Drivers were no doubt spitting out uniquely colorful Australian epithets as they sat for hours in the mayhem caused today by the closing of Melbourne’s two busiest traffic tunnels.The Burnley and Domain tunnels carry about 120 000 vehicles per day into and out of the city’s central business district.
According to The Australian, at about 4:10 AM local time, a system error was detected that indicated the tunnels’ “neon speed and lane-changing signs had stopped working.” Technicians tried to correct the problem, but were unsuccessful. At 4:30 AM, Transurban – the owner/ operator of the tunnels – decided to close them because it wasn’t clear in the tunnels’ control room whether the incident detection and safety systems, such as the sprinkler and ventilation systems, would work in case of an accident.
Their fears were not without cause. In 2007, a horrific multiple vehicle crash and fire in the Burnley tunnel killed three people and required that the tunnel be evacuated.
Today, the tunnels were finally partially reopened at 4:45 PM, more than 12 hours after their closing. By then gridlock had encompassed most of the Melbourne region. Luckily, it was a school holiday or traffic could have been much worse.
The system error was attributed to a failure of a “core communication switch.” A Transurban press release stated that, “In the usual course of events, the backup system would take over, however the back up system … also failed.” It went on to say, “At this point we do not know the reason for the initial failure or back up failure but will provide further updates once our investigation is complete."
Transurban apologized for the “inconvenience.”
I wonder what epithets followed that apology.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.