Beyond a tunnel vision is an international conference on tunnel renovation, focused on the joint challenges in the infrastructure network of Europe. How can tunnels be renovated in a clever way? To which extend can they be updated with minor impact on traffic? How can renovation be used to diminish energy consumption and environmental impact of a tunnel? In what way can digitalization processes contribute to an efficient renovation? These questions were addressed in plenary sessions and interactive workshops.

With the support and cooperation of nine countries the Dutch centre for underground construction, the COB, has composed a position paper on tunnels in Europe. This paper addresses the challenges that lay ahead and the need for an European tunnel programme. The Beyond a tunnel vision conference is an important stepping stone towards this programme.

Moving Forward, together

A well-performing transport infrastructure network is essential for achieving the European ambitions and goals on competitiveness, growth, and jobs, achieving alignment with the UN Agenda 2030 and related sustainability goals. The position of tunnels in European networks is extremely important, but many of the tunnels are aging and need major renovations. Large knowledge gaps make reliable predictive maintenance still impossible and insecure.

Another focal point for underground infrastructure is the strong growth in mobility and urbanization. Cities will suffer massive strokes if we cannot use underground space more effectively and without hindering existing networks, such as metro systems, and city life at street level.

A third focal point is a high demand for adding value. Getting tunnels resilient, making them climate-proof, making them part of a safer network, making them smarter, making them more adaptive to still unknown change, and making the people working in underground infrastructure more capable of working with these challenges.

Because of the volume and urgency of these tasks, we need to change our approach. Infrastructure managers and operators need to work together on a European level.