M5 East tunnel air quality improvement plan

On 16 June 2006 the NSW Government announced an air quality improvement plan for the M5 East Tunnel.

Progress to date includes:

  • Video identification of pollution-causing heavy vehicles and the Clean Fleet program are ongoing.
  • Improved air ventilation management with an extra 12 jet fans installed in December 2006
  • Construction of an air filtration plant and commissioning of filtration equipment was completed in early 2010. An 18 month trial of air filtration technology to see how it could improve haze levels in the westbound tunnel, commenced in March 2010.

The objectives of the air quality improvement plan are to:

  • Assess the costs and benefits and how effective the air filtration technology could be in improving haze levels in the westbound tunnel
  • Improve the amenity of tunnel users by improving haze levels in the tunnel
  • Ensure the amenity of residents at the tunnel entrances and exits (portals) and around the stack, by meeting air quality goals and improving haze levels
  • Improve the availability of the M5 East tunnel by reducing the number of tunnel closures.

Tunnel air and truck emissions

The M5 East Motorway was opened to traffic in December 2001. Since then, traffic in the tunnel has increased to levels that exceed the volumes predicted in the environmental impact assessment in 1997. Air quality levels in the tunnel and around the stack have remained within the strict project goals set by the Minister for Planning.

The M5 East is an essential transport link for the national highway network to the port and airport. However, current traffic levels and a high percentage of smoky heavy vehicles using the tunnel contributed to increased levels of 'haze' within the tunnel. Motorists noted this as being particularly evident at the western end of the westbound tunnel where there is a steep incline to exit the tunnel.

Graphs of truck emissions indicate the number of heavy vehicles travelling through the M5 East Tunnel and the levels of haze in the tunnel, particularly in the westbound tunnel.

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