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Published: 2023-07-26

Researcher within Disaster Medicine Visits Tunnel Conference in Norway

NEWS Strategic funding from the Arctic Centre

Johan Hylander, PhD Student within Disaster Medicine at Umeå University, participated at the International Symposium on Tunnel Safety and Security (ISTSS) conference in Stavanger, Norway between 25 and 28 April 2023. The activity was funded by the Arctic Centre at Umeå University.

Why did you want to go to the conference?

I traveled to the conference to present my research and to discuss with leading researchers in tunnel safety. Since my doctoral project is about the role of healthcare in the event of injuries in road tunnels, it was a well-suited conference to participate in.

The fact that the conference was in Norway was also significant. Norway, with its many road tunnels, has domestic expertise in how rescue efforts in road tunnels can be conducted. Fortunately, Sweden has been spared from major damage incidents in our road tunnels, but it is important to have a certain level of preparedness. In Stockholm, for example, the construction of Förbifart Stockholm is underway, which will be 18 km long and consist of a total of 50 km of road tunnel. If a major damage event were to occur in this system, the organizations involved (for example, tunnel operators, police, rescue services and ambulances) need to be able to handle the incident smoothly. In my PhD project, I have investigated the role of the healthcare manager, the person who is the "boss" of the ambulance staff at the scene of the accident, in leading this type of effort on behalf of healthcare. In the project, we have developed an internet-based education with a focus on tunnel structure, safety and healthcare. I presented a poster about how the course is structured.

What did you talk about at the conference?

The conference consisted of lectures with different themes, such as fires linked to vehicles with alternative fuels (for example gas vehicles and battery-powered vehicles), digital support systems (including the use of Wi-Fi to locate people in road tunnels), and response management (evaluations from exercises and real events). Several of these themes could be linked to doctoral projects and I have actually included several relevant abstracts in the "future challenges" section of my thesis. In this way, it has been a very good conference for me. I also had the opportunity to share my research results and discuss with researchers from neighboring research fields. Part of the challenge in my field of research is determining when the tunnel environment is safe or "safe enough" to operate in, this question gave rise to many interesting discussions.

What was your impression of the conference, and how did it go?

My overall impression of the conference is that it was very good and educational. I have made contacts that are important for my continued career. An exciting part of the conference was something called a "tunnel safari", in short an afternoon of excursions to nearby road tunnels (one of the tunnels had a crossing in the middle of the tunnel!). We drove through the many and long tunnel systems in the immediate area and got to visit an ongoing construction project. The construction project is part of a larger infrastructure investment in Norway where the E 39 is being rebuilt between Kristiansand in the south and Trondheim in the north. In order to reduce the transport time (it takes a very long time to go around mountains or across fjords with the help of a ferry) the traffic needs to be led down into road tunnels under at least one of the fjords. Very spectacular engineering, plans include building a tunnel system nearly 400 m below sea level that also includes roundabouts. It will be very exciting to follow this project (read more here).

But with the ongoing transition to more "green" energy and fossil-free emissions, the risks with alternative energy carriers in underground infrastructure need to be taken into account (for example, heat effects on hydrogen tanks), more research is needed, and it will be interesting to follow the development of the research field.


International Symposium on Tunnel Safety and Security (ISTSS) is a conference for those interested in security connected to complex infrastructure such as road tunnels and road tunnel systems. Here, companies and researchers meet to discuss and exchange experiences and present lessons learned from exercises and trials. Thanks to funds from the Arctic Centre, Johan Hylander was able to participate and present at the conference.

Johan Hylander
Research fellow