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Stronger protections on tunnel ventilation facilities

16 February 2018
The NSW Government is putting in place stronger protections on emissions from motorway tunnels.
lights in motorway tunnel

With an increasing number of motorway tunnels in development, and in response to community concerns about air quality, the NSW Government has strengthened regulation of ventilation outlets in motorway tunnels.

What is changing?

Future motorway tunnel operators will need to obtain an Environment Protection Licence, meet air quality requirements and undertake air quality monitoring of emissions from ventilation outlets.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority will issue the licences and regulate air emissions from ventilation outlets. Existing measures remain in place to monitor air quality inside motorways tunnels.

Do the changes apply to existing motorway tunnels?

The new measures will apply to all existing motorway tunnels, as far as practicable.

The Environment Protection Authority and Roads and Maritime Services will consult with the relevant motorway operators on the application of any future monitoring and regulation.

Do the changes apply to proposed tunnels?

For proposed motorway tunnels that have not progressed to the Environmental Impact Statement stage, the Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality will provide a scientific review of a project’s air emissions from ventilation outlets for the Minister of Planning's consideration.

The NSW Chief Health Officer will also release a statement on the potential health impacts of emissions from tunnel ventilation outlets.

What existing safeguards ensure that air emissions from motorway tunnels are safe?

NSW has a sophisticated system in place for gathering expert advice and ensuring air quality in its motorway tunnels meets strict air quality levels requirements.

Successive NSW Governments have ensured that tunnel projects are subject to detailed environmental assessment prior to approval.

The Department of Planning and Environment currently consults with:

  • the Environment Protection Authority
  • NSW Health
  • the Advisory Council on Tunnel Air Quality chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.

The Department of Planning and Environment also seeks independent expert advice on the Environmental Impact Statement and the conditions of approval.

The Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality provides the NSW Government with a whole-of-government understanding of the scientific and engineering issues informing tunnel ventilation design and operation and is invited to provide comment during the planning process.

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