Wake-up call for much-needed evacuation route

Penrith City Council is calling on the Government to prioritise the Castlereagh Connection in the wake of the flood emergency in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley.

Once constructed, the 22km corridor would function as a much-needed evacuation route in the event of emergencies providing a swifter and safer route for the community.

The flooding events which have devastated parts of Penrith and the Hawkesbury regions over the past week should be “a wake-up call”, prompting urgent funding from the State and Federal Governments ahead of future disasters.

Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown OAM said since the Castlereagh corridor was identified in 1951 it has sat dormant, despite the desperate need for improved infrastructure during times of crisis and various calls for action from Council and industry bodies.

“This corridor, which is 90% Government-owned, has sat idle for over half a century while we continue to wait for action,” Cr McKeown said.

“The flood crisis this week has wreaked havoc and surprisingly it is only a 1 in 20-year flood event for Penrith and a 1 in 50-year event for the Hawkesbury. We cannot sit and wait for a 1 in 100-year flood disaster that has the potential to reach and obliterate arterial roads – we need to act immediately,” she said.

“As the SES continues to free our neighbours from flood waters in the Hawkesbury, the government has a prime piece of untapped land which could have evacuated thousands of people had it been developed in time,” Cr McKeown said.

“We know that the Castlereagh Connection would intersect with four of the current evacuation routes and provide much-needed relief during times of crisis, including floods and bushfires; connecting the corridor will help move up to 24,000 vehicles (particularly many of the highly flood-prone Richmond-Windsor SA3) to the M7 and keep residents out of harm’s way.

“Infrastructure Australia identified this as a high priority project and just last month the Insurance Council of Australia acknowledged the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley’s flood risks and desperate need for alternative evacuation routes to be explored to mitigate safety risks – so why are we still waiting on Government funding?”

“Our ask is simple: we need a commitment from the government to develop a business case for the project to determine the true benefit this will bring to our local communities,” she said.

Penrith’s footprint continues to spread as new infrastructure and earmarked road and rail upgrades link the City to the Western Sydney Airport and the surrounding aerotropolis.

Such a development boom spurs population growth and, with more people choosing to live in Penrith, it is critical that adequate safety measures are put in place.

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