If you are on Twitter, chances are you have come across a tweet from Elon Musk. The business mogul is obsessed with Twitter and uses it to connect with all sorts of people globally, be it his Tesla customers, the flat earth society, or Thai Diving authorities. His tweets have landed him in hot water in the past – with one tweet costing him $20 million dollars – but this week his tweet in response to a NSW politician, Jeremy Buckingham, regarding a tunnel through the Blue Mountains is the latest to make news in Australia.
The Twitter exchange took place on the 16th of January, and was sparked by Buckingham’s reply to an older Elon Musk tweet that exclaimed; “Join our underground movement!” This so-called “underground movement” refers to Musk’s exploration into underground tunnelling as a means of reducing traffic congestion and increasing transport efficiency. He’s already bore a transit tunnel through Los Angeles in a bid to reduce traffic congestion (to mixed reviews), and now Aussie politicians are interested.
Buckingham responded to this tweet enquiring about the cost of a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains, where traffic congestion and travel time is a problem. The tunnel would open up Musk gave him a price which equates to around $1 billion. Buckingham tweeted that he was stoked and Musk’s quote “[sounded] like a bargain”.
About $15M/km for a two way high speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2019
Awesome – a positive Twitter exchange! So… what is the problem here?
Apparently, the price that Musk quoted is off. Like, way off.
The ABC has reported that many senior tunnelling engineers have called out Musk for his quote. Dr Phillip Pells, an engineer and hydrogeologist with over 40 years experience in the tunnelling industry said that the $1 billion figure was “totally out of the ballpark”, and that Musk is “out by at least a factor of 10 and up to a factor of 50”.
According to costings by Transport for NSW, the predicted cost of the proposed tunnel would realistically be in the range of $6 billion for both a road and rail tunnel.
So turns out a tunnel through the Blue Mountains is a bit more expensive than Musk anticipated, so it may end up on the back burner for NSW politicians. However, there is an upside to all of this Elon Musk and a Blue Mountain’s tunnel hoopla; it seems that NSW politicians have been totally digging (pun intended) the innovation of Musk.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance applauded Musk’s vision, explaining that it is “[the] kind of innovation which in years to come could form part of the transport network.” Constance said that the NSW government is “very happy to look at ways in which we can…work with [Musk] to achieve these goals”, although “at the moment what is being looked at from his perspective isn’t a reality.”
So even though a tunnel through the Blue Mountains is off the table at the moment, the NSW government is open to innovative solutions. And that is something, at least.