State Roads Minister Melinda Pavey (pictured below) has been quoted as saying that the Coffs Harbour Bypass cannot have tunnels due to dangerous goods. Is this actually true? Let’s take a look at the detail.
“Firstly let’s be clear dangerous goods travel through tunnels in Australia every single day” says CBAG member Peter Walsh. “Whilst there are nine classes of dangerous goods, there are only two kinds that cannot, at this point, go through tunnels we want in Coffs Harbour.
Class 1 (explosives) and Class 2.1 (flammable gases). The figures suggest there are, on average, 7-15 of this kind of hazardous good vehicles coming into or through Coffs Harbour on busy days.
“This brings me to my second point. There seems to be agreement that one third of these vehicles would enter Coffs Harbour and not leave as they would be unloading their goods here in Coffs Harbour. This again reduces the numbers actually going through tunnels and means that there will always be hazardous material on Coffs Harbour roads.
“Nearly all of what we call dangerous goods, can travel through tunnels and to say that the tunnels cannot be built because of it is simply a furphy.”
Further investigation by the Coffs Bypass Action Group discovered that NatRoad the peak body for transport operators “recently met with Transport for NSW, RMS and road transport operators to look at improving access for heavy vehicles carrying dangerous goods. The group discussed running a trial removing restrictions for dangerous goods in Sydney”. That review may change this entire concept allowing all dangerous goods to travel through tunnels.
“In the interests of putting some researched facts into the discussion,” said Brian Polack, Chair of CBAG and their EIS Committee, “in their 2004 report Connell Wagner concluded that the likelihood of a serious incident (e.g. LPG gas explosion) through the 2 tunnels (Gatelys Road and Shepherds Lane) was 1 in 2,000 years to 1 in 7,200 years depending on the final length of each tunnel. Even if the Sydney study comes to nothing; do we really want to rule out the many improvements that tunnels can bring to the solution and to the benefit of the people of Coffs Harbour over a handful of trucks?”
Reference link on dangerous goods: https://www.natroad.com.au/news/transporting-dangerous-goods
Coffs Bypass Action Group Press Release – Monday 3 December 2018.