Fréjus fire underlines need for twin tube tunnels
Geneva – The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has expressed its regret at last Saturdayâ€™s fire in the Fréjus road tunnel between France and Italy, in which two people died, and extends its condolences to their families and loved ones. In addition to the resulting human tragedy, the fire will probably have a significant economic impact as well, as the single-tube Fréjus tunnel, a strategic economic road link between France and Italy, is likely to remain closed for a considerable time. The Italian Industry Association Confindustria estimated the cost of the closure of the Mt Blanc road tunnel 1999-2002 at EUR 500 million per year, for the Italian economy alone.
To maximise road safety and economic security, the IRU therefore repeats its call to governments to implement the recommendation of the United Nations Tunnel Safety Report, approved on 17 January 2002, which calls for twin tube tunnels on major road axes. It also urges European Union Member States to complete transposition of the EU Directive (2004/54/EC of 29 April 2004) on minimum safety requirements for Tunnels in the Trans-European Road Network.
Both the UN Report and the EU Directive call for the same number of lanes to be maintained inside and outside the tunnel, whereas the single-tube, two-lane Fréjus tunnel connects four-lane motorways on both the French and Italian sides. Both the UN Report and the EU Directive specify that overall traffic volume and the percentage of Heavy Goods Vehicles should be taken into account when determining if a second tube is needed. Nearly 5â€™500 vehicles per day used the Fréjus tunnel in 2004, of which over half were HGVs.