OUR SAY: A small step on Bells Line, but it may be a telling one

SECURED: Director of Corridor Preservation Jeff Cahill, Centroc chairman John Medcalf, Deputy Secretary for Transport for NSW Clare Gardiner-Barnes, Roads Minister Melinda Pavey and Centroc strategic transport chairman Ken Keith. Photo: CONTRIBUTED
SECURED: Director of Corridor Preservation Jeff Cahill, Centroc chairman John Medcalf, Deputy Secretary for Transport for NSW Clare Gardiner-Barnes, Roads Minister Melinda Pavey and Centroc strategic transport chairman Ken Keith. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

WELL, at least it’s a start.

An announcement on Monday that the state government would preserve a corridor of land to build a future link between the Bells Line of Road and M7 was a long way from an announcement that it would build a Bells Line Expressway, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

The government has earmarked the so-called Castlereagh Corridor to build a future link that will run from Kurrajong on the Bells Line and join the M7 at Dean Park.

Crucially, the announcement did not come with a solid commitment to building the link, nor a timetable for any such work, but it does represent a commitment to major roads projects just days after state opposition leader Luke Foley claimed the Bells Line Expressway would never be built.

Mr Foley said neither side of politics believed the expressway was viable but only Labor was willing to be honest about it.

“The problem is the NSW and federal government had a joint study and the report came back and said it doesn’t stack up economically,” Mr Foley said.

“What I’m focused on is how we improve both the Bells Line of Road and the Great Western Highway to ensure people travelling to and from Sydney, and crucially, freight and produce going to market can be transported more efficiently than it is at the moment.”

Of course, Monday’s announcement does not mean Mr Foley is wrong, but it gives us some hope that he maybe isn’t right.

Preserving corridors is the first step in any major road project and while a task force will now be established to determine the route and look into the costings of the Castlereagh Corridor project, expressway supporters hope a similar task force will look into a possible Bells Line Expressway, or similar high-speed link between Lithgow and the Castlereagh Corridor.

This remains wishful thinking at this stage but it’s an issue we must keep pursuing.

No one pretends the Bells Line will be cheap, but that doesn’t mean it’s not viable.

The bill for the road will run into the billions but so will the benefits in terms of opening up the Central West and improving road safety.

But it’s only through constant reinforcement that we can ever hope to get that message through to Macquarie Street.

And that’s why victories such as Monday’s – no matter how small – must be celebrated along the way.

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