Tunnel Shutdown after Fault in Control System

Event Year: 2008 Reliability: Confirmed
Country: Australia
Industry Type: Transportation

At 7am, a peak travel time, the computer that controls the M5 East tunnel suddenly crashed.  The technicians in the tunnel operator’s control Arncliffe control room realised the emergency back-up server also failed.  There was no way to ensure that the rapid “deluge” system that would extinguish tunnel fires would work. The tunnel had to be shut down immediately in both directions.  The tunnel did not open for 5 hours.

This incident is the 5th in a succession of computer failures that have wreaked chaos on Sydney’s road network. On February 1, 2002, just two months after it opened, a computer glitch forced the tunnel’s closure for an hour before 6am to ensure the operating systems would operate properly. Eleven months later, it closed again for 45 minutes in the afternoon peak, because its lighting systems failed. On March 9, 2004, there was a combined power failure that required the full closure of the tunnel in the morning peak. And in December that year, the closed-circuit television systems failed, shutting the tunnel again.

Baulderstone Hornibrook Bilfinger Berger (BHBB), is the contractor under the M5 East Motorway Design, Construct, Maintain and Operate (DCOM) contract.


Tens of thousands of motorists were trapped in a traffic jam.