Parkes bypass named a priority in infrastructure-led COVID-19 recovery

EARLY WORKS: Early work started on the Parkes Bypass this month at Nock Road, which includes upgrading and sealing the road and converting it into a cul-de-sac. Photo: NSW Roads
EARLY WORKS: Early work started on the Parkes Bypass this month at Nock Road, which includes upgrading and sealing the road and converting it into a cul-de-sac. Photo: NSW Roads

Construction of the Parkes bypasshas been listed on the Infrastructure Priority List to support the national infrastructure-led COVID-19 recovery announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, said the priority list is a pipeline of nationally-significant investment opportunities and has been designed to deliver lasting economic benefits.

The $172 million Parkes bypass on the Newell Highway has been added to the list that now showcases more than $65 billion worth of nationally-significant investment opportunities for governments at all levels to choose from.

"The Infrastructure Priority Listprovides a robust and comprehensive infrastructure pipeline to guide our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," Ms Madew said.

"Infrastructure Australia has been working collaboratively with Australia's governments to provide advice on a staged response for managing, and recovering from, the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."

One critical element of their advice, Ms Madew said, is to maintain a pipeline of nationally-significant infrastructure investments which have strong merit and clear community benefits.

The Parkes bypass involves construction of a 10.5 kilometre bypass along the Newell Highway, including bridges over existing railway lines, connections to the Parkes Special Activation Precinct and upgrades to local roads.

Connecting Melbourne and Brisbane, the Newell Highway is a vital freight corridor for consumer, manufacturing and agricultural goods.

The existing highway runs directly through the centre of Parkes, which over the years has contributed to congestion and safety risks in the town. It includes four 90-degree bends at three intersections, which limits the length of vehicles that can be used.

Infrastructure Australia wrote in its evaluation report that the bypass would help remove heavy vehicle traffic from the town and improve connectivity between local producers and the Parkes Special Activation Precinct, which is being established to leverage the Inland Rail project.

The bypass is the final upgrade in the Newell Highway program that will enable more efficient Level 3A vehicles to use the entire highway, making it a significant project.

"Within NSW, the Newell Highway carries a significant volume of agricultural commodities from farms and other producers," Ms Madew said.

"Up to 4500 vehicles travel along the Newell Highway through Parkes each day, of which 15-25 per cent are heavy vehicles, creating significant safety risks for the community.

"With a stated benefit-cost ratio of 1.2, the Parkes Bypass is a nationally-significant investment opportunity that will help move these vehicles out of the town centre and importantly, as we officially enter a recession, ensure local goods get to market as quickly and safely as possible.

"Our review found some limitations in the business case, but we consider the project is still likely to have a positive impact on the economy."

Early works have begun on the bypass this month, with the sealing of Nock Road and closing it from direct access to the Newell Highway by making it a cul-de-sac.

The Parkes bypass is expected to be completed by 2024.

The NSW Farmers' Executive Council met on Thursday, September 10 to discuss potential association policy on a number of issues facing the agriculture sector, including the importance of bypasses on the Newell Highway.

"The Newell Highway is the most critical road link for freight transport and movement of agricultural product for western NSW.

"While there have been significant improvements to the highway to increase access by road trains, without bypasses for significant centres such as Dubbo and Parkes there are increased safety concerns.

"Our call for bypasses will improve safety, reduce congestion and increase efficiency," said NSW Farmers.

NSW Farmers has also successfully lobbied Transport for NSW for expanded access for road trains over 900 metres.

This will reduce time and cost for the movement of primary produce.

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