Mt Victoria tunnel 'locked in', says Toole, but Medlow Bath residents call for longer option

A tunnel under Mount Victoria is "locked in", NSW regional transport minister Paul Toole said last week, confirming drilling rigs have already been at work in the Blue Mountains as part of preparations for the duplication of the Great Western Highway from Katoomba to Lithgow.

Mr Toole told the Western Advocate newspaper in Bathurst a four-kilometre tunnel will run under Mount Victoria as part of the duplication. A tunnel under Blackheath was announced last year.

"We are looking at two options under Blackheath - a four-kilometre tunnel and a 4.5km tunnel option," he told the Advocate.

"They [Mount Victoria and Blackheath] are both areas on the Great Western Highway where we see traffic building up after a long weekend, after school holiday periods."

He gave details about preliminary drilling work.

"Anyone who's travelled on the Great Western Highway would have seen that there are large drilling machines that have been drilling into the earth. We're having a look at where those portals might be for the establishment of tunnels - where they're going to go in, where they're going to come out.

"We're working with communities - there has been a lot of consultation. Environmental studies have been undertaken. So there's a lot of work that's happened already."

The Bathurst MP's comments came as Medlow Bath residents continue to push for an even longer tunnel from Katoomba to Hartley, "enabling the existing highway to become a world class tourist drive".

"Upper Blue Mountains residents continue to press Paul Toole to scrap his planned highway duplication which will not only result in years of traffic delays, caused by construction, the end result will destroy the tourism attraction of the historical significance of upper Blue Mountains townships," said Medlow Bath Action Group president, Stephen Caswell.

"It is inconceivable the proposed four-five lane widening through Medlow Bath and pedestrian overpass bridge will comply with obligations to preserve the visual amenity of the heritage listed Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Traffic heading west at Medlow Bath on Saturday, April 17.

Traffic heading west at Medlow Bath on Saturday, April 17.

"The end result in Medlow Bath will not ease traffic congestion due to the 60km/hour speed limit, traffic lights and no alternative access road during accidents and bushfires."

Instead, Medlow Bath residents and local businesses continue to press Mr Toole to build a long tunnel from Katoomba to Hartley.

Mr Caswell said a longer tunnel will be safer by preventing 30 metre trucks "having to contend with unpredictable weather events. The technology is available for such a tunnel and preliminary costings compare favorably to the duplication of the existing highway."

The issue came to the fore this Easter long weekend when hours were added to the trip between Sydney and the Central West when part of Bells Line of Road was closed due to landslides caused by heavy rain. Bells Line has since reopened in a limited capacity.

The NSW Government has committed $2.5 billion so far to a duplication of the highway from Katoomba to Lithgow and Mr Toole said work is continuing to get ready for the mammoth project.

He told the Western Advocate the government knows the duplication of the Great Western Highway is "going to cost more than $2.5 billion".

"But that investment is going to give us short to medium term projects that are needed to improve that section of road," he said.