The first day of the conference was exciting and many interesting presentations were given. The numbers of participants are 225 from 27 different countries. Everything from advanced mathematics on temperature calculation in tunnels to how dangerous burning tiers can be in tunnels was presented. We were informed that we should not panic because the METRO project measured very high heat release rates in trains. The fire growth rate is the most important parameter to consider said Nick Agnew. There were some tough questions asked after the presentations, some ended at the sideline in the coffee break as they could not be solved between the presenters and questioners.
The main subject for the first day was fixed firefighting systems, both with large drops and small drops. The size determines how effective they are on cooling the fuel surface or the hot gas around them. One of the keynote presentations gave new definitions of how fire suppression or fire control should be defined and the other some philosophical aspects of tunnel fire safety. The fire dynamics was the second subject discussed and in the other sessions there were presentations on security in tunnels and fire safety engineering.
After the cocktail reception, about 50 delegates went later in the evening to watch a hot smoke test demonstration in one of the Marseille tunnels. This was arranged by Effectis Netherland and some local tunnel operators.
The second day of the conference started with some technical mishaps as the first Keynote speaker Prof. Peter Sturm had three videos to show, and none of them worked during the presentation. Although the presentation had been checked the day before, the conference computer probably got sick over the night. As professional as Peter is, he managed to finish his interesting presentation on smoke ventilation systems in tunnels without the videos much to the appreciation of the audience!
The next Keynote presentation was given by Dr. Jaap Weerheijm TNO, and he presented an emerging issue for tunnel owners, namely explosions in tunnel. This is an issue that has to be dealt with, especially due to the fact that in the future more and more vehicles with new fuel systems such as CNG, LPG or hydrogen will traffic our tunnels. We need to tackle this problem both from a safety and regulatory point of view.
Presentations on new concepts of performance-based design were given and throttling effects of fire in tunnels were rediscovered as an issue that designers may have forgotten to consider in the presentation from our Best Paper Award winner. In one of the presentations in the morning session, a sudden shout, laughing and screaming were heard just outside the conference rooms. The conference building had been invaded by French cultural workers who went into the wrong building to protest against new EU regulation for their working conditions. The office for EU in Marseille, which was their target, was not in the conference building. In France they apparently demonstrate first and discuss later. Despite some technical mishaps and demonstration this was a successful day with many interesting presentations.
Subjects such as risk analysis, smoke ventilation and regulations were presented and debated by the participants. Later in the evening at the Banquet Dinner keynote speaker Prof. Arnold Dix emphasized the importance that the western world share their experience of tunnel design with those parts of the world who experiencing improved economic growth and are in the phase of constructing large infrastructure traffic systems, e.g. in various parts of Asia and Africa. During the banquet awards were given for Best Poster and Best Paper together with the ISTSS Achievement Award. The Best Poster was awarded to BAM, the Best Paper to University of Edinburgh and Exponent, while the ISTSS Achievement Award was given to Dr. Yajue Wu of Sheffield University. In her acceptance speech she focused on the need for good education in this field.