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Blue Mountains tunnel plans welcomed by farmers, freight industry but transport academic has reservations
I was interviewed by Michael Condon at ABC Country hour on the Blue Mountains tunnels. A bit of it shows up in the article Blue Mountains tunnel plan ..., my quotes are excerpted below:
Massive project, 'small-time' saving
David Levinson, author and Professor of Transport at the University of Sydney, is not a fan of the project.
He said while it would benefit people who lived in the mountains, as well as tourists and farmers, it would not save much travel time.
He also wondered about the the likelihood of costs rising, or the project being sold off to private companies.
"Most tunnelled motorways in the Sydney region have been sold off as toll roads … and what happens in 10 years isn't necessarily what people are projecting today."
Until there is a publicly-reviewable (and peer-reviewed) business case, it's inappropriate to spend $10 billion on any infrastructure project. It's not that I support or don't support the project, it's that the proposed tunnel benefits a very specific group of people and is subsidised by everyone, so requires strong evidence that it is worthwhile.
Another issue is that this is a bottleneck during peak times, but if this bottleneck is relieved, the next downstream bottleneck will just be activated. This is hardly the only bottleneck in the Blue Mountains. That argues for tunnelling essentially the entire mountain range (at an enormous amount of money). But peak times are also relatively rare, holiday periods particularly, and perhaps more manageable in a world where more and more people work from home and have flexible schedules.
As my friend and faithful reader Alex W. notes:
The real issue is how to improve the road alignment between Mt Victoria and Hartley. It is steep and twisty and has ever been thus since the first road was laid out by the colonial Surveyor-General in the 1830s. Incidentally, the alternative Bells Line of Road between Clarence and Lithgow is scarcely better because of the need to lose 100 metres in altitude in a short distance.
The originally announced tunnel between Mt Victoria and Hartley would probably have solved the combined gradient and curvature problem by building a longer, but underground, route to address the issue that both the road and the railway occupy a narrow ridge from Emu Plains to Mt Victoria.
Somehow, this project has morphed into a mega project with no sense of being staged to deliver early benefits addressing the real problem, not occasional holiday congestion.