Strait tunnel considered

AN underwater tunnel between Tasmania and Victoria would be a ``game-changer'' for the state and should not be discounted as part of a long-term solution to Tasmania's freight woes, the government-funded freight advisory body has urged.

The $1.5 million Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team's final report, obtained by The Examiner, reveals chairman Phil Clark conducted a review of the concept of a physical link across Bass Strait. 

``What might be impossible or impractical now may well be a feasible solution to Tasmania's freight issues in the future,'' the report states. 

The team engaged the services of SMART Infrastructure Group at the University of Wollongong and international engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to consider the idea of an underwater freight tunnel, rather than a bridge, possibly serviced by an unmanned electric train.

However, the report concludes such a Tasmania-Victoria tunnel - which would be more than twice as long as the longest conventional undersea tunnel so far constructed or proposed - was neither technically or economically feasible. 

``Our intention in raising the proposal at this stage is to discount it as an option for the time being but to make sure it is on the radar screen. If a physical connection between Tasmania and mainland Australia becomes feasible, it would be a game-changer for Tasmania.'' 

The FLCT's final report was handed to the state government earlier this month and will be released publicly this week, but recommendations have been leaked. The 26 recommendations included drafting a freight strategy by June 30, establish an ongoing public-private freight advisory group and continue negotiations with potential international shippers. Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has suggested relaxing requirements for foreign ships to pay workers Australian minimum wages might attract an international shipping service back to Tasmania. 

Premier Lara Giddings was not enthusiastic about the idea. 

``We'd be very concerned to see changes to our maritime system that would put Australian workers at a disadvantages.''

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