Plans to build Australia’s longest road tunnel between Blackheath and Little Hartley are powering ahead, with a major contract awarded for the environmental assessment. Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said AECOM Australia had been selected in a competitive tender process to work on the proposed 11-kilometre tunnel, a central component of the Great Western Highway upgrade between Katoomba and Lithgow. 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. The tunnel would be a game-changer for all motorists driving between Western NSW and Sydney.AECOM Australia will now need to ensure that the project includes appropriate measures to protect the Blue Mountains’ natural heritage. 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. While designs for Australia’s longest tunnel continue, construction on the east and west sections is set to commence in late 2022. The AUD 4.5 billion duplication of the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow is jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments. Construction work is scheduled to start in late 2022, with the tunnel slated to begin construction in 2024.