IT’S hard not to be cynical about any new effort to restart the failed push for a Bells Line Expressway.
Proposals and justifications for this enormous project have been floating around for so long – former state Member for Lachlan Ian Armstrong was an enthusiastic proponent of the expressway while in office, and he retired from politics more than 10 years ago – that scepticism seems a pretty natural reaction.
If there was even a flicker of interest in the NSW Government in substantially improving this route over the Blue Mountains, the expressway (or some variation of it) might have got a guernsey in the 40-year draft transport blueprint released recently.
The frustration from the Central NSW Councils (Centroc) about the expressway’s omission from such a far-reaching plan is understandable and so is the decision by Centroc to lobby the NSW Government to rectify that omission.
Also understandable are the rolled eyes from those who have heard about these expressway pushes before.
But does that really mean the Central West should give up on Bells Line of Road?
There would have been a time when it seemed unlikely that the Pacific Highway that heads north from Sydney would ever be two lanes both ways to the Queensland border – and yet that project is almost finished.
The reasons to believe the Pacific Highway project would never happen would be the same reasons to believe the Bells Line project will never happen: the cost and the colossal scale of the work.
There would have been a time when the idea of the Hume Highway being two lanes both ways to the Victorian border would have seemed impossible. And yet that has happened as well.
A new rail line into Sydney’s north-west suburbs was a pipedream for a long time. But it’s due to start running in a year’s time.
Big projects are never, ever going to happen until one day – after years of persistence and pleading and noise – they suddenly do start happening.
Do we really know that the Bells Line Expressway – or some variant of it, even if it just a dual carriageway with an increased speed limit – will be any different?
Maybe Centroc is wasting its time. Maybe it should focus on something more attainable. But if no-one keeps asking for a Bells Line Expressway, it definitely won’t happen. If someone is asking for it, there’s a tiny chance it might.