Proposed new approach for transporting dangerous goods in tunnels

Austroads has proposed a new approach for assessing whether the risk of transporting dangerous goods is lower on a tunnel route or lower on an alternative surface route.

The proposal follows a review of international practice, which largely draws on European experience where countries like Austria, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland have national methodologies that offer an official evaluation procedure.

Austroads is the peak association of the Australian and New Zealand transport agencies, representing all levels of government. It says that prior to the release of its proposed methodology, no such national method exists in either of the two countries.

According to Austroads, the decision to restrict dangerous goods traffic through tunnels should also consider environmental and ecological risks, with community, social and economic benefits.

“Neither Australia nor New Zealand have a standardised risk assessment approach for considering risk to life associated with how we route dangerous goods,” said Ross Guppy, Austroads transport infrastructure program manager.

“By providing this method, we address a need of road authorities to have a rational documented risk-based input to the multi-facetted decisions that must be made about routing dangerous goods through tunnels.”

The Australasian approach is based on a Dangerous Goods Quantitative Risk Assessment Model (DG-QRAM) – an internationally applied software jointly developed by PIARC (World Road Association) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“One of the main advantages of DG-QRAM is the ability to estimate the risk of dangerous goods transport through both a tunnel and an alternative open-air route, enabling a comparative risk assessment to inform route evaluations and regulatory decisions,” said Guppy.

Austroads says the application of the methodology in the Australasian context is demonstrated in a case study of a hypothetical tunnel, illustrating the stages of the comparative assessment, with incorporation of risk mitigation measures.

Austroads will host a webinar about the proposed methodology on March 26, 2024 at 2pm AEDT with Dr Conrad Stacey and Nigel Casey. It will include a live Q+A. the webinar is free to attend but registration is essential.

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