Blixtunnel on Norway's Folloban

Spectre of tunnel closure comes back to haunt Bane NOR

PwC will try and shed light on the underlying reasons for the many setbacks. Nicolas Tourrenc / Bane NOR

Bane NOR has once again been forced to close the Blixtunnel of its new multi-billion-euro Follo railway. The tunnel was closed to traffic following an incident on Monday, the Norwegian infrastructure manager announced on Thursday. Further issues were uncovered during inspections later that day.

The tunnel closure marks the latest setback in a string of high-profile incidents and closures that have plagued the 3.5-billion-euro railway, the Follobanen. The Blixtunnel is a key element of the railway, since its grand opening back in December. On Monday, a corroded power cable started to smoke. It subsequently came off and was caught by a train. That train ground to a halt, and passengers were left stranded for several hours. Bane NOR decided to close the tunnel to traffic on Wednesday.

An immediate investigation found that the corrosion was caused by a leak of alkaline water. A more comprehensive inspection on Thursday found several more leaks in the tunnel. These leaks were sealed and repaired. Teams also took the time to inspect the power cables and their suspension points in the tunnel in an effort to prevent the replacement of the cabling in its entirety.

Earlier issues

Last December, smoke was the issue. It discovered coming out of a technical facility at Ski station. The problem was subsequently assumed as being an electrical grounding issue, which caused electrical overheating. This then prompted a major overhaul of the system. Testing activity shortly resumed, but Bane NOR teams soon discovered that the inspection and repairs of the cable terminations and joints was more time-consuming than anticipated.

In late-January, when Bane NOR was making preparations for restoring power to the line, it became clear that one of the four power cables feeding the catenary system and the Blixtunnel through which it runs needed replacing. As the other three were still being tested, the decision was taken to replace those as well. The infrastructure manager at the time also said it had been “overly optimistic” in its schedule for fixes and testing.

In February, Bane NOR announced that PwC would carry out an independent investigation into the events that led to the multi-billion-euro Folloban railway being suspended shortly following its opening.

By coincidence or by design, Bane NOR witnessed two high-profile resignations in quick succession. In March, ceo Gorm Frimannslund stepped down, quickly followed by the resignation of executive development director Stine Undrum. The Follo railway had been up and running smoothly since that time, until now.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

Chief Editor,

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