First world fire protection – but third world emissions control

Representatives from the Wellington Tunnels Alliance met with the Mt Victoria Residents Association before Easter, so that they could inform local residents about the night closures of the Mt Victoria tunnel. It was largely an exercise in window-dressing, as the timing of the closures, the traffic arrangements and the putative mitigations for local residents had all been pre-decided by the engineers before the meeting.

While the verbal briefing was useful, the Tunnels Alliance staff had failed to arrive with the requested documents – such as the traffic management plan and the hazards mitigation plan – so it was hard to draw any concrete conclusions about the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the arrangements. These documents have now been requested under the Official Information Act. However what did stand out from the briefing was the fact that the Tunnels Alliance appears to have little interest in filtering the exhaust emissions from the tunnel, which are vented into the grounds of Wellington East Girls College.

The engineer present at the meeting noted that the current tunnel ventilation system was not very efficient, and that the upgrades would result in a far better removal of toxic fumes from the tunnel …. into the grounds of the school!

He also noted that it was unlikely that the nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and diesel particulates would be filtered, confirming our earlier suspicions – that the traffic engineers are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars on protecting drivers from tunnel fires that have never occurred in 80 years, but won’t spend a cent on filtering the emissions that kill 400 people per annum.

It’s a very strange world we live in.