Blue Mountains to get Australia’s longest road tunnel, promises of reduced travel times

The New South Wales government has committed to building Australia’s longest road tunnel in the Blue Mountains.

An 11 kilometer tunnel from Blackheath to Little Hartley has been confirmed as the preferred option in upgrades to the Great Western Highway to improve travel through the mountains.

The highway is one of only two highways through the Blue Mountains that connect the Midwest to the state capital, and communities in the western areas have long called for an upgrade.

The state government had previously committed to building two smaller tunnels through well-known bottlenecks at Blackheath and Mount Victoria, but began investigating the possibility of building a longer tunnel last year.

The tunnel will form part of the Great Western Highway upgrade, now valued at $8bn, which will double the 34km road from Lithgow to Katoomba with two-lane roads.

Deputy Prime Minister Paul Toole said the tunnel and improvements would cut journey times by 30 minutes “on a good day”.

“This will make a big difference for people traveling to and from the Midwest and through the mountains as well,” he said.

Paul Toole in a blue suit at a press conference.
Paul Toole says the tunnel will in part save commuters up to 30 minutes of travel time.(ABC News)

The tunnel is set to travel 100 meters below Mount Victoria and 30 meters below Blackheath.

“It’s exciting to know that this project is going to become a reality … for a long time this project has been put in the basket too hard,” Toole said.

Construction of the highway will begin in early 2023 and work on the tunnel section will begin in late 2024 and be operational by 2027/28.

The project has raised serious concerns about Aboriginal heritage and platypus populations in the Lithgow region.

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