New Figures Prove Sydney's Roads Are Slower Than Ever
Sydney, forget the school break: the holiday on our roads is well and truly over.
If you thought the congestion had been getting worse in the past six months, you were right.
New government figures show Sydney roads are slower than ever, with the biggest blowout on the M7 motorway.
Last month at its worst, it took 110 minutes or almost two hours to do what's normally a 14-minute drive.
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) bosses have gone public with travel times to help motorists plan their trips. They've started publishing on the RMS website monthly trip times on major arteries and trouble spots.
The "Key Roads Performance Report" has been published every month since October last year and shows motorists exactly how much time they're spending stuck in traffic.
RMS executive director John Hardwick says this time of year, just after the Easter school holidays, is the busiest on our roads. Motorists are now also battling unprecedented roads works on top of the usual wacky weather, breakdowns, crashes and freak incidents.
"We had a crane on the M2 actually caught on fire in March which caused seven-kilometre queues all the way back down the M7 which doubled travel time for that whole month on average, just through that one incident," Hardwick told 10 News First.
Anomalies aside, even average travel times are getting worse.
The NRMA crunched the numbers for 10 News First and found:
- Average travel time on the M7 now takes 18 and a half minutes -- a 32 percent increase since October.
- New South Head Road has also slowed from an average 14 minutes to 18 minutes travel time.
- Maitland Road had jumped eight extra minutes, taking average travel times from 14 to 22 minutes.
Saturdays and Sundays are among the worst to drive anywhere in Sydney. The RMS has introduced new clearways to help ease pinch points, but many main arteries are under acute pressure all week.
"We have to address these hotspots, they are getting worse," NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said.
"If you allow a city to grow without its transport infrastructure people get stuck in traffic and so that's why you need to continue to invest in an effective road network but also effective and reliable public transport.
"Pennant Hills Road consistently appears at the top of the list, it is a real problem."
Already slow going at almost 30 kilometres an hour six months ago, now Pennant Hills motorists are lucky to hit 25 km/h an hour along the notoriously congested strip.
"For decades we didn't build the infrastructure the city needed while the city continued to grow at a fast rate," Khoury said.
Midweek commuters are looking for options and are jumping on trains, buses, trams and ferries. In fact, Sydney has the highest usage of public transport in the country, but still, more than 70 percent of commuters -- or around 1.3 million people -- get in a car every day.
But, they're not going very far. The average journey is around 15 kilometres.
It's going to get a lot busier on our roads.
"We're looking at probably a million more trips over the next 10 years taken by people," Hardwick said.
Experts say relief is in sight with major projects like Westconnex, North Connex, Northwest rail link and Metro set to be ready to use within the next 18 months.
"Pennant Hills Road is a really good example because obviously with North Connex being built there's a lot of works to cut out 21 sets of traffic lights for everybody," Hardwick said.
"So it's going to be a massive improvement for the community, but the first thing is, is to actually integrate that back into the road network and so it does slow traffic for a period of time with reduced speed limits for the safety of the workers."
When it is complete, freight vehicles will be able to bypass Sydney altogether.
"We would expect to see improvements right across Sydney once these motorways and rail links are open," Khoury added.
"You can effectively get from the city to Newcastle without hitting a set of traffic lights once North Connex is built, so we would expect a considerable difference on Pennant Hills Road once that infrastructure is open."
Smart new technology is also offering relief.
"We are starting to introduce new ways to make traffic signals talk to each other to improve the flow of traffic in some of those areas," Hardwick said.
"We only just started trialling before Christmas, between Wahroonga and Maida Vale Road. The technology is still being bedded down.
"There's 500 traffic signals in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and we are going to start doing similar things to over the next couple of years."
And when Peter Khoury is stuck in traffic...
"I practice what I will say at a press conference -- it's a good way to stay focused on what's in front of you and not get frustrated with those around you!"
We're happy to quote him on that.