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World tunnel authorities to embrace sprinklers and foam

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GOVERNMENT TRANSPORT offi als across the globe are expected to drop long standing opposition to the use of prinklers and foam to fight tunnel fires.

The decision is expected to be ratifi ed later this month at a key meeting of the World Roads Association, or PIARC, whose members include ffi cials from 120 governments.

ts recommendations are hugely influential.

For years PIARC has refused to approve fire suppression systems such as sprinklers and foam sprays.

There were fears that such systems might not work when needed, that sprinklers might restrict visibility, or that foams could make the road surface dangerously slippery for emergency services.

But advances in technology, coupled with disasters like the 2001 St Gotthard tunnel fire, have prompted a rethink.

'PIARC set up a working group last year to look at fires in tunnels and how suppression and ventilation systems could help save lives, ' said Halcrow director of fire safety engineering and PIARC tunnel safety technical committee member Fahti Terada.

'It will report back at the end of this month and I believe it will support the use of fire suppression systems where appropriate.' Full scale fi re tests have convinced several governments to begin fitting fire suppression systems.

Japan is said to have almost 100 tunnels protected by sprinklers, Australia has 10, and the Netherlands recently specifi d a compressed air foam system for the 2km Roermund tunnel.

A water mist system will be installed in the double deck tunnel that forms part of the A86 near Paris (NCE 22 August 2002)).

The Highways Agency said it was 'actively investigating' fi e suppression systems and hoped to collaborate with other countries in more full scale tests.

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