IT was an election stunt, obviously, but what an election stunt.
Newly independent MP Jeremy Buckingham’s brief social media exchange last week on the subject of a tunnel through the Blue Mountains left all those shopping centre walk-throughs and baby-kissing exercises for dead.
It’s not clear whether Mr Buckingham expected an answer when he asked tech billionaire Elon Musk, on Twitter, how much it would cost to bore through the sandstone curtain.
But he certainly got one.
Mr Musk, best-known for founding the electric car company Tesla, replied with a quote: “About $15M/km for a two-way high-speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station.”
And news headlines – oxygen itself for a politician like Mr Buckingham, who is trying to forge an identity away from the Greens after a falling-out with the party – flowed for days afterwards.
Leaving aside Mr Buckingham’s election prospects, did Mr Musk’s advice tell us anything new about the long-held dream of an express journey between Sydney and Bathurst?
Well, it told us that it hasn’t been forgotten. And the way the story was picked up last week was an indication of the Central West’s enduring interest in being better connected to Australia’s biggest city.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s reaction was also worth noting.
“We are very happy to look at ways in which we can ... work with him to achieve these goals. But at the moment what is being looked at from his perspective isn’t a reality," he said.
That was hardly a complete rubbishing of the idea, though it wasn’t a ringing endorsement either, which is understandable considering Mr Musk is only in the very early stages of building a similar high-speed tunnel in Los Angeles.
This NSW Coalition has been a building government that has shown, over two terms, that it has the stomach for big projects, but those big projects have so far concentrated on the Sydney Basin only.
A flicker of interest from the NSW Transport Minister in a Blue Mountains tunnel – no matter what form it takes – is certainly better than no interest at all.
And remember, they laughed about Mr Musk’s electric car company ever getting on the road. And that seems to be going all right for him so far.