By Humphrey Carter

THE Soller Tunnel is the least secure in Europe according to the annual study carried out by Europe's main automobile clubs, including Spain's RACE.
The report “Tunnel Security 2003” examines and analyses levels of security and the risk of an accident in 25 European road tunnels, two of which are in Spain, the Soller Tunnel and the Somport Tunnel in Huesca. However, the automobile clubs found that apart from being in Spain, the two tunnels have little else in common.
The Somport Tunnel, which runs between Spain and France from Zaragoza to Pau, scored 97 per cent on the safety list, coming second behind the Weserauen Tunnel near Hannover in Germany which has been classified as Europe's safest tunnel.

Some of the key faults with the Soller Tunnel are that both lanes of traffic are housed in just the single tunnel, there are no escape routes or additional roads and there are no signs indicating which direction to follow in the event of an emergency. RACE, the Royal Spanish Automobile Club, also claims in the report “there are neither special measures in the event of a fire nor a team of firefighters specially trained to deal with tunnel fires stationed near by.” The report also states “their is neither a radio communication system inside the tunnel nor surveillance videos while the condition and visibility of the visual signs leave a lot to be desired.” However, the inspectors did find some positive points to the Soller Tunnel such as emergency S.O.S telephones and fire extinguishers inside the tunnel as well as lorries carrying dangerous material having to inform the tunnel control centre before entering. RACE concluded the results show “Spanish tunnels are the best and the worst,” adding that similar results have been found in three of the past four inspections of European tunnels. In 2000 and 2001, the Viella tunnel in Huesca was found to be the most dangerous in Europe, in 2002 the San Juan Tunnel in Alicante was classified the fifth most dangerous and this year the Soller Tunnel is the most dangerous in the European Union. In response to the findings of this latest report, RACE is calling for urgent action to be taken at a national level to ensure that security standards in all Spanish tunnels meet EU requisites and that, in accordance with recent European Commission suggestions, a “tunnel inspection” department is established . This fourth tunnel test is part of an on-going pan-European campaign to improve road tunnel safety and the tests are the only annual independent inspections carried out in Europe. The testing methodology draws on road tunnel safety legislation in Germany and Austria and has been evolved to include the latest United Nations tunnel safety requisites.


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