Industry News

Proposal for nation’s longest tunnel gathers momentum in NSW

Investigations are now underway to make an 11-kilometre tunnel the central component of an upgraded Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow, forming the longest road tunnel in Australia.

It is anticipated the proposed tunnel would ultimately transform the state by better connecting the Central West to the East Coast.

Under the proposal tunnels the NSW Government has already committed to building at Blackheath and Mount Victoria would be joined together.

The result of this linkage would create the longest road tunnel in the country.

“This is an immensely complex and ambitious plan, but we’re working hard to make it happen because we know what a difference it will make to the lives of commuters, to regional businesses who need access to Sydney and vice versa, to freight companies, to families visiting relatives and to holiday makers,” said NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

“The NSW Government is committed to building a safer and stronger regional NSW and this corridor will enhance the state, significantly cutting travel times between the city and the bush,” he said.

Completion of the Katoomba to Lithgow section, would deliver the final stage of a multi-decade program of works including a 130 kilometre upgrade that will feature dual carriageway on the Great Western Highway.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the solution would link the two tunnels already determined for Blackheath and Mount Victoria to deliver a safer, more reliable connection through the Blue Mountains.

“The NSW Government knows how important this upgrade is to the people who use the Great Western Highway every day and in improving connections between Sydney and the Central West, which is why we committed $2.5 billion to deliver a once-in-a-generation upgrade to this key corridor,” he said.

“As part of this upgrade, we’ve already committed to a 4.5-kilometre tunnel to bypass Blackheath and a 4-kilometre tunnel underneath Victoria Pass, one of the steepest roads in NSW,” said Toole.

“We’re now investigating connecting those two proposed tunnels into one longer tunnel. This would be a history-making project, delivering Australia’s longest road tunnel and allow motorists to avoid all the current pinch points from Blackheath in the east to Little Hartley on the western side of Victoria Pass.

“It will also mean less disruption for local residents and businesses during construction and a smoother, safer journey for those travelling underneath Blackheath and Mount Victoria as well as those travelling above.”

Toole said the eastern entry for the proposed tunnel will be on the outskirts of Blackheath to minimise impacts on local homes and be built in a section of National Park land to the south of Evans Lookout Road.

“At the Western end, the portal location in Little Hartley has been modified to improve safety and reduce property impacts in the valley.”

Toole said heavy traffic over the Easter weekend had reiterated the importance of the Great Western Highway Upgrade and safe, reliable connections over the mountains for locals and travellers alike.

“This is an immensely challenging project but, once complete, it will deliver dual carriageway in both directions for over 100 kilometres,” Toole said.

Toole, however, assured the local community that the tunnels at Blackheath and Mount Victoria would go ahead even if the longer tunnel extension be scuttled.

Neither portal would impact the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area according to Transport for NSW who was engaging with National Parks about the upgrade’s impacts on land adjacent to the proposed portals.

Construction on the Great Western Highway Upgrade is expected to start at Medlow Bath in 2022, with the full upgrade expected to be completed within eight to ten years.

Toole said the community would continue to shape the design of the upgrade as it moves towards construction.

“Later this year, Transport for NSW will consult with the community on the entire upgrade, including the proposed Blackheath to Little Hartley Tunnel,” he said.

“Between now and then, residents will see plenty of investigation work going on to make sure we have all the information we need to reduce the environmental impacts of the project.”

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