Innovative system for testing tunnel safety

LABEIN Tecnological Centre, based in the Basque Country, has developed an innovative system for verifying tunnel safety in the case of fire. The new system, developed at the request of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Government, has been successfully tested in the new Lezarri (Bergara) tunnel on the A1 Eibar-Vitoria motorway.

The novel element in the testing set up by LABEIN, compared to other systems used to date, is that the verification can be carried out in a short period (about 8 hours) and without producing any deterioration or dirt in the tunnel.

The system, unheard of in Europe to date, is based on the use of equipment which generates hot (clean) gases which can emulate the smoke produced in a real fire both in terms of quantities and temperature. In this way, the behaviour of the gases when the tunnel’s ventilation system is activated may be studied, according to a pre-established programme.

The key safety factor when a tunnel fire occurs is the correct working of the ventilation system in order to ensure efficient control of the gases. Only in this way can an evacuation be guaranteed in the first minutes of a fire, those decisive minutes for saving lives.

Although there does not exist any specific regulation requiring that these tests be carried out, the public authorities, in this case the Gipuzkoa Provincial Government, are pushing for these realistic fire simulations as a means of testing the safety of a structure so important to users that is a tunnel.

The tests carried out on the Eibar-Vitoria highway involved co-ordination by the Gipuzkoa Provincial Government of all the bodies affected: LABEIN directing the tests; IDOM which directed the building work; UTE Gallastegi responsible for installations, equipment and systems, and the Gipuzkoa Fire Service guaranteeing safety during the trials.

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Uhaina Atxotegi Alegria Basque research

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