Local, Politics

Secret Report for RMS said dangerous goods vehicles safer going through tunnels

A report called the Coffs Harbour Bypass Design – Dangerous Goods Comparative Risk Assessment concluded there was a greater risk to the public by allowing all dangerous goods vehicles on the current Pacific Highway and through the city than allowing them to go through tunnels on the proposed new bypass.

By The Editor

The report by Aurecon Australasia Pty Ltd was finally submited to the then Roads and Maritime Servises (RMS – now Transport NSW) on 22 April 2019 and was obtained by the Coffs Coast Outlook earlier this year.

EXCLUSIVE

Outlook understands the report, commissioned by the RMS, was then prohibited from being released on the orders of senior RMS management and that its contents may have not been made available to the relevant NSW Ministers.

The Executive Summary of the report – the last two bullet points are reproduced below in italics.

It is also believed the report should have formed part of the Coffs Harbour Bypass Environmental Impact Statements released in September 2019.

Outlook also understands that those Managers remain in senior positions in Transport NSW.

The report may also explain in part why information relating to the Coffs Harbour Bypass suddenly became ‘Cabinet in Confidence’ in late 2019.

The argument that dangerous goods vehicles (DVGs) could not be driven safely through tunnels has been used by Transport NSW (formerly the RMS) and others, such as the the local Chamber of Commerce, against groups such as the Coffs Bypass Action Group (CBAG) who have been agitating for tunnels and flatter gradients on the new Coffs Harbour Bypass.

The report explicitly states at the end of the Executive Summary that the “risk assessment concludes the following:

  • The overall risk in terms of life safety due to the DGVs is reduced when a bypass is provided.
  • The alignment with flatter gradients and tunnels through the major ridgelines has a lower risk in terms of life safety than the alignment with steep grades and shallow cuttings at major ridgelines.”

Transport NSW has been arguing for steeper gradients and higher ridgelines instead of flatter gradients and tunnels.

The Aurecon report found tunnels and flatter gradients were much safer for dangerous goods transportation via the bypass than funneling them through Coffs harbour itself.

It would appear that the report, commissioned by the then RMS, gave them an answer they did not want and that the 51 page report may have been ‘quiety buried’ as a result.

The Aurecon report potentially has wider implications than just for the Coffs Harbour Bypass.

Outlook understands industry groups representing DGV operators are currently lobbying at federal and state level to have the tunnel restrictions changed for DGVs in NSW, other than those carrying Class 1 and Class 2.1 dangerous goods, so as to bring them in line with other states and regulations.

One Comment

  1. Max Brinsmead

    Thanks Outlook. Well done. The prohibition of dangerous goods in rural tunnels in general, and Coffs Harbour in particular, never did pass the pub test i.e. common sense. That this report was buried is a worry.

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