A SECOND BORE will be added to the 24year-old Frejus road tunnel through the Alps between France and Italy, operators confirmed last month.
The addition to the 12km tunnel is a response to fears about the safety of single bore tunnels following the Mont Blanc tunnel fire in 1999 in which 38 people died.
The new bore will be about 4.8m diameter said Alain Chabert, technical director for SFTRF (Société Française du Tunnel Routier du Fréjus) which operates the French side of the tunnel. The Italian end is run by SITAF (Società italiana Traforo Autostradale del Fréjus).
Design work has begun for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2011.
The E 280M (£42M) project is part of a plan to upgrade safety levels for the busy 10m diameter main tunnel, which carries between 3,500 and 4,000 heavy lorries daily.
Governments and operators have been increasingly concerned about fire and evacuation risks following disasters at the Mont Blanc, Tauern, Kaprun and Gleinalm tunnels.
Mont Blanc has been upgraded to incorporate an escape route in the under-road ventilation duct. This is not possible at Frejus as the ventilation duct is above the road.
The new tunnel could provide an escape route, but will also be used to provide access for construction of extra fire shelters in the wall of the main tunnel. This will allow the tunnel to stay open during construction work.
At the moment, fire shelters are at 1,500m intervals. The new refuges will reduce spacing to 400m.