Radio NOVA commissions tunnel safety report

An independent safety report commissioned by Radio NOVA has raised serious concerns about motorist safety in the Dublin Port Tunnel.

The report specifically raises concerns over an inability of tunnel authorities to communicate with significant numbers of motorists in the Tunnel in the event of a fire or serious emergency.

Radio NOVA is instigating High Court action against Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), operator of the Tunnel, on account of its broadcasts not being available in the 4.5km tunnel. The radio station commissioned the report from Consulting and Forensic Engineer Niallo Carroll in order to highlight what it describes as “serious, ongoing issues relating to limitations in the communication technology” in the Tunnel.

The report examines the practice used by TII to make FM radio services available in the Tunnel. Due to technology limitations, only 7 out of 14 commercial radio services in the Dublin area are carried. Those not carried include Radio NOVA, RTE 2FM, Classic Hits 4FM and Sunshine 106.8. Radio NOVA claims it is at disadvantage to its competitors such as Today FM, FM104 and 98FM by not being on the channel roster and has commenced proceedings against TII in order to force the state body to deal with the issue. The radio station has claimed the restriction is in breach of EU competition regulations and the 2002 Competition Act and is “inherently unfair and damaging” to its business.

The report is a detailed, independent analysis of all methods used by TII to communicate with motorists in the Tunnel. The Tunnel is used by 15,000 vehicles per day.

Tunnel authorities can ‘break in’ over FM radio services in the event of emergency. However, NOVA points out that up to 30% of motorists listen to radio services not carried in the Tunnel and that these listeners would not hear safety announcements broadcast by tunnel authorities in the event of a fire or major emergency.

In the report, Carroll claims that the limitation on the number of rebroadcast channels is a failure by TII and Dublin Port Tunnel to comply fully with the spirit of the European Directive 2004/54/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. He further states that the safety of tunnel users is being adversely affected by technical limitations and describes where significant loss of life has occurred in past tunnel disasters as a result of the inability of authorities to communicate directly with motorists.

In a risk analysis, he outlines how the current communication channels employed by TII – variable message boards, public address system and emergency telephones – may not be sufficient to warn motorists of a fire or serious hazard. In such a case, using the FM ‘break-in’ option would not be effective as up to 30% of motorists would not be listening to the limited array of radio channels provided in the Tunnel.

Kevin Branigan, CEO of Radio NOVA said, “This report shows that we are not alone in our concerns about in communication limitations in the Tunnel. It highlights serious safety concerns for motorists, up to 30% of which cannot hear safety announcements as they’re not listening to one of only seven radio services rebroadcast by TII. We’ve been asking them to rectify this serious issue for five years, not only on safety grounds but also because they’re distorting radio listenership habits for tens of thousands of commuters. They have rebuffed all of our entreaties. TII have conceded to us that their technology has limitations. They have also stated that the safety of motorists is their primary concern but they have no plans to address this. It’s staggering that the operator of a major thoroughfare in the middle of the capital city of Ireland is unable to communicate with up to 30% of motorists and are not concerned about it”.

It was reported extensively in December that NOVA was preparing High Court action against Transport Infrastructure Ireland on account of TII’s refusal to include in in the line-up of radio channels available in the tunnel, claiming that it was suffering loss and damage as a result of rival stations being available.

In January it was announced that two other radio operators, Classic Hits 4FM and Sunshine 106.8 were to join NOVA’s action. NOVA also invited RTE 2FM to join its action as the national broadcaster is similarly not included on the channel line-up.

NOVA now intends to forward the independent report to the National Roads Authority (NRA), the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport and the EU Transport Safety Council and the European Commission and continue with its forthcoming High Court action on the issue.

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