The AWU has welcomed the NSW Government’s commitment to build Australia’s longest road tunnel in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
An 11km tunnel stretching from Blackheath to Little Hartley is now the preferred option in the Great Western Highway upgrade to improve travel times across the mountains.
The tunnel is part of an $8 billion upgrade that will duplicate 34km of road from Lithgow to Katoomba with dual carriageways.
“The AWU is the union for tunnelling workers and this is great news for our members,” NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan said.
“AWU members have worked on road and rail projects across Sydney including the M4-M5 Link Tunnels, the Rozelle Interchange and the Sydney Metro, as well as projects around the nation.
“In fact, AWU members are the most experienced tunnelling workers in the world.”
The highway is one of only two roads across the mountains connecting Sydney with the state’s Central West, and there have long been calls for its upgrade.
The State Government had committed to building two smaller tunnels across well-known choke points at Blackheath and Mount Victoria, but began investigating a single, longer tunnel last year.
The tunnel and other upgrades will take up to 30 minutes off travel times.
Mr Callinan said while the news is great for jobs, the community and the state economy, he issued some words of caution.
“While the AWU welcomes the news of the new tunnel, it is essential that the tunnel planners maintain the highest levels of workplace health and safety on their massive new site,” he said.
“We have ongoing concerns on other sites about dangers such as silica dust and the need for stronger laws in the Work Health and Safety Act, and it will be no different here.
“So, as always, the AWU will constantly monitor the situation on the Blackheath to Little Hartley project and hold the construction companies to account on all health and safety matters.”