A regional transport forum in Orange has outlined a bold vision for a long-term master plan for the central west.
The meeting of 90 interest groups which included Wellington Council general manager Michael Tolhurst, Technical Services director Owen Johns, NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, Roads Minister Duncan Gay and State Members from Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo has discussed the Bells Line of Road, taking freight off roads and onto rail, and combining more transport modes and becoming more efficient in what the NSW government calls its long-term master plan which is expected to be handed down sometime later this year.
“It was an interesting meeting and you have to be here to give Wellington the best opportunity to be on the table,” Council’s general manager Michael Tolhurst said.
NSW government deputy director General of Planning and Programmes Carolyn McNully believes the forum in Orange was the most enthusiastic and innovative event held in the 12 regions, where these engagement type events have been held.
The Bells line road across the Blue Mountains has been outlined by many as the biggest problem facing access for central-west motorists, travellers and those wanting to use places like Wellington as a tourism hub.
The spend on building a better road has long been a quandary for state and federal governments, acknowledged again by the NSW Roads minister.
When asked if the Coalition government was going to be one to solve the problem, roads minister Duncan Gay said he couldn’t give an answer to that.
“Yes we support it, but there are real issues we have to address,” Mr Gay told the forum.
The roads minister also said the state government was buying up land on the Bells Line to secure the long-term availability of space to improve the road.
He also said the long-term building and reconstruction of the central-west’s roads has been held up by red tape.
“Over engineering is large and in the past the proper infrastructure has not been provided for this.
“Yes we are very frustrated with red tape issues,” he admitted.
The NSW Transport Minister also took the view that working with the federal government was working and program costs could be met by working together.
“The population age here in the central west and the age of the workforce is also something we are looking at,” she said.
“We are looking at how we improve passenger services by bus, rail and also the integrating of these in smaller towns,” she said.
“We also want to look more at community transport and more social equity.”
Moving freight from trucks to rail was also hotly debated.
One group at the forum suggested large trucks would be put onto the rail system before they got to Lithgow.
This was agreed by many as a solution to fixing the heavy stress on country roads.
Almost all of the groups at the forum believe a better rail system will help the central west and open it up to more business opportunities, tourism, and better and safer travel for passengers.