Pennant Hills Road has been consistently voted the worst road in Australia. That’s why the federal government, in partnership with the New South Wales government and Transurban, has delivered NorthConnex. Opened on 30 October it has taken 5,000 trucks off Pennant Hills Road every day, giving the road back to our community, saving people valuable time, reducing noise and improving pedestrian safety and general quality of life for local residents. I want to share with you some of the positive impacts that NorthConnex has had on my community in their own words. Gail Zissermann from West Pennant Hills said: ‘What a relief not to be squeezed between trucks on Pennant Hills Road anymore. You can see the jacarandas and bougainvilleas in full bloom, and I don’t actually have to make plans anymore about how to avoid Pennant Hills Road when I need to go out locally.’ Vernon McKenzie of Beecroft says: ‘How’s the serenity? So much serenity. It’s whisper, whisper quiet now’.
It’s hard for those who aren’t from the area to understand how bad it has been. Michael Woods, a parent of a Little Athletics child who trains at Pennant Hills Park, said: ‘I recall a quote from a new resident who arrived at training a few years ago. “It just took me 25 minutes to drive somewhere five minutes away,” they said. The fact that a whole group of other parents did not look surprised defines what the pre-NorthConnex world was like.’ Colin Mead from Cherrybrook told me about buying a boat from a house on Pennant Hills Road with his dad when he was a child. He had to run to the nearest pedestrian lights to press the button and get a break in the traffic just so they could pull out safely. That was in 1981! You can imagine how much worse it got over the 40 years that followed. This has now changed overnight with the opening of the NorthConnex. Kent Ross says, ‘Last week I had to travel at peak hour, and the result was staggering. Instead of taking anything up to an hour to travel about six kilometres, it took 10 minutes.’
Russell Coward is a business owner in Castle Hill. His travel across the electorate has been transformed: ‘What a dream run. Traffic flow on this normally nightmare road was amazing.’ Mark from Berowra Heights says, ‘Twenty years of Pennant Hills Road was tough. Today the tunnel is bliss. It has a cost, and thankfully my employer picks up the bill, and so they should. I’m available at work for an extra hour every day. My commute is one hour less each day, give or take a bit. It’s magnificent.’ A couple of people have described it as like going back in time. Margaret and Barrie Purdon said: ‘Everything is just like it was when we arrived in Beecroft 44 years ago. The first night was so quiet I woke up because I couldn’t hear the traffic.’ Joan Kelly described today’s Pennant Hills Road as being like the road in 1967. She said, ‘It is like living in a parallel universe.’
Safety has been a big feature of the change for a lot of people. Tito Carrasco says, ‘We’ve been able to use Pennant Hills Road without the fear of being bullied by semitrailers and big trucks,’ and Roger Fairfax says, ‘Since NorthConnex opened it’s made Pennant Hills Road a much safer, less traumatic experience while driving, as trucks are not on your tail.’ Many people have found the benefits to be far better than anticipated. Greg Denton from Dural says: ‘The benefits are greater than the government has said, saving up to 15 minutes. Surely it’s way more than that and especially so for the upcoming holiday traffic season. Personally the benefit to me has been a much simpler, smoother, quicker drive along Pennant Hills Road.’
The Bruce family have lived very close to Pennant Hills Road at West Pennant Hills for 30 years. They say, ‘We knew it would be better when the tunnel opened, but the difference is absolutely amazing.’ James Simmons says: ‘I can’t believe the difference NorthConnex has made to our area, to us personally. It’s such a relief, especially at night. We’d also get this black dust covering the white painted windows and the ground around our area. That also seems to have stopped.’ Iris Kao says: ‘During the construction stage and before the opening of NorthConnex, I didn’t expect or couldn’t imagine there’d be any impact on me. However, there’s been a huge positive impact on Pennant Hills Road from day one of the opening. It is life changing’.
Sue and Les Watkins have lived on Pennant Hills Road for 44 years. When they moved, their family would picnic in their front yard on weekends. By 2019 that was an impossible thought. They said, ‘NorthConnex has been a godsend: few heavy trucks and no daily traffic jams, quiet nights and traffic flowing smoothly. We have always loved living here and NorthConnex has returned our suburb to the local community’. Eugene O’Reilly told me how much the golfers at Pennant Hills Golf Club are loving the change: ‘The second green, all of the par 5 third and the fourth tee are a marvel at Pennant Hills Golf Club as players have returned to the serenity expected from a suburban golf course.’
I would like to finish with the words of Evelyn Proimos of Beecroft. She says: ‘At the opening of NorthConnex tunnel Julian Leeser mentioned that it gave us our community back. No truer words were spoken’. I want to thank our wonderful community and I want to say what a great benefit NorthConnex has been.