Tight budgets and the call for safety - these are diametric opposites that also collide in the world of road tunnels. For ten years now, ADAC and EuroTAP (European Tunnel Assessment Programme), initiated and co-ordinated by ADAC, have been strongly committed to safety in tunnels. Every year, this unique, methodological test programme makes safety standards visible and comparable on a European scale. And this has led to lasting success.
Winners of the EuroTAP Tunnel Awards. From left representatives
from Austria, Croatia, Luxembourg and Spain
At the beginning of this year, European ministers and tunnel operators, EU parliamentarians and representatives of the EU Commission were invited by ADAC president Peter Meyer to witness the first-time awarding of the European Tunnel Awards in Brussels. Mr Claude Wiseler, Minister of Civil Engineering in Luxembourg, was pleased to see the Markusberg tunnel awarded, and emphasised: "Awarding the test winners means that the technical, financial and at times political decisions which we made were right. And this motivates public authorities to continue with this work." EuroTAP is setting standards. EuroTAP is creating awareness. For instance, in Austria where in response to the weak results of the first years a tunnel commission was formed at the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT). Other countries have also responded, for example, Switzerland: In 1999 when the San Bernardino tunnel was tested and failed with a rating of Poor. This tunnel was subsequently refurbished and is now rated Very good. "EuroTAP is an instrument that helps to ensure that laws in Europe governing road tunnel safety are not just a "paper tiger" but that they are implemented in practice", says EU parliamentarian and rapporteur Reinhard Rack.
But a tunnel does not necessarily have to be brand marked as bad in order to be given a safety check-up. The Plabutsch tunnel, for instance, was rated Good in 1999. Despite this, the powers that be decided to build a second tube following the disasters in the Montblanc and Tauern tunnels. In 2005, the Plabutsch tunnel was rewarded with a rating of Very good. The San Bernardino and Plabutsch tunnels are just two of 282 tunnels in 20 countries which were inspected over the past ten years by independent experts commissioned by EuroTAP. These experts travelled all over the continent, from Norway to the Canary Islands, from Portugal to Slovakia, passing through more than 1,100 kilometres of tunnel, visiting tunnels from the century before last, like the Del Tenda tunnel which was opened in 1882. They also inspected sheer endless tunnels - in Norway's Lærdal tunnel, the exit portal is 24.5 kilometres from the entry portal. The inspectors travelled always with one thing in mind: human safety. They scrutinised escape facilities, ventilation and fire protection. They looked into how emergency situations can be mastered in tunnels. "At lot has happened since the early days", says Dieter Tetzner, Product Manager for Tunnel Safety at DMT and an inspector who has always been on site since the beginning. "Operators have come to realise that some things have to change."
By 2014, and in justified cases by 2019, the minimum standards of the EU Directive must be fulfilled and this will ultimately mean considerable expenditure. By 2019, at least seven billion euro will be invested in tunnel refurbishment in the ten countries most tested up to now. In Germany alone, 550 million euro will be invested in the years to come. Italy and France will spend around two billion euro, Austria one billion and Switzerland 800 million. But where there is light, there is bound to be darkness. Just recently, the European Commission, which financially backed EuroTAP between 2005 and 2007, issued a warning to the UK and Greece, urging them to comply with the safety requirements.
From 1999 to 2008, 26 percent of the tunnels tested failed. If we take a look at this year alone, nine of the 31 and hence 29 percent of the tunnels tested using strict criteria within the scope of EuroTAP received results that are below the minimum standards required by the EU Directive. Especially Italy and Norway, which continuously deliver the poorest ratings in the tests, highlight the necessity for the checks. So, there is still a lot to do, and EuroTAP will keep up its work. Robert Sauter, who initiated the tunnel test programme ten years ago, promises: "We will continue to test tunnels and to exert public pressure via the media. The people in charge will respond with investment and tunnel refurbishment. The consequences are safe tunnels and ultimately this will benefit everybody."