Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales John Barilaro said AECOM Australia was chosen as it had demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the unique and sensitive Blue Mountains environment and will develop measures to mitigate impacts from the tunnel work. The firm, he said, had proven experience in the environmental assessment of roads and tunnels, having worked on other major Australian infrastructure projects, including NorthConnex and the M6 Stage 1.

Barilaro added: “This project will transform journeys between the Central West and the East Coast, delivering a safe and more efficient journey for locals, truckies and tourists.”

Situated in the scenic Blue Mountains, the proposed 11km tunnel will link Blackheath and Little Hartley, and will form a central component of the US$3.3bn Great Western Highway upgrade between Katoomba and Lithgow. For motorists driving between Western New South Wales (NSW) and Sydney, the tunnel has been hailed as a potential “game changer”.

Paul Toole, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads said: “This critical work will focus on continuing the detailed environmental investigations to confirm the feasibility of a tunnel in this location, and will provide the basis for the Environmental Impact Statement, due for extensive community consultation next year.