Sanral needs R1.5bn for Huguenot Tunnel

Dane McDonald, Fin24

Cape Town – The South African Roads Agency (Sanral) on Tuesday admitted that it was non-compliant in certain aspects of its Huguenot Tunnel operation and said it required R1.5bn to address safety concerns.

On a site visit to the Huguenot Tunnel on Tuesday, Sanral project manager Tiago Massingue told Fin24 that exhaust fans in the tunnel were non-compliant and Sanral needed "to get that absolutely in place”.

The tunnel, in operation for 27 years, was designed to withstand 30 MW of peak fire heat. The tunnel currently services heavy goods trucks and tankers with release rates of up to 300 MW.

He said extensive improvements would have to be made to the current safety and fire fighting equipment, including the installation of jet fans to improve airflow, the installation of mechanical controlled dampers in the tunnel ceiling, and the replacement of switch-gear and ventilation by-pass doors.

Should the upgrades not be implemented in one year’s time the tunnel may have to be shut down, among other alternatives, according to Massingue.

“Either we will have to shut it down or we would have to allow one direction at a time or something in between the two,” he said.

No work started

At the moment the Huguenot Tunnel operates on a single-bore model where two-way traffic moves in the ‘south bore’ and a parallel ‘north bore’ is used as a link for maintenance and emergency services.

Massingue said the rise in traffic volumes has become a major challenge and the development of the north bore to allow for a dual carriageway is becoming urgent.

A period of six to eight months would be required to carry out the upgrades and no traffic could be allowed in the tunnel during this time.

Massingue said that it would not be viable to re-route traffic over the Du Toitskloof Pass for such a long period and a stop-go control was not recommended as it would increase the risk of accidents, he said.

“The only viable option is to construct the north bore and once it has been completed, to divert traffic to the ‘new’ tunnel. The existing south bore systems can then be improved.”

The upgrade of the north bore should have been initiated in 2012 and was set to be completed in November 2015. No work has started as yet.

According to Sanral regional manager, Kobus van der Walt, the initial construction cost of the upgrade is set to cost R1.5bn.