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Concrete railtrack panels for tunnel safety (CORPTUS)

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Enhancing tunnel access for emergency road vehicles

Transport accidents in tunnels pose particular difficulties to rescue teams, fire fighters and citizens seeking evacuation given the closed nature and difficult access of emergency vehicles. EU-funded researchers developed a simple solution to this problem that could save hundreds of lives in tunnel emergency situations.

Climate Change and Environment

One of the main problems of tunnel accidents is the inaccessibility of rail and metro tunnels with conventional road vehicles (fire engines, ambulances, etc.) in combination with the current limitation of allowing entrance to only one special road-rail vehicle at a time. European researchers on the ‘Concrete railtrack panels for tunnel safety’ (Corptus) project set out to develop a simple yet elegant solution to this problem. The proposed technology consisted of a concrete rail track panel system fully compatible with European and international track gauges, available as an upgrading element for existing tunnels in addition to its obvious application to new construction and allowing for the first time access to conventional emergency road vehicles – and to more than one of these. Researchers set out to evaluate and employ durable, fire-proof materials capable of withstanding appropriate loads and vibrations. In addition, providing noise reduction while having the potential for recyclation were of critical importance. Cost savings were expected not only through recyclation but also through cost-effective large-scale production methods. Partners developed the panels as well as a special installation tool compatible with standard machinery used in track construction of railways and track laying for metro systems. The Corptus panel system was successfully installed at the Windhofkehren Tunnel, demonstrating low fabrication cost and short installation time without the need to replace the existing gravel bed. In addition, the system can be used on high-speed train routes facilitating safety on these high-volume transport railways. Widespread implementation of the Corptus project outcomes is expected to reduce time for emergency vehicles to reach the scene of an accident as well as enhance on-the-spot first aid before evacuation of the injured. In addition, the system could enable significant cost savings via the production process, recyclation capability, elimination of the need for special road-rail vehicles and reduction of special training for personnel. Finally, the system reduces noise for greater passenger comfort and has the potential to increase jobs in the ready-made concrete industry as well as the rail and metro infrastructure sector.

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