A successful meeting on Tunnel Safety, organised by Björn Paulsson, was held on 4 June at UIC. Twenty-two participants, including five guest speakers, from railways and the supply industry, attended the meeting, which examined the different experiences in using TSI SRT (Technical Specifications for Interoperability on Safety in Railway Tunnels) in Europe addressing any current difficulties and suggestions for future improvements.
Björn Paulsson, UIC, and Klaus-Jürgen Bieger, DB, opened the meeting and extended a warm welcome to the participants. A series of presentations by various railway representatives was delivered throughout the day, examining experiences with the TSI SRT, a European law that has been in force since July 2008 and applicable in all European member states, with the exception of Malta and Cyprus, which do not have a railway network.
Dr Hanspeter Stoll, Head of Risk Management Safety at SBB, reported that SBB’s tunnel safety strategy is compliant with TSI SRT regulations and that the latter serve as the guidelines for the company’s general tunnel safety policy, even though Switzerland is not an EU member. Though TSI SRT is only applicable to new tunnels, existing tunnels comply with UIC and UNECE requirements, to which TSI SRT refers. The application of TSI SRT to new-build tunnels has resulted in new standards for self-rescue facilities such as emergency lighting and walkways.
Austrian infrastructure manager ÖBB reported that its experience with TSI SRT had been generally very positive. The standards are being applied to railway tunnels currently under construction and are considered when upgrading and renewing existing tunnels in Austria. ÖBB also reported on new requirements for the Austrian railway infrastructure brought about by this legislation, in particular concerning fire protection and electrical cables in tunnels. It is partly thanks to the new regulations that rail transport safety levels are significantly higher than those of road transport. What needs to be constantly monitored, however, are the specific risks that could cause serious accidents.
Combining TSI SRT with existing legislation is perhaps one of the most significant challenges facing tunnel experts today. Much work needs to be undertaken to produce new codes of practice and revise existing ones. Due to a number of serious accidents in recent years, tunnel safety is a mildly controversial topic, which is why it is essential to continue working on improving safety for passengers. The good news, however, is that according to statistics, the worst accidents in tunnels (namely fires) are clearly on the decrease, compared to accidents in other locations such as on the open line or level crossings.