Lighting in tunnels will now be dimmed and get brighter according to time of day, for drivers’ eyes to adjust

A new lighting system will be installed in the main tunnels which will eliminate the difficulty experienced by many drivers. With this new system, the lighting levels will change by dimming and becoming brighter according to the time of day so that the eyes of the drivers can adjust immediately once the vehicle enters the tunnel.

This is one of the changes being carried out by Infrastructure Malta in a project which it is carrying out to give a thorough maintenance of the four tunnels which have been around for a long time and which have never been upgraded. The work Is expected to be ready by the middle of this year.

Studies carried out by Infrastructure Malta around three years ago on the tunnels concluded that their structures are still in good condition, however they require extensive maintenance, the services need to be changed and the security system improved.  The oldest tunnels are at Ta’ Giorni which were built 54 years ago. The most recent are those at Tal-Qroqq which are 25 years old. Between these two periods, the tunnels at Kirkop and Santa Venera were built.  Last August an improvement project got under way at an investment of €10 million.

The architect in charge of this project,  Albert Spiteri, explained how the cleaning of the walls from the soot which has accumulated over the years, revealed damage to the structure and the facades, which has now been repaired, at times by changing the stones.

“We cleaned them by using high pressure washing. Obviously there was a study to see which was the best type of pressure we should use. These tunnels have rarely been cleaned and therefore when we started removing the dirt, we could see the actual structural damage, while other damage emerged from the tests we carried out.”

He explained that work is being carried out on to build new pavements and the tunnels will soon be painted. After that a new lighting system will be installed which will be connected to control rooms built on the outside of every set of tunnels. These CCTV cameras will also be connected to the control room at Transport Malta. The project’s engineer, Patrick Carey, said that the lights will be designed to European standards.

“There will be a number of different zones within the tunnels, so your eyes as a driver will adjust to the different lighting levels at the entrance, driving through the centre of the tunnel and at the exit of the tunnels. Additionally there is a lot of safety lighting that we have included. So there will be safety lighting along the sides of the tunnels.”

The tunnels will have an emergency exit, emergency phones and a system to monitor air quality. Accidents or fires which occur in the tunnels always present a challenge, especially because of the dark conditions and when there is a fire, it can get very hot because the heat remains in the same place and the smoke fills up the entire tunnel. In order to prepare for something like this when a fire engine has to remain outside of the tunnel,  Infrastructure Malta consulted with the Department of Civil Protection and passed three kms of water pipes  underground which have been connected with dry risers along the length of the tunnel.

The Deputy Director of The CPD, Peter Paul Coleiro said, “the fire engine connects directly with the dry risers, and water is pumped into them so all the fireman needs to do is connect the hose with one of these to turn it off, and he can save the lives of a lot of people in a short amount of time. Infrastructure Malta is also installing a number of reservoirs at the tunnels so that the fire engine can take water immediately and can pump the water into the tunnel.”

Most of the work is being doing at night and on the weekends to avoid inconvenience to the public. A spokesperson said that the works are expected to be ready by June.