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Great Western Highway upgrade

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Hartley District Progress Association, Media Release, 31 October 2022

The Hartley District Progress Association (HDPA) and the community of Hartley welcome the Federal Government’s decision to pause funding on the NSW State Government’s proposed Great Western Highway “upgrade” from Katoomba to Lithgow.

Stopping the “upgrade” provides a critical opportunity to reconsider how best to improve travel times across the Blue Mountains and how best to direct infrastructure funding. This is a real opportunity for a proper rethink, because the Great Western Highway is not the long-term solution for fast freight carriage and passenger travel between Sydney and the Central West and never will be.

The HDPA has strongly opposed the way the project was to be delivered, especially the failure to make public the business case and benefit cost assessment. The Federal Government’s insistence on having all the business case details before it, before making any final funding decision, is welcomed.

There is no point in commencing any construction work on the West and East section of the project when the highly expensive tunnel section remains unfunded. There is no information on tunnel emissions and what communities will be affected by those emissions.

The “upgrade” through the Hartley Valley is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the community for good reason. Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) acknowledges that overwhelming opposition in its REF Submissions Report.

The proposed “upgrade” of the Great Western Highway through the Hartley Valley is overengineered – 6 bridges in the space of 6 km.

The proposed “upgrade” imposes two heavy vehicle rest areas immediately adjacent to a residential area and right in the midst of the valley’s National Trust heritage listed landscape. The community is unanimously opposed to the rest areas and has requested that those rest areas be moved a few minutes’ journey to the west of Lithgow and away from residential areas. That request has been rejected outright.  The community is angry and has every right to be by this shabby treatment.

Construction through the Hartley Valley alone will cost at least $1 Billion and will improve travel time by less than 2 minutes.

The 34km “upgrade” from Katoomba to Lithgow will cost a massive $10-15 Billion and will improve travel time by less than 6 minutes.

The “upgrade” will not improve travel from Katoomba to Sydney as it feeds into a winding dual carriageway through the remaining fifteen villages of the Blue Mountains. The “upgrade” will therefore not deliver the intended benefits and will become an inadequate piece of infrastructure.

The Central West needs an expressway to Sydney – infrastructure that is future proof.

The Bells Expressway is the only corridor that can deliver a 30-minute journey across the Blue Mountains. Decades ago, NSW built the M1/F3 connecting Sydney and the Central Coast. It was a feat of engineering through difficult terrain and National Park. There is no good reason why a similar expressway has not been built for the Central West and Western Plains.

The Central West cannot remain the only region in NSW without an expressway to Sydney.

Related story: A vision splendid for the Central West and Western Tablelands: from a Bells Expressway

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