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'Critical' design considerations for WestConnex

10 July, 2014

Innovative tunnel designs and world class motorway management systems are the key to ensuring WestConnex is safe and delivers value to Sydney motorists, according to a new report by the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA).

The report calls on the NSW government to ensure WestConnex is designed to keep traffic moving, minimise the likelihood of crashes and cater for future traffic growth.

The report also calls on the NSW government to adopt the VicRoads approach to motorway management to minimise congestion and ensure a smoother run for motorists.

NRMA President Kyle Loades said decisions made now would largely determine the success of WestConnex, which, at 13 kilometres, will be Australia's longest road tunnel – three times longer than the M5 East Tunnel.

Getting the design "right"

"As NSW embarks on the most significant infrastructure project since the construction of the Harbour Bridge it is important we get it right," Loades said.

"It needs to be at least three lanes in both directions – this is a no brainer – and we want the Government to identify best practice around the world and make sure that we adopt these here.

"This includes piloting the 'managed motorways' system used in Victoria, where technology is used to keep traffic moving.

"This has delivered a 50 per cent reduction in both travel times and crashes on the Monash Freeway."

The NRMA report outlines that due to the length of WestConnex it will be more susceptible to crashes and breakdown, and to counteract these issues it recommends the government adopt tried-and-tested systems and designs to minimise crashes and breakdowns.

How can WestConnex be designed in order to minimise accidents and breakdowns?

  • Avoid sharp right hand on and off ramps to the tunnel as they are difficult for truck drivers to manoeuvre and require vehicles slowing down to enter the right lane;
  • Avoid steep upward/downward hills within the tunnel – there is no real horizon in tunnels they can be difficult for motorists to judge and adjust their speed; and   
  • Give consideration to the speed camera locations as motorists tend to drop their speed upon approach, causing sudden traffic jams and the potential for rear end collisions. 

Maintaining motorists' alertness

The NRMA report also highlights the benefit to considering innovative tunnel designs, similar to those adopted in Stockholm, to help keep motorists alert when making the considerable 13 kilometre journey.

"This will be the longest tunnel Australians have ever driven in and there needs to be consideration given to fatigue," Loades said.

"Tunnel design in Australia has traditionally been very boring and bland, but there is no reason why we need to do the same with WestConnex.

"By adopting an innovative design we can make the driving experience more enjoyable for motorists and help improve safety."

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Rob | Monday, July 14, 2014, 12:39 PM
How about including a segregated emergency lane that is off-limits in general but can provide emergency access in the event of a crash to allow emergency services fast transit. It can then also be used by motorists to bypass large accidents and prevent a complete shutdown of the tunnel