Norway reports tunnel-safety lapses

5 January 2021

Norway recently notified the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) that 68 road tunnels within the country do not meet the minimum safety requirements of Directive 2004/54/EC concerning tunnels on the Trans-European Road Network (TERN).

EEA EFTA States have an obligation to report to the Authority on the state of implementation of the Directive which sets out minimum safety requirements, such as the number of lanes in tunnels, escape routes, emergency exits, fire resistance, lighting, ventilation and monitoring systems.

According to European Economic Area (EEA) rules, the TERN tunnels should have been upgraded by the 30 April 2019 deadline. Although Norway has instigated ongoing upgrade work, the government indicated that it will take several years to meet the minimum safety requirements.

As ESA is tasked to ensure compliance with EEA rules, it issued a ‘reasoned opinion’ in December, which gave Norway three months to express its views to the Authority. Following the reasoned opinion, ESA may ultimately bring the case to the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Court, which will have the final say on the matter.

ESA President Bente Angell-Hansen said: “This decision by ESA is a call on Norway to meet the safety requirements for road tunnels [for] the benefit of tunnel users.”