Elon Musk’s underground traffic buster is still very much an unproven design. Picture: Robyn Beck.
Elon Musk’s underground traffic buster is still very much an unproven design. Picture: Robyn Beck.

Musk slammed on Sydney tunnel quote

Colourful technology entrepreneur Elon Musk's suggestion that he could help cure Sydney's traffic congestion by building an underground tunnel under the Blue Mountains for a billion dollars has been rubbished by experts.

The idea is that an underground transit tunnel would help directly connect parts of greater western Sydney to the inner city and allow commuters to travel at much high speeds than terrestrial roads.

Mr Musk did not pitch the idea but was responding to a question from independent NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham on Twitter on Wednesday night.

"I'm a lawmaker in Sydney, which is choking with traffic. How much to build a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains and open up the west of our State?" he asked Mr Musk.

Well known for his avid use of Twitter, Mr Musk replied saying it would take about $15 million per kilometre for the two-way tunnel and an additional $50 million per station. Given the necessary length of such a tunnel, the impromptu quote works out to be around the $1 billion mark.

But engineering and tunnel building experts have laughed off the remarkably low figure, saying Mr Musk is dreaming.

Speaking to the ABC, a chorus of highly experienced tunnelling engineers dismissed the quote as simply delusional for such a difficult project.

"He's out by at least a factor of 10 and up to a factor of 50," said engineer and hydrogeologist Philip Pells.

"I'm not trying to knock the guy, but he's not going to be able to build a tunnel through the Blue Mountains for $1 billion," he told the ABC.

Mr Buckingham tweeted a picture of a potential route for such a project during his Twitter exchange with the controversial billionaire.

The Green MP was quick to post a picture of the route the Elon Musk.
The Green MP was quick to post a picture of the route the Elon Musk.

The 47-year-old entrepreneur is best known for being the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. More recently he started the Boring Company, promising to dig tunnels seemingly wherever anyone will let him.

Mr Musk unveiled an early prototype design of his underground transport system in Los Angeles in December.

Rather than driving themselves, commuters have their vehicle secured on platforms that can travel at high speeds between underground stations. Or so the idea goes.

When Australia's own high profile technology entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes tweeted to Mr Musk about building a giant battery in South Australia less than two years ago, it didn't take long before construction was under way.

That project has proven to be a huge success, but this latest idea is far less likely to ever eventuate.

Mr Buckingham included Mr Cannon-Brookes in the original tweet and the co-founder of software company Atlassian seemed to like the idea. "Sounds like a bargain for Sydney," he wrote.

The former Greens MP, who resigned from the party in December to run as an independent, agreed.

"Thanks mate. Sounds like a bargain," Mr Buckingham replied to the Musk response. "Could be a game changer to go under the Blue Mountains with a modern link between Sydney and the west. I'll raise it with the Premier [Gladys Berejiklian], other colleagues, the community, and get back to you."

Mr Buckingham has been pushing for the project since the 1990s, when he was a councillor in Orange in regional NSW.

"For about the price of knocking down one stadium, Elon Musk says he can build a transport loop for NSW that would be the envy of the world," he said in a statement this morning.

"Autonomous, electric vehicles that generate zero pollution are the future of transport. It would be madness not to further investigate what could be an infrastructure and planning game changer for Sydney and our regions."

Elon Musk's Boring company has yet to complete any serious projects but is set to build a tunnel connecting downtown Chicago to the O-Hare airport.

- With AAP

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, centre, waves as he waits for a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing last week. Picture: Mark Schiefelbein
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, centre, waves as he waits for a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing last week. Picture: Mark Schiefelbein