Australia's longest road tunnel under the Blue Mountains to be built with drivers going underground for 11km

Australia’s longest road tunnel under the Blue Mountains to be built with drivers going underground for 11km

  • The stretch of road between Blackheath and Mount Victoria could cost £8billion
  • Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole said it would be ‘Northconnex but better’
  • NSW Government has given £2.5b for upgrades on the Great Western Highway

By Alana Mazzoni For Daily Mail Australia

Published: 01:51, 3 May 2021 | Updated: 04:22, 3 May 2021

The NSW Government is set to build Australia’s longest road tunnel under the Blue Mountains.

The 11km stretch of tunnel between Blackheath and Mount Victoria could end up ballooning to £8billion or £730,000 per metre.

Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole said the tunnel, which forms part of the Great Western Highway upgrade, would be ‘Northconnex but better’ for motorists bound for the state’s central-west.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the proposed tunnel would transform the state by better connecting the Central West to the East Coast.

‘We have already committed to tunnels at Blackheath and Mount Victoria – this proposal would see those tunnels joined together, creating the longest road tunnel in the country,’ Mr Barilaro said.

The 11km stretch of road between Blackheath and Mount Victoria could end up ballooning out to £8billion

Australia's longest road tunnel under the Blue Mountains to be built with drivers going underground for 11km

The announcement comes on the back of heavy delays on Blue Mountains roads over the Easter Long Weekend

The Berejiklian Government has given the project £2.5b for upgrades on the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow, but Mr Toole said it isn’t enough

Mr Barilaro said despite it being an ‘immensely complex and ambitious plan,’ the state government is ‘working hard to make it happen’.

‘Completing the Katoomba to Lithgow section would deliver the final stage of a 130 kilometre upgrade, delivering dual carriageway on the Great Western Highway, a multi-decade program of works, making a safer, more resilient corridor,’ he said. 

Mr Toole said the solution would link the two tunnels already determined for Blackheath and Mount Victoria to deliver a safer, more reliable connection through the Blue Mountains.

‘The NSW Government knows how important this upgrade is to the people who use the Great Western Highway every day and in improving connections between Sydney and the Central West, which is why we committed £2.5 billion to deliver a once-in-a-generation upgrade to this key corridor,’ Mr Toole said.

‘As part of this upgrade, we’ve already committed to a 4.5-kilometre tunnel to bypass Blackheath and a 4-kilometre tunnel underneath Victoria Pass, one of the steepest roads in NSW.

Breakdown of the project 

The 11km stretch of tunnel will run between Blackheath and Mount Victoria 

It would better connect the Central West to the East Coast

Construction on the Great Western Highway Upgrade is expected to start at Medlow Bath in 2022

The full upgrade expected to be completed within 8 to 10 years

NSW Government has committed £2.5 billion to deliver the ‘once-in-a-generation’ upgrade 

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‘We’re now investigating connecting those two proposed tunnels into one longer tunnel.

This would be a history-making project, delivering Australia’s longest road tunnel and allow motorists to avoid all the current pinch points from Blackheath in the east to Little Hartley on the western side of Victoria Pass.

‘It will also mean less disruption for local residents and businesses during construction and a smoother, safer journey for those travelling underneath Blackheath and Mount Victoria as well as those travelling above.’

Mr Toole said the eastern entry for the proposed tunnel will be on the outskirts of Blackheath to minimise impacts on local homes and be built in a section of National Park land to the south of Evans Lookout Road.

‘At the Western end, the portal location in Little Hartley has been modified to improve safety and reduce property impacts in the valley.’ 

Mr Toole said heavy traffic over the Easter weekend had reiterated the importance of the Great Western Highway Upgrade and safe, reliable connections over the mountains for locals and travellers alike.

‘This is an immensely challenging project but, once complete, it will deliver dual carriageway in both directions for over 100 kilometres,’ Mr Toole said.

‘Should our investigations into a long tunnel determine that it isn’t viable, the community can be assured that we would proceed with a tunnel at Blackheath and a tunnel at Mount Victoria.’

Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole (right) said the tunnel would be ‘Northconnex but better’ while Deputy Premier John Barilaro (left) said the government is ‘working hard to make it happen’

Construction on the Great Western Highway Upgrade is expected to start at Medlow Bath in 2022, with the full upgrade expected to be completed within 8 to 10 years.

Mr Toole said the community would continue to shape the design of the upgrade as it moves towards construction.

‘Later this year, Transport for NSW will consult with the community on the entire upgrade, including the proposed Blackheath to Little Hartley Tunnel.

‘Between now and then, residents will see plenty of investigation work going on to make sure we have all the information we need to reduce the environmental impacts of the project.’ 

The Berejiklian Government has given the project £2.5b for upgrades on the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow, but Mr Toole said it isn’t enough.