The NSW government has acknowledged something needs to be done to improve road access to Sydney from Western NSW but said it was “too early to speculate” on how it would be delivered.
Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said she understood the importance of the issue but didn’t commit to an expressway or any major overhaul of transport links over the Blue Mountains.
She said any work would have to be economically justifiable.
“As a country Minister I am very passionate about Central West issues and as Roads Minister I am keenly aware of the Bells Line of Road issue as local Nationals members routinely knock on my door,” Ms Pavey said.
“I understand that drawing a line on a map is easy but the engineering solution to crossing the Great Dividing Range is very complicated.
“Any final design solution must weigh the economic benefits with the cost to the taxpayer.”
The Central NSW Councils (CENTROC) have begun a campaign to get some commitment on a future Bells Line Expressway.
When asked where the government stood on the idea of an expressway, a spokesperson for Ms Pavey was non-committal.
“It is too early to speculate on the engineering solution to create better access to inland NSW from the Sydney region,” they said.
“That is why we have committed in the draft plan to a full and thorough investigation into the road corridors to identify the best solution.”
The draft plan referred to is the Future Transport 2056 strategy, the government’s 40-year projection of major road works across NSW.
Asked where the government stood on the Bells Line Expressway being the long-term path between Western NSW and Sydney, Ms Pavey’s spokesperson said improved transport and access was being considered in the plan.
“An upgraded Bells Line of Road corridor is included in the draft plan, as is the vital ‘Castlereagh Connection’ corridor between the M7 and Kurrajong,” they said.
The Castlereagh Connection would link the M7 Motorway and the Bells Line but that project is listed as a “visionary initiative” for more than 20 years into the future.
There are also improvements planned for the Bells Line of Road in the next 10 years, but there is no elaboration on what those are.
Ms Pavey met with CENTROC representatives last year when she was a guest speaker at the Local Government NSW conference and her spokesperson said the Minister was “aware of their passionate advocacy to improve road and rail infrastructure across the Blue Mountains, including the Bells Line of Road.”
“The Minister will be happy to meet with representatives again in 2018. The Minister will be attending the Nationals’ regional conference in February. Her door is always open.”