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What lies beneath Australia's motorway tunnels

by Australian Road Research Board on December 2, 2020

As you drive through one of Australia’s motorway tunnels, have you ever wondered about what goes into their successful operation?

ARRB Chief Operating Officer Dr Richard Yeo and ARRB road asset performance engineer Georgia O’Connor were fortunate enough to get a glimpse inside the inner workings of Melbourne’s Eastlink tunnels.

Eastlink is an important connecting toll road between Melbourne’s north, east and south-east, with twin tunnels - Mullum Mullum and Melba – playing important roles in linking the areas.

The aim of the Eastlink tunnel tour was to provide ARRB with an understanding of the tunnel’s operational, safety and maintenance systems – tunnel operations are a huge, but seemingly seamless task from the outside.

Eastlink Photo 2-1

Photo: Dr Richard Yeo and Georgia O'Connor at the Eastlink tunnel fan system.

“It is a big operation – lots of moving parts,” Georgia said.

“Working in asset management I found it really beneficial to see first-hand how the operation and maintenance activities for a tunnel take place.

“Much of my work is often focused on desktop studies, so it was great to get out into the field.”

The tour had to be conducted while the Mullum Mullum tunnel was closed for maintenance.

It included taking ARRB through the Eastlink call centre and tag logistics room, the traffic control centre and to a tolling gantry (pictured below) for an update on the latest electronic tolling technology.

Eastlink Photo 1-1

The tunnel portals and interior facilities were visited with a focus on energy saving initiatives implemented including an upgrade the tunnel ventilation on demand jet fan control system. A demonstration of the tunnel fire deluge system (pictured below) in action was a highlight.

Eastlink Photo Deluge control valves-1

“With Eastlink now 12 years old, it was great to see first-hand how the technologies used in the tunnels and toll road are being maintained and upgraded to improve operations, safety and energy efficiency,” Dr Yeo said.

“Eastlink are retrofitting LED lighting (picture below) and they have completely redesigned and upgraded their jet fan ventilation control system to minimise power consumption. It was great to see Eastlink awarded the top 5 Star Sustainability Rating for a fifth year in a row this week under the GRESB Infrastructure Assessment.”

Eastlink photo tunnel lighting retrofit-1

Eastlink photo tunnel-1

Eastlink photo Portal artwork-1

Eastlink Connected and Automated Vehicles Trial

Topics: ARRB News, Asset Management, Research, Intelligent Transport Systems, Sustainability, Road Infrastructure