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Connect Plus Services hosted the bi-annual UK Road Tunnel Operators Association (UK RTOA) meeting and the Road Tunnel Operators Forum at Dartford on the 21 and 22 October 2015.

The UK RTOA was formed to represent the interest of road tunnel owners and operators and to be a focus for collective opinion on matters related to the operation of tunnels.

Some of the attendees sit on specialist working groups in the world organisation for road and tunnel safety issues. In addition, the UK RTOA has close ties with its French equivalent organisation and both are represented at their respective forums.

The forum brings together a wide range of experience from the consulting world and specialist supply chain and provides opportunities to discuss key and emerging issues and look at the application of new technologies. The aim of the association is to ensure road tunnels in the UK and Eire maintain their position amongst the safest in the world.

The association supports and acts as a point of reference for future further development of national and international maintenance and operation standards.  It also considers the needs of road tunnel operators by establishing standards, and means of validating standards, with particular reference to staffing functions, expertise, training, certification and legal obligations.

The event was well attended by over 100 delegates from around the country and provided a lively series of presentations, covering a wide range of issues from Dartford and other tunnels from around the country.

Connect Plus’ Chief Executive Tim Jones provided the opening address to welcome the delegates and challenged the industry to be more sympathetic to the built environment and to road user experience of driving the network; not just focusing on delivering functional engineering solutions that result in practical but uninspiring infrastructure.

Connect Plus Services took the opportunity to showcase the new technology and systems that have been installed during recent years at the Dartford Crossing and presentations covered the European Union Directive life safety systems in the tunnels and the new traffic safety system, designed to protect the safety of the Dartford Tunnels, following the removal of the payment booths since the introduction of Dart Charge.

The forum was followed up with a visit to the Dartford Tunnel Operations Centre and ventilation buildings to witness the new systems close up and get hands-on experience of the interactive traffic safety system simulator.

Guest speaker, Andy Pag, regaled guests with a blow-by-blow account of his travels around the world in a clapped out camper van fueled by used chip oil. It was coincidental that the forum was held on what had been widely advertised as ‘Back to the Future day’; the day which Marty McFly time-travelled to in the 1985 film of the same name. The use of banana skins as fuel was an inventive connection!