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– Essential safety measures are not being implemented in many tunnels

​Work to improve the safety of road tunnels has not progressed far enough. "Important upgrades have been initiated, but safety documentation is still not in place for many tunnels, and no fire drills are being carried out. Road users also do not have sufficient awareness of safe conduct in tunnels", said Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 9/6/2016 10:00 AM

​Document 3:16 (2015–2016) The Office of the Auditor General of Norway's investigation into the work of the public authorities to improve road tunnel safety was submitted to the Storting on 6 September. The investigation looks at how safety has been followed up in line with applicable tunnel safety regulations, the content of risk analyses and contingency plans, the execution of drills and inspections, and the information given to road users concerning safety in tunnels.

An average of 1300 undesirable vehicle stoppages, 25 fires and 15 incipient fires occur in the 1130 road tunnels across Norway every year. The Office of the Auditor General has looked more closely at conditions in 41 tunnels that are considered to be particularly high risk. The investigation shows that the risk analyses for the majority of these tunnels do not consider special conditions or risks associated with the tunnel.

"Unless satisfactory risk assessments are carried out, it will be impossible to determine the safety measures that should be implemented, or to prepare contingency and action plans for tunnels", said Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.
In the case of around half of the tunnels in the sample, no fire drills have been carried out over the past four years. This includes seven sub-sea tunnels, which risk analyses and actual events have indicated experience far more fires than other tunnels.

Inadequate information is also given to road users concerning self-rescue procedures and conduct when driving in tunnels and safety equipment and its use.

"The investigation shows that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration does not adequately follow up safety in far too many cases", said Foss.

Key guidelines, guides and the quality system have either not been drawn up or have not been updated, nor do they provide clear guidelines for the work relating to risk analyses and contingency plans in the regions. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration also does not possess adequate information to ensure that tunnels are managed in line with applicable laws and regulations.

The Office of the Auditor General recommends that the Ministry of Transport and Communications ensure that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration update the framework for the management of safety in tunnels, develop a common guide for contingency plans and follow up the management being carried out in the regions. The Office of the Auditor General also recommends that, in consultation with the emergency agencies, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration strengthens its competence concerning fire and rescue and instigates additional measures to provide road users with a better knowledge of self-rescue procedures and safety equipment in road tunnels.

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