The Road Tunnel Operator Association acts as host for a two day Tunnel Forum each spring and autumn at venues around the UK. Prior to these Forums the Association holds its formal meetings. Details of forthcoming Forum dates and venues can be obtained from the Secretary or Chairman. At each forum a number of sessions are usually devoted to commercial presentations on matters and systems of interest to Tunnel owners and operators.
In the autumn of 2009 the RTOA held their first joint Forum with their French counterparts in Paris, with the aim of cementing closer links between United Kingdom and Eire tunnel operators and French owner/operators. These meetings have proved invaluable with each providing the other with regular activity reports with particular reference to Fires and major incidents and the lessons learned thereof.
The RTOA committee have two main work streams at present. The first is developing an accredited training programme via a new level 3 Diploma in Road Tunnel Operations. This qualification will be available from 2013, underpinned by a National Highway Sector scheme 22 workbook, which will detail all the procedures and standards related to the management, operation, installation and maintenance of road tunnels. A second workgroup are focusing on presenting a unified approach to the Department for Transport with regard to a suite of special signs and road markings applicable for use in Tunnels and on Toll road plazas.
Two new road tunnels in the United Kingdom were opened last year. The second Tyne Tunnel -known as TT2 – on the A19 near Jarrow and the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey. This £371million project to tunnel beneath the ‘Devils Punchbowl’ – a natural landmark of special scientific interest -on the A3 is the longest non estuarial tunnel in the UK at 1.8km long.
The Association also takes an interest in any incident affecting Tunnels. On 29th July 2011 a lorry went on fire inside the Brynglas Tunnel on the M4 in South Wales causing major traffic problems given 80,000 vehicles a day use it.
Apart from new Tunnels, in the last year or so there have been major refurbishments, incorporating many new safety features, in the original Tyne Tunnel, the Queensway Birkenhead Tunnel, Hatfield, Holmesdale , and Blackwall with more works planned and underway including a £8 million water mist system in Dartford- a clear indication that UK Tunnel Operators aim to stay ahead of the game when it comes to Tunnel safety.
On a lighter note the Queensway Tunnel in Liverpool has been used during 2012 for two Hollywood blockbuster movies, "Fast and Furious 6" and a reprise of the Jack Ryan franchise once played by Harrison Ford, provisionally titled "Maryland" starring Chris Pine as the CIA hero along with Kiera Knightley, and Kevin Costner.