ITA COSUF: Operating Road and Rail Tunnels in Helsinki

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Road Traffic Management Center of Helsinki.

More than 25 ITA COSUF members in October participated in an internal workshop organized by the Finnish Transport Agency in Helsinki. The experts for Operational Safety of Underground Facilities met to network and inform about the latest developments, especially those presented by the Finnish tunneling experts. The event started with the General Assembly and the presentation of the ITA COSUF Award Winner 2016, Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva from Denmark and ended finally with an interesting site visit.

Finnish Transport Agency

Laura Väisänen gave an overview of the Finnish Transport Agency (FTA) and explained that the FTA is responsible for all Finnish roads, railways and waterways and especially for the development of the Finnish transport system. The ITA COSUF experts learned that not only road and railway safety is an essential topic but also maritime safety is an important focus area of FTA. The federal institution strives for a smooth, efficient and safe transport in Finland.

ITA COSUF Hosts Workshop and Site Visit

One of the strategic goals is gaining for reliable digital services that are leading to greater operational efficiency. Some impressive road and railway statistics were shown: there are 44 existing tunnels on the 5,900-km railway network and 20 road tunnels on 78,000 km of highways in Finland. Altogether a budget of 2.2 billion Euros will be spent on ongoing projects.

Helsinki Metro

“All underground developments of the Helsinki Metro are key processes for the Helsinki Rescue Department,” stated Marko Järvinen, Helsinki Rescue Department during his presentation of the western extension of the Helsinki Metro with 21 km of tunnels, 13 underground stations and one underground depot (Fig. 1). “That means a full-time job for many fire officers and employees in the alarm center.”


The safety strategy of Helsinki Rescue Department in underground facilities is easy to understand: to be involved in the design of tunnels as early as possible, which is even enforced by the Finnish Rescue Law. The most important safety targets are a proper self-evacuation and a safe access route for firefighters, taking into account that the compressed air tanks only have a limited capacity. Järvinen gave an interesting insight of his daily job with emergency exercises, control of smoke detectors, operational procedures and much more.

Site Visits

Combining, as usual for ITA COSUF events, theory with practical experience, the participants visited the Train Security Control Center and the Road Traffic Management Center of Helsinki, presented by Arto Muukkonen and Mika Jaatinen. These traffic management centers are spread out in Finland with the purpose to monitor the traffic and weather conditions (situation awareness), to provide information for road users and to control the traffic by variable message signs. The tunnel management systems of nine road tunnels in Helsinki are operated from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Traffic Management Center (Fig. 2). Incident Management takes places in close cooperation with other authorities and support from the centers is given for road maintenance.

Last but not least, a new metro station was visited where the participants not only were impressed by the safety features, but also by the sophisticated architecture and the high quality of finishing the station with natural stone.

ITA COSUF Award Winner 2016

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ITA COSUF Chairman Dr. Roland Leucker (left) presents Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva with the ITA COSUF award.

Directly at the end of the General Assembly 2016, ITA COSUF Chairman Dr. Roland Leucker presented Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva with the ITA COSUF Award 2016 for his outstanding contribution to the safety of underground facilities (Fig. 3) related to the influence of vehicular blockages on tunnel fires “There is clearly a knowledge gap concerning the influence of vehicular blockage on the tunnel fire dynamics. Additionally, the confinement velocity and the longitudinal velocity are both not well understood, neither in horizontal tunnels nor in sloped tunnels. More experimental work should be carried out in small-scale thermal models in order to advance the knowledge in tunnel fire dynamics.” Leucker said.

ITA COSUF is accepting nominations for the 2017 award up to May 30, 2017. Information is available ITA COSUF homepage. The award will be presented during the ITA COSUF workshop at the International AFTES Congress, Nov. 13-15, 2017, in Paris.

ITA COSUF is the first committee of the ITA, the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, founded in 2005. It is the Center of Excellence for safety consisting of approximately 80 corporate member organizations and companies from 25 countries all over the world.


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