The much-anticipated Road Tunnel Operators Forum and Road Tunnel Association Annual meeting, delayed from 2020, was held on 23 and 24 November in Guildford. Sponsored and managed by Smart Video & Sensing Ltd (SVS), there was a fantastic in person turn out of more than 120 attendees and 11 exhibitors.
The event was chaired by Joe Powell of WSP on behalf of National Highways, and speakers covered a wide range of topics of interest to the industry.
Graham Pearce provided an update for the proceeding of the RTA in the morning including insights on the effect of Covid which had seen a reduction of tunnel incidents by 60% at the peak although these are now sadly starting rise with some members reporting a reduction of 40% of incidents level and many reporting that traffic levels had returned to pre-covid levels or higher. Other topics covered included use of PA Systems and the benefits of pre-recorded versus free speech and male and female voices. This subject was also covered in the main Forum by Martin Kelly of Tunnel Control Consultants Ltd presenting a case study of his work with TII to replace the PA- Voice Alarm system in the Dublin Tunnel and Santosh Pillai of Bosch discussing the application of their Praesensa System in the Mersey Tunnel.
The Forum itself included presentations from Simon Johnson from Mott MacDonald on the CIRIA Tunnel Management Guidance Update to reflect the need to look at the management and operation of tunnel assets focussing on the tunnel structure in a situation of changing and uncertain world; advances in technology; the need to do more for less and an understanding of an environment of aging infrastructure. Kate Hunt from WSP and John Nicholas from National Highways reviewed The Road Tunnel Safety (Amendment) Regulation 2021 which came into force in May 2021 and which were introduced as a result of Britain leaving the EU and the need to manage the legacy of the eight British road tunnels on the Trans-European Road Network.
With an international view, Pierre Charcellay of Egis and CETU provided feedback from the GTFE (the French Road Tunnel Association) and their most recent meetings both in person and virtually mirroring discussions that UK colleagues have had around managing services during covid restrictions, how to ensure driver compliance with tunnel closures and restrictions, the implications of new vehicle technologies such as EVs and hydrogen and safety management in general. Fathi Tarada from PIARC also expanded on these aspects and the work that is being carried out by the Strategic Theme Group TC4.4 who are looking at Road Tunnel within the Resilient Infrastructure workstream. Including measures for increasing resilience in tunnels; best practise in management in urban and heavily trafficked tunnels and the impact of new propulsion technologies on road tunnel operations and safety. PIARC are in the process of issuing collations of Case Studies on these aspects including examples from around the World. There are also hope that the World Road Conference in 2026 could be held in the UK and those interested in being involved or supporting the proposal are asked to contact Fathi.
Peter Eccleson from SVS presented a case study from a pilot project on the National Tunnel Detection Testbed of successfully using TRUGRD Stream combined radar / CCTV in tunnel detection applications to overcome the issues of extreme numbers of false alarms using traditional approaches to radar within tunnels. Laurie Kenny discussed the lessons learned from Blackwall Tunnel fire earlier this year, in particular, successfully working with the Metropolitan Police to evacuate the vehicles in the tunnel and the relevance of social media in such a situation (which have been known to provide the first indication of a tunnel incident on some occasions).
The most unusual and innovative case study came from Gareth Davies from LuxPopuli who described the project undertaken on the NorthConnex Tunnel in New South Wales to design and install an internal architectural lighting scheme to help keep drivers engaged and give them reference points as they drive through the 9km long tunnel. The work undertaken both to ensure the lighting wasn’t distracting or encouraged risky behaviours was conducted and involved Transurban, Transport for NSW, and the University of NSW and considered all aspects even down to plotting the movement of the sun to ensure glare of mirrored bird silhouettes at the entrance and exit of the tunnels. The end of the first day was rounded off with a fantastic dinner provided by the hotel and the guest speaker was Shaun Williamson most famous as being “Barry from Eastenders” who entertained with renditions of Sweet Caroline and Is this the way to Amarillo. It is hoped to hold the next forum in Spring 2022 and the RTOF would welcome approaches from potential hosts of the event.
Reporting by Sharon Kindleysides for Highways News
(Picture – Smart Video and Sensing)