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Motorists run biggest risk in British tunnels

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ROAD TUNNELS in the UK are among the most dangerous in Europe, motoring organisations said this week.

London's Blackwall tunnel is ranked as the second most hazardous in Europe, according to research by German consultants on behalf of the Eurotest consortium, which includes the AA.

Earlier this year, the German firm Deutsche Montan Technologie inspected 30 tunnels across Europe, six of them British.

Each was graded according to lane width, congestion, emergency and fire fighting equipment, escape routes, ventilation systems and drills.

They were also assessed for risk potential using factors such as traffic volumes, gradients and proportion of heavy goods vehicles using them.

Four of the UK's six - the two Blackwall tunnel bores, the Mersey Queensway and Tyne tunnels - were in the bottom 10, with only one, the Mersey Kingsway making the top 10. The Dartford tunnel was placed 18th.

None of the British tunnels made the 'very good' category.

The report is likely to increase pressure for greater regulation of British tunnels At present, responsibility for tunnel safety rests with individual operators.

There is no national or international legislation specifically governing tunnel safety and no separate independent tunnels inspectorate.

The report graded the Mont Blanc tunnel as joint safest with Belgium's Cointe tunnel.

Mont Blanc reopened only recently following extensive refurbishment after 39 people died when a lorry caught fire in 1999.

Best to worst: tunnel ranking 1Cointe, Belgium 2 Mont Blanc, France/Italy 3 Wijker, Netherlands 7 Mersey Kingsway, UK 18 Dartford, UK 21 Mersey Queensway, UK 24 Tyne, UK 28 Blackwall North, UK 29 Blackwall South, UK 30 Loibl, Austria/Slovenia

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