Bass Strait tunnel plan sunk

TASMANIAN exporters have urged the state to focus on short-term solutions to the state's high freight costs rather than a far-fetched undersea tunnel connecting Tasmania and Victoria.

The Examiner revealed yesterday the state government- appointed Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team had seriously investigated the concept of a physical link between the island state and the mainland such as an undersea tunnel serviced by an unmanned electric train.

SMART infrastructure group at the University of Wollongong and international engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff were consulted by the team during its year- long review of Tasmania's freight problems.

The FLCT's final report said it was technically and economically unfeasible but said the idea should not drop off the radar because it had the potential to be a "game- changer".

Tasmanian Exporters Group spokesman Bob Gozzi did not want to comment on the FLCT's final report before its public release this week, but he said the focus needed to be on realistic options.

"You'd like to do it but it's a long, long way down the track. It doesn't alter the fact that what we all need at the moment are viable solutions to our transport shipping problems," Mr Gozzi said.

Mr Gozzi's group's key priority is re-establishing a direct international link.

The FLCT's final report reveals consultant Thompson Clarke Shipping was engaged to assess the viability of adding a Tasmanian stop to any of the 25 long-haul international container ships that serviced South-East Asia.

A short list was created and the state government began negotiations.

Yesterday, Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne declined to comment on the report until it had been publicly released and said negotiations with shipping companies were confidential.

Opposition infrastructure spokesman Rene Hidding slammed the investigation of an underwater tunnel as a waste of taxpayer funds.

"Surely it doesn't take a genius to work out a Bass Strait tunnel is completely ridiculous," Mr Hidding said.

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