Vital freight link’s ‘missing middle’

Farmers are frustrated by a stoush between the state and federal governments that is holding up the construction of a vital freight link.

According to the NSW Farmer’s Association, Transport Minister Catherine King said the federal government would fund the start and end of the Great Western Highway upgrade, but there was “no money for the middle section” – a tunnel proposed by the state government.

Infrastructure Australia points to concerns about the merits of the project if that tunnel was not funded.

NSW Farmers Business, Economics and Trade spokesman Andrew Martel said the Great Western Highway was a critical link connecting farmers with consumers in the Sydney basin and the world, and people were sick and tired of the delays.

“We were calling for upgraded road and rail back in 2019, and here we are again approaching another election and we’ve still got political issues stalling progress,” Martel said.

“Secure freight corridors are essential for the agriculture sector to ensure the delivery of fresh produce to the domestic and international markets, and the Great Western Highway is central to achieving supply chain efficiency.

“While we welcome the Minister’s confirmation that the $2 billion commitment from the Federal Government remains in place, it’s only for the beginning and end sections, which is useless without that middle connection.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that agricultural output from the NSW Central West Slopes and Plains region is close to $2 billion per annum. Martel added that significant investment to deliver upgraded modern carriageways and rail corridors from western NSW through to the eastern markets and ports was essential.

“What farmers and rural communities expect to see is our state and federal governments sort these differences of opinion out and get on with the upgrades we need,” he said.

“There’s enormous economic potential for the state and the nation in agriculture, but to realise it we need to get our produce to consumers.

“It is critical that the NSW Government commit to adequate funding to deliver the improvement in the middle – be it a tunnel or road upgrade – and deliver it within the next term of government.”

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