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SAGE delivering construct for Refit and Safety Upgrade of the Heysen Tunnels

Published: January 30, 2024 - Updated: January 30, 2024

SAGE Automation has been selected as the Plant Monitoring and Control System (PMCS) and Intelligent Transport System (ITS) subcontractor to McConnell Dowell for the Heysen Tunnels Refit and Safety Upgrade.


Undertaken by the South Australian Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT), the project will address the current Heysen Tunnel elements that are at the end of their service life, improve safety and provide improved traffic management and incident response capabilities.


SAGE will provide the construct services for the supply and installation of a new and upgraded PMCS along with the supply and installation of a newly updated ITS that will operate both internally and externally to the tunnel.


“Working on the Heysen Tunnels is something that SAGE takes great pride in and forms part of the rich historical fabric of our South Australian roots,” said Justin Kahl, Executive General Manager, SAGE Automation.


The Heysen Tunnels Refit and Safety Upgrade forms part of a broader South Eastern Freeway (SEF) Upgrade, funded by a combined $150 million from the state and federal governments.



An aerial overview of the Heysen Tunnels component of the South Eastern Freeway Upgrade Project.
Image: Department for Infrastructure and Transport.


The SEF transports more than 50,000 vehicles every day and forms part of the strategic Adelaide to Melbourne road corridor for South Australia, with more than 10% of SEF traffic being heavy vehicles, demonstrating how critical the road is for freight as well as commuters.


As part of the National Land Transport Network, maintaining efficient operation of the SEF is recognised by Infrastructure Australia as a nationally significant issue.


The twin Heysen Tunnels run side-by-side on the SEF between Adelaide and Crafers, providing a crucial link between Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills. Each tunnel is 500 metres long, 10.5 metres wide, has three lanes (each 3.5 metres wide) with a 90 km/hour speed limit, and takes approximately 20 seconds to drive through.


Since the Heysen Tunnels were built in 2000, SAGE has been responsible for the PMCS upgrades and maintenance, building a long-standing working relationship with DIT on several projects to upgrade the iconic SA tunnel.

“The first Heysen Tunnels project 23 years ago was our first million-dollar project, despite SAGE only being six years old at the time,”
Justin Kahl, Executive General Manager, SAGE Automation.


“It’s a testament to the high-quality work SAGE engineers have delivered over a long period of time that our story continues to be linked with such a critical piece of South Australian infrastructure.”


In 2014, DIT turned to SAGE to integrate new sensor technology with the Heysen Tunnels safety control system – an Australian-first solution at the time and the cutting edge of predictive maintenance.


The system detects wear and tear through sensors installed at 12 points on each of the tunnels’ jet fans. These sensors monitor the status of each fan and mounting bracket, via vibration trends. SAGE configured the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) components of the fan vibration monitoring system.


Alan Ford, a senior systems engineer with SAGE, helped deliver this project almost 10 years ago and was on the team that delivered the first works in 2000. He is also part of the team of SAGE engineers delivering the Refit and Safety Upgrade.


“The Heysen Tunnels continue to be a big part of my journey as an engineer at SAGE Automation and an ongoing partnership I’m proud to be involved with, particularly given the Heysen Tunnels form such an integral part of many South Australians’ daily commute,” he said.


Heysen-Tunnels-Adelaide-HillsThe Heysen Tunnels provide an important passageway between the Adelaide Hills and the CBD for South Australian residents. Image: Department for Infrastructure and Transport.


“Navigating the inner complexities of tunnel systems requires intricate knowledge of both the tunnel itself and the unique traffic environment it resides in to ensure congestion is reduced while keeping commuters safe.


“This latest project is a great example of how industrial digitalisation technologies can support safer, more efficient tunnels and roads.”


The Heysen Tunnels Refit and Safety Upgrade involves the installation of new tunnel lighting, ventilation, fire suppression and ITS – including thermal incident detection systems, new and replacement CCTV, electronic variable speed and messaging signage (VMS) and over height vehicle detection.


Initial activities for the Refit and Safety Upgrade commenced on 19 March 2023 and the entirety of the works are expected to be completed in the second half of 2024.


Improving the operation and maintenance of the Heysen Tunnels for more than 20 years, SAGE is committed to delivering smart transport solutions that deliver meaningful value, enhance safety and monitoring capabilities, and fast-track digitalisation.


Learn more about how we work on some of the most complex tunnel projects in Australia, from initial design through to tunnel maintenance and ongoing support to find out how we can improve your tunnel's operation and lifespan. See our dedicated Tunnels page.

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