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Second bore to be built alongside fire hit Tauern tunnel

NEWS

A £100M PARALLEL bore is to be driven next to Austria's Tauern tunnel in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last week's blaze tragedy in which 12 people died.

The Salzburg state government said it would push ahead with plans to build a second tunnel next to the 24 year old fire damaged structure. It is proposed that the new tunnel would reduce traffic flow through the original bore, improving road safety.

Methods of financing the second tunnel have still to be worked out, although increasing tolls for lorries is one option.

However, the Tauern road tunnel is only the second most dangerous in the country, according to German motoring organisation ADAC which claimed that the 5.3km single bore Febertauern tunnel is the country's worst.

ADAC commissioned Essen based consultant DMT to assess 12 Austrian tunnels and eight others ahead of the summer holidays. It rated the tunnels' compliance with existing German and Austrian safety codes.

Febertauern's communications systems, escape footpaths and fire ventilation systems were all rated 'bad' - the worst possible rating. However, its disaster management systems and traffic surveillance systems were described as 'very good'.

Tauern was ranked 11th out of the 12 Austrian tunnels. Its fire ventilation system and 1.5m to 1.8m wide escape footpaths were considered to be 'bad'. Laybys for breakdowns were rated 'poor', although its disaster management systems and traffic surveillance systems were labelled 'very good' and the tunnel communications system was rated 'sufficient'.

Austrian highways agency Osag said it would comment on the ratings later this week.

It also emerged this week that more than half of those who died in the Tauern tunnel fire were killed in the crash which sparked the inferno.

Osag said seven of the dead had been killed when the four cars in which they were travelling were crushed between two lorries. Initially, it was thought that only one car was involved in the pile up. The other five travellers died as a result of the fire itself.

Fire broke out in the single bore Tauern tunnel at 5am on 29 May (NCE last week). The cars were pushed into the back of another lorry which was waiting in a queue ahead of a roadworks' traffic light 180m from the tunnels northern entrance. Osag sources suspected the lorry at the back of the pile up had been travelling too fast.

In total, 40 vehicles were caught up in the blaze and 49 people injured. Around 130m of the 6.4km structure is known to have been severely damaged by the fire. The tunnel remains closed.

andyb@construct.emap.co.uk

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