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Image courtesy of EastLink
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EastLink customer stewardship exemplar

Reducing risk, being future ready

The Better Infrastructure Initiative identified eight industry exemplars who represent what good customer stewardship looks like and how it is being practiced in Australia. EastLink is one of those 2017 exemplars.

EastLink is a privately-owned tollway that has been operating since 2008. It services 250,000 vehicles a dayand connects Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs with the Eastern, Monash, Frankston and Peninsula Link freeways. EastLink has twin tunnels 1.6 kilometres long that protect the environmentally sensitive Mullum Mullum valley above.

EastLink provides a valuable case study about managing risk (Principle 9) and adapting the asset to future changes in the vehicle fleet. Apart from EastLink’s self-driving car trials, a new tunnel ventilation system has transformed EastLink’s long-term energy and carbon costs. It will also let the toll road benefit from the emergence of electric vehicles.

As part of its focus on actively managing sustainability and minimising energy and carbon consumption, EastLink reviewed its tunnel ventilation system where the ventilation fans, which were used to maintain constant air flow through each tunnel portal, lacked speed control. The original system accounted for 64 percent of the total electricity used for the whole business.

In 2010, following an application by EastLink, the Victorian Environment Protection Authority amended the tunnel ventilation system licence to allow all fans to be switched off at night, when traffic levels are relatively low.

While the night-time tunnel portal emission was more efficient, the fans in the original ventilation system EastLink were only able to operate at full speed, resulting in higher electricity costs.

In 2017, EastLink upgraded the tunnel ventilation and software systems with ten large, more efficient variable speed fans that were self-regulating or ‘closed loop’.

The tunnel and road operating system now automatically controls the ventilation system by monitoring the output of the existing air quality and airflow sensors within the tunnels.

The tunnel ventilation system can now respond to the volume of traffic travelling through the tunnels, as well as the vehicle mix, such as the proportion of heavy vehicles with diesel drivetrains. Increasingly important for the future, the tunnel ventilation system will respond efficiently to increasing proportions of vehicles with hybrid electric/combustion drivetrains and pure battery-powered electric vehicles, which will generate less pollutants and reduce ventilation requirements.

The combined result of introducing new variable speed ventilation fans, the new fully automatic ventilation control system, and limited tunnel portal emissions during daytime is reducing electricity usage and power costs, with GHG emissions cut by 6441 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

Through systems and processes that are focused on identifying and addressing long-term risks and opportunities, EastLink has been able to both add value by reducing ongoing energy costs and be in a position to benefit from the gradual phasing in of electric vehicles.

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Image courtesy of EastLink.