17 May 2022

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (18:54): I recently reported to the House the shocking inadequacies of Blue Mountains rail services. Today I raise the ongoing challenges in my electorate by focusing on the parlous state of roads. In recent months my office has been inundated with concerns from local residents despairing about the state of key arterial roads in the Blue Mountains, such as the Great Western Highway, Hawkesbury Road, Bells Line of Road and the Darling Causeway. The distressing stories I have received reveal how dangerous and decrepit those main roads in the Blue Mountains have become, due in part to recent rain and flood events but mainly due to the lack of adequate repair and infrastructure support from the Government over many years.

The overwhelming volume of disturbing accounts, the serious accidents and the tragic loss of life of a young woman serve as a litany to the Government's years of neglect. The serious nature of the accounts has prompted me to collate them into a report to present to the roads Ministers in a formal submission. I will let some of my constituents speak for themselves. Michael said, "The state of the highway is rapidly reaching breaking point. The road surface now resembles a patchwork quilt and the regular delays are totally unacceptable. Years of indifference and neglect have doomed us to a Third World transport disaster. The future is bleak for long-suffering residents." A nurse wrote in March this year, "I work at Katoomba hospital. I know of a nurse who is on call tonight and has been forced to stay at a friend's place in Katoomba instead of going home to Blackheath because of the 2½-hour delay in traffic. What if there was an emergency? What if an ambulance needed to get to Blackheath from Katoomba?"

Christopher wrote, "Like many, I was horrified at events recently on a Friday where school children were unable to get home for three hours." Katie wrote to me and said, "Yesterday my kids took the 8705 from Katoomba High School to Blackheath. In Blackheath it hit a pothole so deep and big that the bus door fell off its hinges. The roads definitely need repair. I'm wondering why we are the ones who have to stay off the road when we pay taxes to have the roads maintained and repaired. Clearly they do nothing about it." Finally, Peter's words sum up the sentiments of many. He said, "Everyone has a right to get home safe to their loved ones, every day, with no exceptions." I have also met with Tracy, the mother of a young woman, Mackenzie, who was tragically killed in November last year when a truck driver mounted the footpath at Blaxland along the Great Western Highway and hit her. Motivated by a mother's heartache, Tracy has come up with recommendations that aim to prevent this kind of tragedy happening again. Those include stronger penalties to deter offenders, stricter requirements around owning and registering trucks, and better protection for pedestrians along the Great Western Highway at Blaxland.

My submission to the Ministers includes several recommendations, including that a safety audit on the entirety of the Great Western Highway be conducted as a matter of urgency; that a long-term plan for remediation and maintenance of Blue Mountains roads be developed and immediately implemented to ensure their stability in the face of future heavy rains; and that additional funding be granted immediately to Blue Mountains City Council for urgent repair of dangerous potholes and other damage. We should not need a fatality to remind the Government of the need for an urgent safety audit of the Great Western Highway. We should not need a teenager to be hit by a car on Hawkesbury Road to remind the Government that it needs to provide a time frame for the safety review of Hawkesbury Road and let us know what steps are being put in place to ensure the safety of all pedestrians. We should not need to argue that the Government support Blue Mountains City Council financially to address urgent road repairs and issues relating to flood damage and drainage.

As for the Government's pipedream proposal for a tunnel from Blackheath to Hartley, that will bring a myriad of new problems. The Great Western Highway should not be viewed just as a motorway for trucks to and from Bathurst. It is a local road for residents of the Blue Mountains and this proposal opens the door to thousands of 23- to 26-metre-long B-double trucks to traverse the lower and middle sections of the highway between Katoomba and Glenbrook. While those trucks are presently prohibited through the lower and mid mountains due to the tight bends near Mount Victoria, The Nationals' plan for the upper mountains is all about getting larger and longer trucks to drive through the entire the Blue Mountains. The massive traffic flow of giant trucks induced by the tunnel will get stuck at the traffic lights in Wentworth Falls, Lawson and Springwood during busy weekends, and take longer and longer to clear. The Government does not want to admit that. I urge the Ministers to carefully consider the voices of my constituents and take action on the recommendations. Keeping people safe on the roads should be beyond party politics and announcements of ridiculously expensive fantasy tunnels.