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Race to check Swiss tunnels after Neuchatel closure

NEWS

TUNNEL ENGINEERS have been given just two weeks to test the safety of Switzerland's 'highest priority' single bore tunnels

by the country's Federal Roads Department.

At an urgent meeting in Bern last Wednesday, 60 engineers and tunnel operators were ordered to check fire risk on all 190 of Switzerland's highway tunnels.

The move follows the closure of the three year old Neuchatel tunnel last week after its ventilation system was found to be inadequate (NCE last week).

Tunnel safety will be assessed against four key criteria:

The ability of the ventilation system to remove smoke.

The number and adequacy of escape routes and shelter points.

The organisation of fire fighters and tunnel managers.

The level of information available to motorists on how to behave in the event of a fire.

Tunnels will be divided into three levels of priority. Checks on the country's 29 single bore tunnels which are more than 600m long will have to be completed by 21 June.

Twin bore tunnels over 600m long with more than 250 traffic jam hours a year will have to be checked by 30 June. Tests on the remaining tunnels will have to be completed a week later.

A spokesman for the Federal Roads Department said further tunnel closures would be carried out if any failed the new tests.

He stressed: 'The question of constructing second tubes for single bore tunnels is highly political because of our environmental laws to protect the Alps. It will be up to parliament to decide on any major civils works.'

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