In 2008 the State and Federal governments announced their preparedness to upgrade the Highway from Browntown Oval (east of Mt. Victoria) to South Bowenfels and in so doing bypass the village of Mt Victoria. For many years this stretch of road had experienced more than two fatalities a year plus many serious accidents and was said by the RTA to be one of the worst roads in NSW.

The RTA nominated four corridors for study.

In mid- 2010 The State Government in an effort to bolster its prospects for the looming state election (March 2011) decided to limit the studies to the less controversial existing highway corridor. Subsequently the RTA announced a two billion dollar price tag to accomplish this work.

More than half this total was attributed to the cost of building twin 350 metre tunnels under Mt Victoria Railway yards, plus twin bridges across the neighboring gorge together with twin 1.5 kilometre tunnels under Mt York Road plus twin high level viaducts leading down into the Hartley Valley.

This plan, referred to as the ‘RTA Conceptual Plan’ has been refined and late in 2012 was presented to the community at a well-attended public meeting at Hartley. After lengthy discussion the concept was unanimously rejected by the gathering as being far too damaging to the heritage value of “the first road to the Australian Outback and its villages and buildings in the Hartley Valley”.

During all the time discussions have been on foot, some interests in the Valley have sought to avoid reopening studies on the other three (2008) RTA corridor proposals and instead without consulting Lithgow Council or Lithgow interests proposed an alternative route over the Newnes Plateau. After study this route has been rejected by both the State Authorities and the Department of Army whose land would be affected.

The Newnes proposal was made even when the most northerly or Purple route, can be seen to have great potential for substantial savings in both construction costs and lower environmental impact. As well it offers a feasible opportunity to connect Bell with the GWH and so provide a way to move Bells Line commercial traffic away from Lithgow CBD.

The Lithgow City Council, together with the local community is working hard to improve Lithgow’s prospects and is strongly opposed to any moves that would damage Lithgow’s long term interests. Retention of the Bells Line tourist flow through Lithgow is seen as having fundamental importance in protecting those interests.

Overshadowing all considerations is the urgent need to move the road from the death traps of Victoria Pass and River Lett Hill. In the past month there have been a number or serious truck and car roll-over accidents on these hills.

Because of its steep gradient and the presence of the narrow convict built bridge the Pass is incapable of upgrade to acceptable standards. River Lett Hill likewise must be improved but even the re-routing proposed in the new conceptual plan exceeds desirable grades in our view.

The local community is becoming increasingly concerned that as well as the now termed RMS Final Conceptual Plan delivering an unacceptable impact on the Hartley village itself and on the road’s many important heritage treasures the scheme’s very cost will mean that we, the travelling public of the Central West and Western NSW will have to endure the worst elements of the existing road in terms of safety, deaths and maiming accidents, for countless years to come.

Our common desire is to see a corridor and a design agreed for the Bells Line of Road at the earliest possible date. The Purple route can be a beginning of the upgrade of that road albeit from the western end.

These roads are not competitors. It makes sense in every aspect – safety, economics and final road quality to link the existing high quality GWH infrastructure at South Bowenfels and westwards with the Darling Causeway in the vicinity of Bell.

This Forum considers that the safety issues that touch all of us living and trading in this significant part of NSW together with the potential financial savings are such that there is an obligation on both Governments to undertake urgent studies on this important alternative.


13th June 2013



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