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Title: Road tunnels: EU safety rules
Sectors of Transport: Transport, Transport, Security & safety, Road transport
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Road tunnels: EU safety rules

Road tunnels: EU safety rules



Directive 2004/54/EC on minimum safety requirements for tunnels in the Trans-European Road Network


  • It lays down minimum safety standards regarding the various organisational, structural, technical and operational aspects of road tunnels that form part of designated trans-European transport infrastructure.


Safety requirements

  • The directive seeks to ensure that all tunnels longer than 500 metres, whether in operation, under construction or at the design stage, and forming part of the trans-European road network, comply with the new harmonised safety requirements.

Administrative authority

  • Each EU country must designate one or more administrative authority, responsible for all aspects of tunnel safety. Authorities take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the directive.
  • This authority may be set up at national, regional or local level. In the case of tunnels running between countries, each of the countries can appoint an authority or the two countries appoint a joint authority.
  • The authority’s prior authorisation is required when a new tunnel is commissioned or an existing one is to be rebuilt. The authority has the power to suspend or restrict the operation of a tunnel if the safety conditions are not met.
  • The authority ensures that the following tasks are performed:
    • testing and inspecting tunnels on a regular basis and drawing up the related safety requirements;
    • putting in place organisational and operational schemes (including emergency response plans) for the training and equipping of emergency services;
    • establishing the procedure for immediate closure of a tunnel in case of an emergency;
    • implementing the necessary risk reduction measures.

Tunnel manager

  • For each tunnel located on the territory of an EU country, whether it is in the design, construction or operating stage, the authority identifies as Tunnel Manager, the public or private body responsible for the management of the tunnel at the stage in question. The Tunnel Manager must prepare a report in the event of any significant incident or accident occurring in a tunnel.

Safety officer

  • For each tunnel, the Tunnel Manager, with the prior approval of the administrative authority, nominates a Safety Officer who coordinates all preventive and safeguarding measures to ensure the safety of users and operations staff. The Safety Officer’s tasks include:
    • coordinating with the emergency services and taking part in the preparation of operational schemes;
    • taking part in the planning, implementation and evaluation of emergency operations;
    • taking part in drawing up safety plans and specifications of infrastructure installations;
    • checking that operational staff and emergency services are trained, and taking part in the organisation of exercises held at regular intervals;
    • advising on the commissioning of the structure, equipment and operation of tunnels;
    • checking that the tunnel structure and equipment are maintained and repaired;
    • taking part in the evaluation of any significant incident or accident.

Periodic inspections

  • EU countries ensure that inspections, evaluations and tests are carried out by inspection bodies.
  • The administrative authority verifies that regular inspections are carried out by the inspection body to ensure that all tunnels that fall within this directive's scope comply with its rules.
  • The period between two consecutive inspections of any given tunnel should not exceed 6 years.

Risk analysis

  • A risk analysis, based on a single methodology defined at national level, at the request of the administrative authority, is carried out by an independent body for a given tunnel. It takes into account all design factors and traffic conditions that affect safety, notably traffic characteristics and type, length and geometry of the tunnel, as well as the projected number of heavy goods vehicles per day.


  • Every 2 years, EU countries compile reports on fires in tunnels and on accidents which clearly affect the safety of road users in tunnels, and on the frequency and causes of such incidents, and evaluate them and provide information on the actual role and effectiveness of safety facilities and measures.

Adaptation to technical progress

  • The Commission has powers to adapt the annexes to this directive in line with technical progress.


It has applied since 30 April 2004. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 30 April 2006.


Tunnels are important infrastructures essential for long-distance transport and the development of the EU’s regional economies. However, accidents in tunnels, particularly fires, can have dramatic consequences and be extremely costly in terms of human life, increased congestion, pollution and repair costs.

  • For more information, see ‘Tunnels’ on the European Commission's website.


Directive 2004/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on minimum safety requirements for tunnels in the Trans-European Road Network (OJ L 167, 30.4.2004, pp. 39-91)


Successive amendments to Directive 2004/54/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 20.10.2016

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