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January 28, 2020

 Road tunnels and technology in an operational perspective
Arild Petter Sovik, Tunntech Global News

Dramatic scenes with flames, smoke and a long tunnel will be a new Norwegian action film with a budget of over 3 million Euro. In recent years Norway have experienced several major tunnel fires that could quickly turn out to be disasters, with many killed. A real scenario well suited for an action film, they say.

Several innovative businesses are working with new better materials to provide tunnel owners with construction elements that uses materials well suited for other more demanding industries. But are we ready to challenge the traditional materials?

Haramsfjord tunnel (3.5 km), Nogvafjord tunnel (5.7 km) and Fjortoftfjord tunnel (3,7 km) in the Nordoyvegen tunnel project is a few steps closer to construction. The tunnels were initially planned with a 10 percent incline, but later reduced to 7 to 8 percent due to a growing awareness to the fire hazard in steep subsea tunnels. The tunnels are still steep and need special attention when deciding the right safety systems, equipment and other safety measures. Reducing risk for fire is a high priority issue for these tunnels.

Tecdron wins the largest tender ever published in Europe for technical assistance and fire-fighting robots. A new more powerful and more reliable robot will be used by the Parisian Fire Brigade to secure the underground works of the “Grand Paris”.

A road tunnel represents the worst danger potential when it comes to heavy vehicle fires. Recent work from the Université de Lausanne by the honorary professor Jean Claud Martin focuses on this danger and the main causes of such fires. 

A similar fire to the serious fire in 2011, occurred may 2017 in the Oslofjord tunnel. This time the extensive self-rescue measures that was installed in 2011, worked perfectly and consequences on road users became modest. Installed safety systems and self-rescue rooms seem to have contributed to this. 

"Eyes on the Tunnel" is the motto with which ASFINAG focuses on traffic safety. Part of the campaign are motorway posters in front of the tunnel portals, advertisements on radio stations etc. At the same time, a three-minute videoclip on the topic of "tunnel safety" can be seen on social media channels.

Generally for smoke testing applications the experts recommend oil based smoke systems instead of the normal water based smoke systems. This is because water based smoke evaporates relatively quickly, especially when combined with a hot air source to give thermal buoyancy, and hence it is not very representative of how smoke from a real fire would behave.

The ViCount smoke system produce a smoke with the smallest particle size in its class, but with a high temperature resistance. Many of today’s Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models for smoke were based on the use of these systems. The smoke produced is not in itself hot, but it is extremely temperature resistant, so it can be added to the hot gases created by a burn tray or heater and used to trace how smoke would travel.

Critically, the ViCount smoke hardly evaporates at all. In a tunnel environment will smoke from these systems travel many kilometres, even with the tunnel jet fans operating. Using jet fans with water based smoke rapidly evaporates the smoke. 

Such a system can be used to hot fire training, large scale exercises, functional testing etc. 

Photo: Concept Smoke Systems, ViCount



St. Pauli Elbtunnel opened in 1911 and is a combined pedestrian and vehicle tunnel in Hamburg, Germany. The over 400-meter-long tunnel was a technical sensation in the early 1900. The need for refurbishment has reached this amazing tunnel in Hamburg.

Centre of Excellence offers worldwide network for safety and security of Public Transport Underground Facilities. It is well established that the topics of each ITA COSUF organized event are the first choice of the newest developments. ITA-COSUF gather high-professional speakers which present case studies and report on the newest knowledge. The latest successful meeting was the workshop in Bergen at the World Tunnelling Congress (WTC 2017). 

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