The merits of State Government plans to widen the Northbridge tunnel - and remove the emergency lanes - have been thrown into doubt by the Victorian Coroner who has stressed the importance of tunnel emergency lanes and advocated a ban on drivers changing lanes in tunnels.
Jennifer Coate investigated a 2007 crash in Melbourne's Burnley tunnel in which three people died. She found the fiery accident was caused by an inattentive driver who swerved to miss a broken-down truck.
The Burnley tunnel does not have an emergency lane.
Though she found the tunnel design did not contribute to the deaths, Judge Coate recommended that consideration be given to banning lane changing to avoid collisions and to including emergency lanes for stranded vehicles.
Under Barnett Government plans, work will begin within weeks to remove the emergency lanes in the Northbridge tunnel to allow an extra lane in each direction. Each of the new six lanes will be 10cm narrower.
The $57 million project aims to accommodate an extra 14,500 vehicles a day that will be redirected from Elizabeth Quay and the partial closure of Riverside Drive.
But Hartley Sporn, father of one of the victims of the Burnley crash, said the WA Government should reconsider the move.
Speaking on 6PR yesterday, Mr Sporn said his son would probably still be alive if the Burnley tunnel had an emergency lane.
Transport Minister Troy Buswell said Main Roads WA would examine the coroner's findings.
But he said safety mechanisms were already built into the tunnel, including a shunt vehicle that could remove a broken-down vehicle quickly. Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said it was time for the Barnett Government to reconsider its decision to partially close Riverside Drive.
He said the Government should immediately put the tunnel-widening plan on hold.
A group of locals, led by truck driver Greg Ross, have filmed three vehicles travelling side-by-side in the tunnel to show how dangerous it could be. The footage is now on YouTube. Mr Ross, who is standing as an independent candidate for the seat of Kalamunda at the State election, said the video showed how close to the walls cars would be forced to travel in the tunnel and how, if something went wrong, there was little room to manoeuvre.
The police were not aware of the footage until alerted by _The West Australian _ yesterday and will now investigate it.Mr Buswell said the stunt was illegal and those responsible "should be ashamed of themselves for endangering not only their lives but also the lives of other drivers".
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