The Road to Tumut
11 September 1975 The Canberra Times
The reasons given by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for abandoning the mountain-road short-cut between Goulburn and Holbrook announced by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, last year as a replacement for part of the Hume Highway are convincing.
Equally Convincing is the bureau's recommendation that work on improving that stretch of the Hume Highway as far as Albury-Wodonga to four-lane divided-carriageway standard begin immediately.
The report of the bureau, on national highways linking Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne and tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, recommends also that the two highway links Canberra has with the Hume be kept and that both be improved, but it adds that reconstruction of them cannot begin until planning for the future Canberra is more advanced.
Significantly, the report goes out of its way to suggest also that a new Canberra-Tumut road is warranted, although this matter was not included in terms of its study.
The Goulburn-Holbrook alternative announced by Mr Whitlam before a cost and feasibility study of the project had been made is rejected because it would have cost twice as much as the recommended course of reconstructing the highway with, substantial relocations designed to reduce mileages and to by-pass the centres of the towns through which it passes.
Mr Whitlam's proposed route, by taking the highway well away from such towns as, Tarcutta. Gundagai, Yass, and Gunning, also "would have seriously damaged the economies of these towns which for decades have invested large sums to service heavy freight traffic and to cater for tourists.
In other words, the purpose for which the Hume Highway exists is not only to allow people to move between Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne. The towns in between also matter.
The bureau recommends an immediate beginning on the rebuilding of the Goulburn-Albury stretch and an early beginning on the Barton and Federal Highways because, it says, this part of the Hume and the other two roads are deficient for most of their lengths, driving conditions on them are "traumatic", and the number of accidents that take place on them is high.
All the interstate and regional traffic using the Hume Highway and its links with Canberra also would benefit enormously and immediately from the reconstruction.
Help for the region
The bureau's pointed reference to the Tumut area, which takes in Batlow, as a part of the region within which the ACT is situated, resurrects in a practical way the concept of regionalism in the name of which torrents of words are spoken but on behalf of which little is done.
Tumut and Batlow are two well-developed agricultural areas producing milk, fresh and canned fruit and vegetables, as well as timber, plywood, and other building materials.
Yet, in spite of their geographical proximity to the ACT, the development of their economic potential has lagged because of the lack of a satisfactory road between them and Canberra.
Wagga, which is much further away, has developed a considerable trade with Canberra, because of the better road links it has with the National capital.
A Canberra-Tumut road has been included in the planning preoccupations of the Australian and NSW governments ever since 1963, but it had been talked about long before then. A road was promised more than once, but nothing was done.
The most favoured impute recommended in a joint Commonwealth-NSW study in 1968 would go through Wee Jasper father than across the Brindabellas.
Either route would cut the distance now covered by Canberra-Tumut travellers by 30 per cent.
A direct road would promote tourism in the picturesque Tumut Valley and facilitate access to a large scenic and recreational area and it would provide cheaper access to the' Canberra market for the agricultural and building products of the area.
The sad fact is, however, that because such a Canberra-regional road must be low on the priorities of the NSW Government and hardly rate at all among the National priorities of the Australian Government, the people of the region must wait as they have for so long for improved access on all sides to the national capital.