Proposed 11km tunnel in NSW marks new milestones prior to construction

Monica Gameng   |   November 11, 2021
Great Western Highway (cr: Transport for NSW)

Australia’s longest road tunnel project is another step closer to becoming a reality following the award of two contracts that will pave the way for its construction. 

The new 11-kilometre tunnel between Blackheath and Little Hartley in New South Wales is going to be delivered as part of the Great Western Highway Upgrade Program – Katoomba to Lithgow. 

Back in September, the major contract for environmental assessment was awarded to AECOM Australia. 

“AECOM Australia are industry leaders in their field and bring extensive, demonstrated experience in the environmental assessment of roads and tunnels, having worked on major infrastructure projects, including NorthConnex and the M6 Stage 1. 

“They have also demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the unique and sensitive Blue Mountains environment and will be working to develop rigorous measures to avoid and mitigate impacts from the tunnel network,” Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said. 

In turn, a second contract was awarded early this month to a joint venture between AECOM Australia and Aurecon Australasia to undertake investigation work for the project’s feasibility. This contract will get the joint venture partners to provide technical advisory services for the proposed tunnel project. 

“This is the next big step in a game-changing upgrade, and the final stage in confirming whether we can deliver the longest road tunnel in Australia for everyone who travels in, around and through the Blue Mountains. 

“AECOM and Aurecon will now carry out technical investigations and detailed studies to develop a preferred concept design, which will be used to select the preferred option and help develop the Environmental Impact Statement. 

“Their findings will also be used to support future procurement for the project and ensure we deliver the best outcome for the challenging terrain and sensitive environmental surrounds,” Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said. 

The draft Environmental Impact Statement is set to be put on display for extensive community consultation next year. 

Road-tunnel-Katoomba-and-Lithgow-1168x656Artist impression of the proposed tunnel (source: Liberal New South Wales)

The proposed tunnel between Blackheath and Little Hartley is part of a $4.5 billion program of works that will upgrade the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow. 

This duplication project will involve: 

  • Medlow Bath Upgrade – An upgrade and duplication of the existing surface road corridor with intersection improvements and a new pedestrian bridge. Construction is set to begin in late 2022. 
  • East Upgrade (Katoomba to Medlow Bath and Medlow Bath to Blackheath) – Upgrade, duplication and widening of the existing surface road corridor, with connections to a tunnel portal at Blackheath 
  • West Upgrade (Little Hartley to Lithgow) – Upgrade, duplication and widening of the existing surface road corridor, with connections to a tunnel portal at Little Hartley 
  • Central Upgrade (Blackheath to Little Hartley) – Construction of a tunnel bypass of Blackheath and Mount Victoria, with connectivity between the two proposed tunnels currently under investigation 

“The tunnel is going to provide double the capacity for all motorists driving to and from the Central West. 

“It’s great to see this project powering ahead because it will completely transform journeys through the Blue Mountains,” Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier Sam Farraway said. 

Construction on the east and west sections of the Great Western Highway are anticipated to commence in late 2022, while design works for the tunnel continue. The new 11-kilometre tunnel is expected to begin in 2024. 

Source: NSW Government – Media Releases; Transport for NSW (1, 2

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Monica Gameng
As Felix's Marketing Assistant since 2015, Monica is responsible for researching and sharing new and progressing projects within the construction and mining sectors in Australia. It's no surprise that Monica has her finger on the pulse of Australian major projects given she has produced more than 1,000 posts. She truly is an industry expert.
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