Connecting Sydney and the great expanse of Western NSW has been a human pursuit almost as old as the Blue Mountains itself.

There is a crossing, followed by Archibald Bell with the guidance of the Darug people in 1823, that we now know as the Bells Line of Road.

Bells Line of Road will become increasingly important as an alternative to the popular Great Western Highway due to its lighter traffic flows and lack of traffic lights.

Despite the need to upgrade this route being some time away, we need to make appropriate planning decisions now to ensure the route is available into the future.

The Bells Line of Road, and specifically the Castlereagh Connection – a link road between Kurrajong Heights and the M7 Motorway – is just one important transport link announced today.

Despite the obvious benefits of these announced connections for the growing Western Sydney, the routes also prove vital for the thriving Central West and regional NSW, assisting to bring our produce from paddock to plate.

More broadly, we are supporting Western Sydney and Western NSW with other new corridors including the Outer Sydney Orbital, the North South Rail Line/South West Rail Link Extension corridors, and the Western Sydney Freight Line corridor.

The importance of this planning is to ensure our state and national economy grows each year.

The contribution of freight to the NSW economy is $66 billion annually, and by 2056 freight volumes are expected to double in the greater Sydney area and increase by 25 per cent across regional NSW.

The new Western Sydney corridors will also provide capacity to increase the movement of freight across Sydney using freight-only rail lines, which means not as many shared tracks with passenger trains and increased efficiency of essential freight movements.

By 2056, Greater Sydney is projected to be home to 8 million people, up from 4.7 million people today, and 6.4 million people in 2036.

It is for this reason the NSW Government is committed to, and is investing in, roads such as the Bells Line of Road as a secondary east west Blue Mountains crossing to Sydney.

The announcement that we are securing the corridor between Kurrajong and the M7 Motorway is our commitment to our communities to improve the journey from the West.

The Bells Line of Road – Castlereagh Connection provides for future interchange opportunities with the Outer Sydney Orbital corridor, which will itself connect with the M4, the Hume Motorway and arterials like Richmond Road and Windsor Road.

The Connection will improve access to the Western Sydney Airport for people coming from regional NSW.

We are delivering for our regional communities, and this is one of 227 projects that will make life easier for those communities.

Regional NSW is expected to grow by 400,000 people by 2036 and a further 300,000 by 2056, and that’s why we are investing now.

The NSW Government has tripled the budget for road infrastructure in the Central West since 2011.

We have completed over 80 major road infrastructure projects in the last six years and invested over $380 million in the central western region.

Protecting corridors like the Bells Line of Road – Castlereagh Connection will reduce disruption to Western Sydney communities and businesses in the future and give people certainty on both sides of the mountains that the journey east to west will improve.

I encourage regional community members to have a look at the details and have their say.