The four main tunnels on the Maltese road network are undergoing a major renovation to ensure their safety and long-term structural stability.
Infrastructure Malta will be issuing a number of calls for offers for the extensive works required to repair and upgrade the Kirkop Tunnels, the Santa Venera Tunnels, the Tal-Qroqq Tunnels and the Ta’ Giorni Tunnels.
Works inside these tunnels will commence this year, as soon as the required contractors are identified through the ongoing procurement processes.
Transport Minister Ian Borg, who announced the project, said that any interventions necessitating the full closure of the tunnel tubes will be carried out at night as much as possible, to minimise difficulties for road users.
The oldest of the four tunnels is the Ta’ Giorni Tunnel, dating back to 1967, while the most recent one, the Tal-Qroqq Tunnel, was built in 1996.
Each structure includes two unidirectional two-lane tunnels, in opposite directions, accommodating over 4.8 kilometres of lanes of the Maltese arterial road network.
A render of the Kirkop tunnels
According to Dr Borg, a study conducted in 2018 concluded that all four tunnels were structurally sound and did not have any critical damage. However, they are all in need of substantial maintenance work and localised repairs.
The analysis showed that the tunnels’ electricity and lighting equipment is obsolete and needs to be replaced in order to meet international standards, while a major upgrade of the tunnels’ fire safety, security and emergency systems is also required.
Through this project, Infrastructure Malta will clean the tunnel walls to remove years of soot, before carrying out the required repairs and maintenance works. A ground-penetrating radar study for the Ta’ Giorni and Santa Venera rock-cut tunnels will then be carried out to identify any subsurface areas that might need additional repairs.
The existing electricity and lighting installations are to be dismantled to make way for several new systems, including new light fixtures, CCTV cameras, fire alarms and air quality sensors. In each tunnel, these systems will be linked to a new control room, which will be built as part of the same project. In case of an emergency, the tunnels’ systems can be monitored and operated from these control rooms. The CCTV cameras and sensors will also be linked to the national Traffic Control Centre for constant monitoring. They will also be connected to an incident detection system that can automatically alert the authorities of any difficulties such as fires or stopped vehicles.
The emergency escapes in each tunnel will be upgraded and equipped with fire doors, emergency call stations, emergency exit signage and evacuation marker lights. Each tunnel will also have fire hydrants and other firefighting equipment.
This investment further includes the application of specialised coatings to the vertical walls of the structures, to improve visibility and facilitate routine cleaning and maintenance. The eight tunnel portals will be embellished by repairing the existing masonry and introducing new architectural features. The emergency footpaths inside the tunnels will be repaired, whilst the surfaces of their carriageways will be replaced with new asphalt.