Clem7 Tunnel Tour

December 21, 2009

Yesterday I went on a Brisbane City Council organised bus tour of the nearly completed Clem7 Tunnel.

The Clem7 Tunnel is a new road tunnel in Brisbane that runs North-South under the Brisbane River, with the aim of the tunnel being to reduce congestion on surface roads. It’s the first link in what Brisbane City Council and specifically Lord Mayor Campbell Newman is billing as the TransApex ring road system, which will apparently (note sarcasm) solve all of Brisbane’s congestion problems. The second is the controversial Hale Street Bridge (another toll road) which is currently under construction.

Southern Entrance to Clem7 Tunnel

Southern Entrance to Clem7 Tunnel

In The Tunnel

The tunnel is being built as a joint venture between Leighton, Baulderstone Hornibrook and Bilfinger Berger. Once open the tunnel will be operated by Rivercity Motorway Group who will charge a toll on the tunnel. The toll will initially be set at $4.20 in each direction, which is potentially promising that commercially the project will be a financial disaster if motorists refuse to use it.

The tunnel is named after the late Clem Jones, a former Lord Mayor of Brisbane that was responsible for sewering Brisbane, and transforming Brisbane from a big country town into an actual city. The 7 comes from the fact the tunnel is 6.8 kilometres long.

In The Tunnel

Exiting The Tunnel At Bowen Hills

The Transition Structure at the Northern Portal

The tour yesterday left from the King George Square Busway Station, and travelled south to the most southern entrance of the tunnel which is at Woollongabba on Ipswich Road. The bus then travelled north through the tunnel at 10km/h as the tunnel is under construction, under the Brisbane River, and out the other side at Bowen Hills where the tunnel will connect with the Inner City Bypass and the future Airport Link Project. The actual bus portion of the tour was quite enjoyable, however our tour guide was dreadful. For some reason someone thought it would be a good idea to dress some party boy up in a construction uniform and a hard hat and give him a page of notes. It was bad! This guy knew absolutely nothing about the tunnel, or tunnels in general, or roads in general, or infrastructure, infact I would have been surprised if he even knew what the word infrastructure meant. It really spoiled an otherwise enjoyable tour.

The tunnel is due to open part way through 2010, and although I am glad that money is being spent on infrastructure, I think this is the wrong way to spend it. Public transport is what money should spent on, getting people out of their cars and onto public transport or push bikes is the way to go.

Researchers from the Nagoya University are researching why traffic jams can occur for no reason. The phenomenon is known as a shockwave traffic jam. In the video below the Japanese researchers setup an experiment where 22 cars were instructed to travel on a circular course at 30 kilometres an hour. Small variances in speed between each vehicle caused the distance between each vehicle to decrease which causes trailing vehicles to slow down in order to avoid collision, this flows on down through the chain of vehicles and eventually the speed is so slow that vehicles are stopping to avoid collision with the vehicle in front.

From the experiment it could be argued that on highways and freeways where the road geometry is of a standard where it is to safe to travel above the prescribed speed limit that the legal enforcement of the speed limit is causing congestion through the shockwave traffic jam effect, and increasing the risk of of nose to tail collisions.