It seems that the future design of Swiss road tunnels may be changed based on last month’s tragic bus crash in which 28 people died, including 22 children. The initial cause of the crash at the Tunnel de Geronde, near Sierre, in Switzerland is still unknown. But the fact that the bus impacted the flat face of a lay-by wall at 90 degrees contributed to the severity of the crash.
Swiss Authorities have said that the design of lay-by walls in the tunnels may have to be changed to reduce the effect on vehicles during a crash. The lay-bys are provided for health and safety reasons to provide an area for vehicles with faults to pull in and so protect them and their occupants from oncoming traffic. It is tragically ironic that in this instance the presence of the lay-by may have actually increased the severity of the accident. The following extract is from the Independent newspaper, dated 16th April 2012. Click here for the full article:
The coach is believed to have clipped a kerb inside the tunnel and veered into a lay-by which ended at a solid brick wall. The Swiss Federal Office for Roads said it was examining whether the angle of the wall increased the severity of the crash. A facility to help disabled vehicles meant it was at a right angle to the tunnel road. Spokesman Michael Mueller told The Associated Press: “In principle there is the possibility of slanting the angle of the bay, or protecting it with concrete or other elements.” He added: “Such a severe and tragic accident must always be taken as an opportunity to analyse the factors that could have influenced the causes and effects of the disaster.”
The Dublin Port Tunnel lay-by walls also share the same wall design that the Swiss are investigating. So any conclusions that the Swiss come to should be reviewed in road tunnels in Dublin and the world over.
In the meantime, if applicable, tunnel operators could consider placing impact barriers on front of these walls to soften any vehicle impact as a short term solution.