A long-discussed tunnel underneath the Blue Mountains connecting Sydney with western New South Wales has been deemed too long and too expensive.
- NSW government plans two tunnels through the Blue Mountains
- A lengthy tunnel between Penrith and Lithgow is deemed “prohibitively expensive”
- Great Western Highway has become a traffic chokepoint due to disruption on Bells Line of Road
Paul Toole, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, said tunnelling through the entire Blue Mountains was not an option.
Two separate tunnels as part of the Great Western Highway duplication project would be a better investment, he said.
“Building and operating a tunnel of this length, either as a motorway or a rolling highway, would be prohibitively expensive.”
The state government planned to spend $2.5 billion on the Great Western Highway, including construction of a tunnel bypass of Blackheath and a four-kilometre tunnel to replace the convict-built bridge at Victoria Pass.
The multi-billion-dollar plan would bypass the heritage-listed structure with a dual-carriageway tunnel underneath Mount Victoria.
Victoria Pass was built by convicts in 1832 and has since been the main connection between Sydney and the central west.
More recently the steep causeway has been a constant choking point for motorists.
“We know there is heavy congestion on a Sunday evening, school holiday periods and after long weekends,” Mr Toole said.
Mr Toole said delays on the Easter long weekend were adding two hours to the regular trip.
“That is why we are working on these two areas that are critical to our upgrades of the Great Western Highway.”
Construction is expected to start in 2022 and take several years to complete.
Traffic ‘nightmare’ for locals
The closure of the Bells Line of Road in last month’s heavy rainfall put extra pressure on the Great Western Highway.
“Easter was a nightmare and some businesses had to close because they couldn’t get staff because of the traffic,” said Michael Paag from the Blackheath Area Community Alliance.
“Given what’s happened with the Bells Line of Road, those who live and travel across the Blue Mountains can’t rely on just one road through.”