Truck blaze damages UK traffic tunnel Jul 2011
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
- An investigation has been launched into the structural integrity of a UK motorway tunnel after a lorry caught fire inside.
Wreckage in the confines of the highway tunnel
- Although there were no injuries or fatalities the M4 motorway tunnel at Brynglas, near Newport in Wales, suffered expensive damage in the blaze.
- The westbound carriageway of the highway remains closed with the two-lane twin tube operating a speed restricted contra-flow. Reopening of the damaged tube is yet to be confirmed but is expected to be in time for the morning rush hour on Monday.
- The fire started on Tuesday morning (26 July) at about 8.30am when a truck burned out completely.
- The 365m (1,200ft) long twin-bored tunnels were the first ones to be built on the British motorway network, with work starting in 1962 and the completed road opening to traffic in 1967. The tunnel was excavated using an open-faced shield and finished with an in-situ concrete lining.
- The truck wreckage was removed on Wednesday and the clean-up began. Damaged lighting has been removed after a high-pressure wash down, which has enabled an examination of the state of the tunnel's structural lining and support.
- A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: "Engineers have been carrying out a full structural, technical and safety inspection, while major clean-up operations continue. Once these inspections and assessments are completed we will know the full extent of the damage and the work required to bring the tunnel back into use."
- Although short, the tunnels have become a serious bottle-neck on the heavy commuter link of the M4 into Newport. In 1982 the M4 was widened to three lanes either side with the short tunnels remaining at two lanes each. A long-planned bypass of the tunnels for the M4 motorway was cancelled by the Welsh Government in 2004.
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