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Concrete: Italian life saver

Fire protection in tunnels is a critical issue. NCE reports on vital work to boost protection in Italy’s Serralunga tunnel.

Serralunga tunnel

Choice of methods: FireBarrier 135 can be applied either in the form of pre-cast sheets, or by spraying to a substrate attached to the tunnel

For many years now, the engineering world has sought innovative yet effective solutions to the problems of ensuring safety in road tunnels, and in particular protection against the constant threat of fire. Now, the users of one key road tunnel in central Italy are thoroughly protected.

Fire in road tunnels can have catastrophic consequences; not only does it threaten human life, but it can cause huge damage to the tunnel’s structure, in some cases resulting in collapse. Fires in tunnels burn at extremely high temperatures; a typical tunnel car fire reaches 400°C, but a large petrol tanker fire may reach 1,400°C. Consequently all tunnels must offer protection sufficient to deal with these events.

The Serralunga tunnel runs for 1.3km near the mountain town of Rocca di Cambio, in Italy, connecting the popular ski resorts of Campo Felice with the Plateau Rocche via the motorway system. Built at an altitude of 1,600m, the Serralunga tunnel has a gradient of 4.5% and was opened to traffic in December 2013.

“This is only the second tunnel in Italy to use this cutting-edge technical solution, and we are delighted to be leading the way in this field”

Ermanno Magni, Morgan, Advanced Materials

The Serralunga Tunnel has two escape routes, which take the form of suspended walkways. The challenge that faced the design team working on this project was lining those escape walkways with a material that could withstand extremely high temperatures, protecting both the tunnel’s structure and the people within from the ravages of fire and the effects of smoke. Having considered all options, they chose to use FireMaster FireBarrier 135 from Morgan Advanced Materials, supplied through specialist installer ­Kapyfract.

FireBarrier 135 can be applied either in the form of pre-cast sheets, or by spraying it to a substrate attached to the tunnel. In the Serralunga Tunnel, the product has been applied over a galvanised wire mesh, allowing it to reach every part of the ­tunnel surface. The product’s high adhesion capacity means very little of the material is lost during application and it is applied in a single application - a mere 36mm thickness was ideal for theSerralunga work - and dries quickly, a particular advantage in the Serralunga project, since all parties wanted to see the tunnel open promptly.

Morgan is pleased with the results of the Serralunga Tunnel project. “This is only the second tunnel in Italy to use this cutting-edge technical solution, and we are delighted to be leading the way in this field,” says Ermanno Magni, Morgan’s technical product application manager, Europe.

“The installation of FireBarrier 135 in this project was swift and straightforward and it has given a smooth and uniform finish to the tunnel escape routes. Most importantly, we know from extensive testing that the use of this product helps to ensure the safety of people using the Serralunga Tunnel, even in extreme fire conditions.”

Specialist fire protection consultant Francesco Ferrari concurs with Magni. “The treatment of the suspended escape galleries in this tunnel provides an extremely significant layer of protection for users of this tunnel,” he says, adding that its use is backed by a wealth of evidence, and that installation was indeed prompt, with approximately 600m² of protection achieved in under 40 days.

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