In recent years, there have been a number of severe fires in road and rail tunnels in Europe, including three fires in the Channel Tunnel between England and France, one in the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy and one in Tauern Tunnel in Austria. There was also a fire in a metro tunnel in Daegu in Korea. In all of these fires, significant damage was caused to the concrete tunnel linings resulting in long tunnel closures, costly repairs and major disruption to the local transport infrastructure.
Following these fires, concern was heightened and public confidence in the safety of tunnels declined. Impact on economic growth within the European Community was also a factor in the introduction of a European Directive 2004/54/EC which dealt with the issue of “Minimum” safety requirements in road tunnels on the Trans European Road Network (TERN). At the same time, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the USA also decided to deal with the concerns regarding the structural resilience of tunnels in the USA and the requirement for the protection of structures was introduced into NFPA Standard 502 for Road Tunnels in 2004.
Every tunnel carries individual operational risks and these can vary widely from tunnel to tunnel depending on such variables as tunnel length, geometric configuration, traffic volumes, vehicle types and mix.
Article 13 of the European Directive calls for a Quantified Risk Assessment to be carried out for every tunnel on the TERN and this must be undertaken by an entity that is fully independent from the Tunnel Owner or Stakeholder. In the same way NFPA 502 requires an Engineering Analysis to be carried out in order to identify the specific risks for any particular tunnel.
This approach has now been accepted as industry “Best Practice” for ascertaining specific “Operational Risks”. Designers, Consulting Engineers and Tunnel Stakeholders may then also use this information with other established design tools such as Structural Assessments, Computational Fluid Dynamic Simulations, Finite Element Analysis, Whole Life Costing and other methods in order to select the most appropriate Fire Protection and Life Safety solutions for every tunnel.
Isolatek International is able to assist in the development of appropriate structural fire protection solutions for any tunnel whether it is road, rail or metro.