Report on coach fire in the Gudvanga tunnel on the E16 road in Aurland on 11 August 2015
English translation is now available. On 11 August 2015, a tourist coach caught fire 300 m after entering the 11.4-km-long Gudvanga tunnel. The AIBN has investigated the incident, and seen this in the context of a similar fire in 2013 where several road-users were trapped in smoke inside the tunnel. A similar scenario was avoided in this last fire, but the AIBN believes that there is still a need for several improvements related to fire safety and facilitation of self-rescue in tunnels.
All the 32 passengers from the bus were evacuated in an empty van that happened to arrive at the scene. Five people in three vehicles were trapped in the smoke in the tunnel and evacuated by the emergency services after 1.5 hours. Four people were taken to hospital and treated for smoke injuries.
The AIBN proposes a total of five safety recommendations in connection with this investigation.
The animation shows the sequence of events in connection with the fire and the AIBN's conclusions.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2016/03T
The fire in the Gudvanga tunnel on 11 August 2015 could probably have been prevented if the driver had performed a safety inspection of the coach before entering the tunnel. A safety inspection should consist of a brief stop in a suitable place where the vehicle can be inspected for leakages, overheating and smoke development.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, based on an assessment of what constitutes a feasible and effective solution, take steps to facilitate and issue recommendations regarding security checks before entering certain tunnels.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2016/04T
When the driver removed the fire extinguisher from the wall of the 11.4-km-long Gudvanga tunnel on 11 August 2015, the fire ventilation started automatically and the pre-set direction of ventilation was towards Gudvangen. This meant that the smoke was ventilated to the most distant exit (in this case, 11.1 km) through the part of the tunnel that held the greatest number of road users. The automatic system, which is used in several of the longest tunnels in Norway, exposed the road users closest to the scene of the fire to greater danger and reduced their possibility of self-rescue. It also affected VTS and the fire service’s ability to gain control of the situation at an early stage.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, based on a risk analysis of certain tunnels, change the automatic system to ensure that the ventilation is controlled in a way that facilitates road users’ self-rescue efforts.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2016/05T
The investigations of the coach fire in the Gudvanga tunnel on 11 August 2015, the fire in the Gudvanga tunnel on 5 August 2013 and the fire in the Oslofjord tunnel on 23 June 2011 have all shown that the NPRA’s equipment and procedures can be decisive for the outcome of tunnel fires. The AIBN calls for technology that can provide a real-time overview of the number of vehicles, their location and the number of people in the tunnel, and an immediate notification from VTS to motorists in the event of a fire.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration review and improve equipment and procedures relating to tunnel fires. This includes developing technology for real-time information and instructions for VTS that warrant immediate notification of motorists in the event of a fire.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2016/06T
During the coach fire in the Gudvanga tunnel on 11 August 2015, the fire service decided to reverse the direction of fire ventilation in the tunnel so that they could reach the road users who were trapped in the smoke. This action was delayed because the message to VTS had to go via the 110 emergency communication centre as the mobile phone network was unstable. The AIBN believes that direct, uninterrupted communication is vital in an emergency situation, and that VTS should be able to communicate directly with the emergency services by being connected to the Norwegian Public Safety Network (Nødnett).
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration in cooperation with the Norwegian Directorate for Emergency Communication ensures that the VTS centres be connected to the Norwegian Public Safety Network (Nødnett) in tunnels.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2016/07T
The coach fire in the Gudvanga tunnel on 11 August 2015 is probably the first time that the fire service has reversed the direction of ventilation in the middle of an operation based on important incoming information about road users trapped in smoke. In the AIBN’s opinion, this is a tactic that can be further developed and used in other tunnels, provided that other factors are present, such as fire services being available on both sides, and adequate response times, expertise and equipment.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) develop methods whereby the fire service’s response efforts and control of the smoke ventilation can support the self-rescue principle for road users in the event of a tunnel fire.
|Location||The Gudvanga tunnel E16, Aurland, Sogn og Fjordane county|
|Accident type||Fire in vehicle|
|Road class||European road|
|County||Sogn og Fjordane|
|Police Disctrict||Sogn og Fjordane|
|Vehicle type||Bus or coach|
|Type of Transportation||Passenger transport|
|Road region||Western Region|
|Accident category||Ulykke i tunnel|