Are the Proposed Safety Features Outdated?

Brisbane City Council’s North South Bypass Tunnel Fact Sheet No 4 touched on the issue of safety. Shown on a cut away section of the proposed tunnels it notes “Emergency exists to safe areas will be built approximately every 120 meters along each tunnel”.

BCC proposes to have these exits connected to 50 refuges, which can hold up to several hundred motorists for several days until rescued. This design is now not allowed in new tunnels anywhere in the developed world. The risks are too high.

The Europeans, it is reported, had a recent experience where in a tunnel fire; several motorists were burnt to death in such a refuge. How are people to live for several days?

BCC reject the idea of a separate escape gallery direct to the outside on the grounds of cost or other priorities (money better spent elsewhere in Brisbane). In the recent St Gothard tunnel fire, although many people died, several hundred escaped through such a gallery which had its own air supply etc.

An email querying these features was passed onto to the Lord Mayor Campbell Newman and key part of his reply was as follows:

…………… “Safety has been a key consideration in the detailed feasibility studies conducted to date on the twin parallel tunnels of the NSBT.

Should the project proceed, the NSBT will be equipped with a range of state-of-the-art safety measures including up to 50 safe areas located every 120m between the two tunnels.

Designed to allow motorists to walk from one tunnel to the next in the event of a major incident, these areas will be about 10m long and 2m wide. They will be protected by twin sliding fire doors and will allow motorists to walk or be driven out of the unaffected tunnel.

While primarily designed for safe transit between the two tunnels, these areas will be sealed against smoke and are capable of accommodating hundreds of motorists for several days.

Other safety measures will include:

emergency vehicles on stand-by 24 hours a day, seven days a week
a deluge sprinkler system
fire hydrants and hose reels
fire extinguishers
an uninterruptible power supply
emergency phones and lighting
emergency cabinets
automatic incident detection
overheight and overweight vehicle detection and warnings.

A Tunnel Control Centre will monitor all tunnel activity by CCTV (closed-circuit television) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with staff able to communicate to motorists in a variety of ways including variable message signs and radio rebroadcasting.

While I appreciate your concerns, it is highly unlikely all eight portals could ever be blocked at the same time. The tunnels will be separated by approximately 10m of solid rock.

You question whether a separate guarded escape tunnel, similar to the one constructed for the Channel Tunnel, should be included in the NSBT design.

At 60km long and 40m below the English Channel seabed, the Channel Tunnel is vastly different to the 4.7km road tunnel proposed for the NSBT.

Unlike the NSBT, the Channel Tunnel is a rail tunnel with high-voltage traction equipment making a separate services tunnel imperative for safe tunnel operation, maintenance and emergency evacuations. If one of the NSBT tunnels were blocked, people would be able to walk safely along the roadway of the second tunnel to a safe location.

Therefore, constructing a separate, guarded escape tunnel for the NSBT would be both impractical and unnecessary.

It would also be difficult to justify the huge increase in costs to construct, maintain and guard such a tunnel – money that could almost certainly be better spent elsewhere in our city.

I trust the above information is of assistance and thank you for airing your concerns.’’

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