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Delays to $336m Muswellbrook Bypass ‘unacceptable’, says Layzell


To say Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell’s fed up is an understatement.

One of his electorate’s major projects, the long-awaited Muswellbrook Bypass, appears destined to endure further setbacks.

It’s come to light Transport for NSW officials recently told Budget Estimates the New England Highway venture was on hold… again, this time awaiting the outcome of the federal government’s infrastructure review.

Now, the local member’s calling on Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King to end the delays and fund its construction.

“Enough is enough,” Mr Layzell said.

“Even though early works have started, the state government will not proceed with the design and construction tender for the bypass until the 90-day review, which was originally due to report in July, is finalised.

“The future of the Coal Road connection between the New England Highway and the Muswellbrook CBD is also in the balance pending release of the federal government report.”

Currently, the main thoroughfare carries between 11,000 and 20,000 vehicles through the township daily, with 13% being heavy vehicles.

The new $336 million undertaking, scheduled to be completed in 2027, is slated to reduce congestion.

It will include the construction of a 9.3km bypass with a single lane in each direction, a 376m-long bridge across Sandy Creek Road, Main North railway line, and a southbound exit ramp as well as southern, northern and central interchanges.

Earlier this year, Ms King said the “must-needed” project would transform travel across the Hunter.

“The New England Highway provides direct access for the Hunter Valley and New England regions to and from the metropolitan areas of Newcastle and Sydney,” she added.

But, according to Mr Layzell, Ms King is this week suggesting there could be cuts to the infrastructure pipeline due to factors including the number of commitments made prior to the 2016 and 2019 federal elections.

“I would say to the Minister that Muswellbrook’s wait must end or the Albanese Labor government’s plans for renewable energy projects will suffer because Over Size Over Mass cargoes like wind turbines will not be able to be transported through the town due to the limitations of the current road network,” he said.

“You don’t have to look further than former Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon to justify getting a wriggle on.

“He told the federal parliament on 20 June 2005 that the Muswellbrook Bypass has been on the drawing board and much discussed since prior to the 1996 election.

“Mr Fitzgibbon’s Hansard indicated there were financial commitments from the Commonwealth prior to the 1996 election for the bypass.

“But, here we are in 2023 and Muswellbrook is still waiting.”

There was better news at Budget Estimates for the Singleton Bypass with Transport for NSW advising the federal government has confirmed its funding for that project allowing the NSW Government to proceed to tender and award the construction contract.

Six compulsory property acquisitions required to build the bypass were taken to the Land and Environment Court with three matters still awaiting resolution.

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