Rival petitions over Great Western Highway duplication

Blackheath: Problems with finding a way through with a duplicated highway.
Blackheath: Problems with finding a way through with a duplicated highway.

Supporters of the highway duplication between Katoomba and Lithgow have started an online petition.

The change.org petition refers to "strong and enduring support for a safe, swift pathway connecting the Central West and western Sydney" via the proposed corridor for the highway upgrade.

It also quotes regional transport and roads minister, Paul Toole, who said last year that he would like to see a road between Lithgow and Penrith "where you can travel at 100km/h".

The petition says the western link would increase the economic capacity of the west, revitalise communities, improve congestion and reduce travel time.

It currently has 172 signatures.

One of the instigators, David ten Broeke from Bathurst media agency Ribbon Gang, said the campaign was designed to keep the conversation going about an improved route.

"We just want a safe way to get through quickly," he said.

A website has also been set up to promote the campaign.

Mr Toole expressed his desire for an express route in April last year, when he was appointed minister.

The Parkes Champion-Post on April 8, 2019, reported Mr Toole saying: "What I want is a safe and fast road from Lithgow to Penrith where you can travel at 100km/h because one of the real frustrations at the moment are all the speed limit changes."

Govetts Leap backdrop: A group of highway protestors were at Blackheath filming a new song, written by Andris Heks (at right) and Pat Drummond (left).

Govetts Leap backdrop: A group of highway protestors were at Blackheath filming a new song, written by Andris Heks (at right) and Pat Drummond (left).

But this week, his spokeswoman told the Gazette: "Options for upgrading the highway are constrained by steep topography, the railway line, private property boundaries, existing towns and the Blue Mountains National Park and World Heritage Area."

Because of that the highway was being designed with an 80km/h speed limit and 60km/h through Medlow Bath, the spokeswoman said, adding, "we have committed to providing 100km/h through the Hartley Valley".

Transport for NSW is currently canvassing options for duplicating the highway through Blackheath.

A co-design committee has been discussing four broad options for an upgraded highway through Blackheath - an outer bypass over Centennial Glen, a bypass along Station Street, a widening of the existing highway through the middle of town and a tunnel/ tunnels.

The committee is due to meet on August 5 to look at alternative options proposed by committee members, and on August 19 at the final meeting will discuss and assess all options to arrive at their preferred options.

Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, is collecting signatures on her own petition, one which would allow for a debate on the matter in NSW Parliament. It has more than 7,000 signatures.

Ms Doyle said: "This government wants to make the Mountains a place that is exploited only as a way to get from point A to point B.

"We are a collection of villages, with schools, homes and businesses built along a train line through one of the most stunning and unique world heritage areas on this planet. We are not a motorway, nor should we become one. We must fight against plans to reduce us to that."

Michael Paag from the Blackheath Highway Action Group said: "Let's be clear - a $4.5 billion upgrade between Katoomba and Lithgow won't solve the transport needs of the Central West because it does not address the limitations of the highway between Katoomba and Penrith.

"I call on Paul Toole and any organisation in the Central West that is concerned about transport across the Blue Mountains to meet with us so we can work together to implement a long-term, sustainable transport plan to move freight and people across the Blue Mountains, which includes more freight on rail and a safer Bells Line of Road."

An anti-highway upgrade song has been written by Upper Mountains residents Andris Heks and Pat Drummond. Recording and filming were taking place at Govetts Leap in Blackheath today.