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Cars have begun to travel through the Burnley and Domain tunnels after a day of traffic chaos.
CityLink said vehicles started entering the tunnels about 4.45pm today. It is believed just two lanes are operating in each tunnel at present.
CityLink operator Transurban does not yet know the cause of the technical fault that led it to close down the tunnels this morning, all but shutting down Melbourne's road network in the same move.
CityLink chief executive Scott Charlton apologised to Melbourne motorists at a press conference this afternoon, saying he accepted that the systems failure was unacceptable.
"The decision to close the tunnels was not taken lightly and was based on safety being our number one priority. The decision was based on two technical incidents within our tunnel safety and incident management system," Mr Charlton said.
"The tunnels in their current state are safe but our issue revolves around the confidence in dealing with any potential incident that could occur in the tunnel during operations."
It was discovered at 4.10am that Transurban could not operate the sprinkler system or the smoke extraction fans inside the tunnels.
Technicians spent 20 minutes trying to fix the problem, including switching on a back-up system which also failed, before a decision was made to shut the tunnels to traffic.
VicRoads' director of road user services Dean Zabrieszach indicated the road authority would not have handled the situation differently had it been in control of this morning's meltdown."If an issue were to occur in one of the tunnels, a fire or something, we didn't have confidence that we would be able to use the systems properly," Mr Charlton said.
"Our systems issues are causing a lack of confidence in our safety systems," he said. "This tunnel outage is not acceptable and we appreciate the significant impact it's had on Melbourne and we agree with the premier [Ted Baillieu] that this should not happen again.
"This is the first outage of its kind in 13 years of operation, and once we fix the current situation our focus will turn to make sure it will never happen again."
Mr Zabrieszach predicted several major roads would be badly impacted tonight by motorists avoiding the CityLink tunnels tonight. They are:
* Dandenong Road
* St Kilda Road
* Kingsway, with people trying to to get back onto the West Gate Freeway
* The eastern freeway route and through the Melbourne Zoo area
* Elliott Avenue
* Alexander Parade in Fitzroy
He said CityLink had described the problem as a major computer breakdown. "We are not talking about one computer."
Mr Zabrieszach could not say if CityLink could be forced to tell the state government or VicRoads precisely what had caused today's failure.
This article first appeared on theage.drive.com.au
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