increase in line with the proposed concession agreement with the Government and continue until 2048.
Current toll prices of the Hills M2 Motorway are available here.
Question: How will trucks be regulated to ensure they use the tunnel?
Details of regulatory measures are yet to be finalised but may include a fine for trucks using Pennant Hills Road when they do not have a local destination. It may also involve changing the operation of existing traffic control facilities, advisory and/or regulatory signage, route designations, notices, application of permits or other traffic measures.
Trucks servicing the local area will not be required to use the tunnel. Dangerous goods vehicles will not be permitted in the tunnel.
Question: What are the construction hours for this project?
Tunnelling will be carried out 24 hours a day, seven days per week until completed. To minimise noise and impact from these activities some of the construction compounds will install acoustic sheds and hoarding in areas determined by noise modelling.
Surface work will generally be carried out during standard construction hours between 7am and 6pm on weekdays and 8am and 1pm on Saturdays. Some work may be required at night to ensure the safety of workers and reduce impacts to traffic.
Directly impacted residents will be notified ahead of work and residents are encouraged to register for SMS updates by contacting us on 1800 997 057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: Where will ventilation outlets be located?
The NorthConnex tunnel ventilation system will include two ventilation outlets located near the southern and northern tunnel portals.
The Northern Ventilation Facility will be located on the western side of the M1 Pacific Motorway at the corner of Bareena Avenue and Woonona Avenue North. It will accommodate the outlet, a substation, two water tanks and a fire services pump room. The site will serve as a temporary construction site for the duration of the project.
The Southern Ventilation Facility will be located on the north-western corner of the Hills M2 Motorway and Pennant Hills Road intersection. The site has been co-located with other operational facilities to reduce the amount of land acquisition required. The outlet is around 15 metres from Pennant Hills Road.
Question: Has air quality monitoring been included in the assessment of NorthConnex?
Air quality has been considered extensively throughout the assessment process of NorthConnex. A Technical Working Paper on air quality was prepared for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project and air quality was revisited as part of the Submissions and Preferred Infrastructure Report (SPIR). Both documents discuss the requirements for operational air quality - a requirement in the Conditions of Approval for the project. These conditions include new and extensive safeguards for air quality and the operation of the tunnel.
Question: Will any new noise walls be built?
The EIS identified there may be noise around the M1 Pacific Motorway integration work, the Southern Interchange and Hills M2 Motorway integration work. Consideration of the inclusion of noise walls around these areas has been finalised as part of the detailed design and Operational Noise Assessment.
A new noise wall will be constructed at the Southern Interchange Compound and modifications will be made to some sections of the existing noise walls on the M1 Pacific Motorway and the Hills M2 Motorway.
To minimise the impact of construction noise on the community and to meet project approval conditions, the new noise walls are being built as soon as practicable along the alignment, with many walls now under construction.
Question: Will existing noise walls be changed?
Based on the proposed design and the noise and vibration impact assessment section of the EIS, the noise walls adjoining some properties along the Hills M2 Motorway and the M1 Pacific Motorway will be moved.
Where noise walls are required to be relocated to allow for the modified alignment of the motorway, new noise walls will be designed and installed in accordance with relevant guidelines (Practice Note (IV) of the Environmental Noise Management Manual).
Question: Will I feel tunnelling beneath my property?
All construction activities are required to comply with strict noise and vibration criteria of the Environment Protection Authority and NSW Health.
While the tunnel is excavated, homes and businesses along the tunnel alignment may experience short term noise and vibration as the tunnelling passes their location and tunnel spoil is removed. If your property is directly above the tunnel route, we will write to you approximately one month before we plan to be tunnelling in your area. An example of the letter and details of what you can expect during this time can be found here. The project team will work with the community to reduce the impact from noise, vibration and spoil removal.
Question: How is Hornsby Quarry involved in the NorthConnex project?
The NorthConnex project will deliver up to one million cubic metres of excavated rock and soil to partially fill the Hornsby Quarry. The Hornsby Quarry spoil placement project costs $31 million and is jointly funded by the NSW and Australian Governments, and the Hornsby Shire Council ($7 million).
The Hornsby Quarry Road Construction Spoil Management Project will fill the quarry to a level that will allow Hornsby Shire Council to start rehabilitating the site as a public recreation area benefiting the local community.
Question: How and when will the community be consulted?
The NorthConnex project team is committed to working closely with the community to keep you informed of upcoming work, project progress and project events.
Two Community Involvement Groups have been established. These groups are important for providing community input to the project delivery team. The community representatives work with project team members and key stakeholders to provide valuable local knowledge. The groups meet every three months (since August 2015).
NorthConnex also visits local schools, fairs and businesses with information about the project. We welcome your enquiries and feedback.
Question: Will subsurface property acquisition be required?
Roads and Maritime Services acquired subsurface land for the tunnel’s construction and operation. The acquisition of subsurface land was carried out in accordance with statutory acquisition processes. Generally, compensation is not payable for subsurface acquisitions in accordance with the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991.
Question: Will property acquisition be required?
Building a tunnel has significantly less property impact than building a new surface motorway.
If a property is directly affected by a road project, Roads and Maritime Services may need to acquire part or all of that property in order to construct the project. This process is guided by the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991.
NorthConnex identified a number of commercial and residential properties affected by the approved design and these were acquired by Roads and Maritime Services.
Question: Will there be any change to surface roads during construction and after the tunnel is completed?
There will be minimal changes. Some surface work is required at each of the two interchanges, which are necessary to build the connections to and from the tunnel with the Hills M2 Motorway, Pennant Hills Road and the M1 Pacific Motorway.
The M2 integration work will provide an additional westbound lane on the Hills M2 Motorway and temporary traffic changes are occurring during construction. While there will be some temporary changes to surface roads; motorists will have continued access to Pennant Hills Road throughout the construction period.
There are currently no plans to reduce the capacity on Pennant Hills Road after the tunnel is built.
Question: How would an emergency situation be managed?
The final design includes multiple systems and equipment to deal with incidents. These include visual and audible communication systems; emergency escape passages, access for emergency vehicles to reach the incident; a water deluge system to suppress fire and two tunnel support facilities with emergency smoke extraction systems.
The design includes a wide tunnel, a full breakdown lane and a height of 5.3 metres to avoid high vehicle incidents. This combined with a comparatively flat gradient should minimise incidents and ensure their safe resolution.
Fire and Rescue NSW have been consulted throughout the design process and this will continue during construction.
Question: What should I do if I believe my property has been damaged by activity associated with NorthConnex project?
For property damage claims call 1800 997 057 and a member of the community relations team can assist you. A fact sheet on the process is also available here.