Ahead of the official opening of the Taipei-Ilan Freeway's Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) scheduled for Friday, the Ministry of Transportation and Commun-ications yesterday gave reporters an opportunity to try out some of the tunnel's emergency facilities.
Officials of the Taiwan Area National Engineering Bureau allowed one journalist to press a fire emergency button by the side of the road inside the tunnel. About 20 seconds later, a recorded message told the reporter to contact the traffic control center in Pinglin (
Fires and phones
The bureau's director-general, Bane Chiou (邱琳濱), said that pressing the emergency button would set off an alarm at the traffic control center, while automatic systems would try to determine the exact location of the fire.
In addition to emergency buttons and fire hydrants, the tunnel also has toll-free phones that motorists can use to contact the control center.
The telephone number will be listed, along with the distance into the tunnel where the phone is located.
Emergency exits are also numbered, so that motorists will be able to accurately report their location. The tunnel's power supply has been designed to ensure that emergency services are available even in the event of a power failure.
Chiou said that the speed limit in the tunnel would be strictly enforced.
Motorists will face fines ranging from NT$3,000 (US$93.75) to NT$6,000 if they exceed the 70kph speed limit.
To enforce the policy, the bureau has installed eight speed detectors in the tunnel, six of which are fixed. The remaining two will be able to be moved around.
The media visit at the weekend came amid growing controversy surrounding the tunnel.
The ministry on Tuesday held a final safety drill at the tunnel in which experts were supposed to create simulation exercises to test and evaluate how quickly the staff could react to them. However, the inspectors complained that the exercise fell short of their expectation of an "unscripted" drill.
Chang Wen-cheng (張文城), a bureau section chief, said yesterday that work on the integration of the core mechanical and traffic control systems had been completed, although some minor adjustments needed to be made before Friday's official inauguration.
The Hsuehshan Tunnel is part of the 55km-long Taipei-Ilan Freeway, which includes several other tunnels, including the Nangang (南港), Shihding (石碇), Wutu and Pengshan (彭山) tunnels.
At 12.9km, Hsuehshan Tunnel is the longest.
The tunnel will shorten the travel time between Taipei and Ilan from two hours to around 30 minutes.
A brief ceremony will be held on Friday in honor of the workers who died while working on the project.