Announcement on Bells Line has a familiar ring

BELLS Line expressway supporters have reacted angrily to Roads and Maritime Services’ (RMS) announcement of the next stage in the road’s development.

RMS has released the federal and state governments’ long-term strategic plan for the Bells Line of Road corridor. 

But while supporters of an expressway that would connect Sydney with the central west were hoping for a commitment to reserve the corridor of land along the Bells Line of Road for future development, what they got was an intention to undertake further planning.

“The [strategic] plan recommends commencing the planning to reserve a road corridor for a future upgrade linking the Bells Line of Road near Kurrajong Heights with the Sydney motorway network,” the RMS said in a statement.

Bathurst MP Paul Toole yesterday said he was disappointed with the latest development and would again raise the issue with Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian.

“We have procrastinated long enough,” he said. “Planning to plan is well below my expectations. 

“We need to stop planning and identify exactly where the road will go. It is time to just get on with it and deliver some real results – and sooner rather than later.”

Compounding the frustration for Bells Line Expressway Group (BLEG) chairman Ian Armstrong is the fact this next step only relates to a small section of the corridor - from Kurrajong Heights to the Sydney motorway network.

No timeframe for the new round of planning has even been announced. 

“The NSW government has adopted an extremely short-sighted approach,” Mr Armstrong said.

“We have already spent $3.5 million on identifying routes. At least 15 people have worked at the RTA (now the RMS) for more than 18 months and it hasn’t come to anything.”

Mr Armstrong will hold a BLEG meeting next week to discuss the group’s future and consider the government’s presentation.

He will raise two additional avenues for BLEG to explore in order to reignite the cause: harnessing industry support for the expressway and pushing to levy a toll on the new road.

“My biggest fear now is that if we don’t find a new way of getting this done it won’t be done, even in the next two lifetimes,” he said. 

“It is too important an issue to give up on, but I’m not going to continue to travel the countryside for no result.

“... I said to the minister, I’m past 70. Do you think I’ll live long enough to see this come to fruition? The answer, unfortunately, was ‘no’.”

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