TRAFFIC delays between Sydney and the Central West are "a national disgrace", says transport industry stalwart Graeme Burke, who has called on the government to start a tunnel between Mount Victoria and Penrith as soon as possible.
Bells Line of Road has been closed since the end of March following record rainfall in the Mount Tomah area, and will only reopen prior to the weekend, and the Great Western Highway hasn't coped with the extra traffic load.
Long queues formed in the Blue Mountains over the Easter long weekend and, in some cases, it took six hours to navigate between Sydney to the Central West, upwards of seven hours for some commutes to Orange.
Even with the Easter break over, traffic congestion continues, and on Tuesday the highway was blocked both ways for hours after a truck caught fire at South Bowenfels.
Mr Burke, owner of one of the region's largest transport companies, said it beggars belief that governments from the past 50 years have failed to look at alternatives for the west.
I don't even know how the Great Western Highway qualifies as a highway ... it's nothing more than an extension of Parramatta Road.
"And look where we are now," Mr Burke said.
He said in the early 1940s, when the US sent General Douglas MacArthur to Australia to direct the country's war effort following the Japanese attack on Darwin, the first thing he did was order US troops to complete the Bells Line of Road.
Mr Burke said this enabled Sydneysiders to escape the area should the main highway be bombed.
"He also finished off Putty Road [to the north of Sydney] as a similar escape route," Mr Burke said. "Yet here we are in 2021 with one route between Sydney and the west.
He said the situation was "nothing short of an absolute national disgrace".
Mr Burke said if you're travelling from Sydney to Brisbane, it's a dual-lane carriageway for 99.9 per cent of the way.
"It's exactly the same to Melbourne. But come to the Central West, we have one lane," he said.
"I don't even know how the Great Western Highway qualifies as a highway ... it's nothing more than an extension of Parramatta Road."
Mr Burke said he spoke about the need for a tunnel through the mountains about 10 years ago.
"It's 21 nautical miles between the base of Mount Victoria and Nepean; even if we started doing one mile a year, it's better than nothing."
He said the situation the residents of the Central West are now facing simply beggars belief.
"It really is shocking, an absolute disgrace.
"I'm so cranky. The politicians have treated us, the people of the Central West, like fools.
"We've been campaigning for years for a tunnel through the mountains. They tell us it's cost-prohibitive, but look at us now. We're absolutely crippled.
"It's time to look at this. The minute they finish the one in Sydney they need to bring the heavy machinery up here and start tunneling at either Nepean or Mount Victoria and don't stop until it's finished. Just get the job done. They need to fix this."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below ...