Gov't orders inspection of aging expressway tunnels after 9 die in cave-in

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  • 5

    papigiulio

    although the ceiling had undergone its regular five-yearly inspection in September this year.

    Somebody didn't do their work properly me thinks. 5 years btw is a HUGE gap. Surely 2 times a year would be needed.

  • 4

    Phred Smith

    its fortunate this didn't happen when the highway was congested. was always a little bit nervous going through japan's tunnels even knowing they were probably over engineered but never really knowing that the material being used met code.

  • 2

    Dennis Bauer

    An official from highways operator NEXCO said material degradation was a possibility, adding the risk of further collapse remained although the ceiling had undergone its regular five-yearly inspection in September this year.

    Then the procedure must be checked. is nexco also going to claim that everything is allright?

  • 2

    Matthew Simon

    That tunnel is 4700 meters long, and according to the lunch time news 1 bolt failed causing this?

  • 4

    nandakandamanda

    Suggestion. Remove all hanging ceiling panels from tunnels, especially if they are made from concrete. Failing that, install supporting pillars between lanes.

    Lack of supports must make them inherently subject to failure 35 or 40 years down the line.

  • 7

    Disillusioned

    I'm sorry but, it seems to be a very common thing in Japan to avoid safety tests or to 'fudge' them in order to save a few yen. How many industries have we seen this kind of thing happen? Construction, foods, now roads and of course, the nuclear power industry. Shame Japan! Shame!

  • 3

    Carcharodon

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/feature/graph/emg01/garticle.htm?ge=732&gr=5222&id=177793

    a diagram for some reference. On NHK this morning they speculated the cause was the 13cm long bolts that connect the centre i-beam to the bedrock at the tunnels zenith failed, once the support for the i-beam went, the beam fell and the naturally the slabs with it and those concrete slabs collapsed in the v-shape.

  • 3

    Laguna

    Reminds me of the Boston Big Dig collapse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig_ceiling_collapse except that that was caused by inadequate materials and methods. Carcharodon, thank you for the link; I drive through a 10 kilometer long tunnel when going to Kagoshima, and it is round with no ceiling panels. The image suggests the ceiling exists to allow for a ventilation duct. Perhaps that type of design should be avoided and retrofitting conducted to eliminate the ceiling panels on existing tunnels should be conducted.

  • -6

    overchan

    Why not just rebuild them?

  • 3

    zichi

    Like in America, many tunnels and bridges in Japan were built during the period of economic expansion during the 1960's and 1970's. Some of those probably need updating or replacing.

  • 3

    AU_user_since_1998

    cement or concrete technology has a lifespan of 45 to 60 years.

    Most of the tunnels and elevated expressways in Japan were build from 1960 to 1980. The one that collapse is just the tip of the iceberg.

    To renovate, rehabilitate or strengthen these infrastructures require about 1 to 2 trillion US dollars, 20 to 40% of the GDP. Increasing tax or road-users tax is inevitable for the safety of the highways and tunnels in thenext decade.

  • 3

    Penfold

    The money they charge for the tolls they can afford it.

  • 3

    zichi

    I think America is facing the same problems about how to updates its infrastructure without spending trillions of dollars.

  • 2

    GW

    Hopefully they will start doing more than visual drive-by's. Now watch for the the govt to use this tragedy to increase debt & pilfer more of our taxes.

    It would be nice to get value for our taxes once in a blue moon

  • 2

    wontond

    The gov't reacts to a catastrophic failure by ordering a comprehensive inspection of aging tunnels similar to the nationwide inspections of nuclear facilities after the catastrophic failure at Fukushima. The gov't needs to be more proactive and regularly inspect major pieces of infrastructure, before bad things happen.

  • 2

    zichi

    Its also possible that this tunnel and maybe others were weakened by last years powerful earthquake? Other than a comprehensive visual inspection what can be done? Maybe using some form of ultrasound to check the concrete panels What do they do in other countries which is different than here?

  • 11

    Wong Cheuk Kwan

    I am a retired civil and structural engineer in Hong Kong. It is very shocking for me to note that the roof of the tunnel failed, not because of the rock at the roof, but because of the heavy concrete panels suspended from the roof. These heavy concrete panels might have been used to act as false ceilings. I have not yet seen the use of heavy concrete panels here (too dangerous). Why not use light-weight alumimium panels as false ceilings (or no ceilings)? It must be understood that any steel supports (if not made of high-grade stainless steel) can corrode in 10-20 years. This is common sense, and I don't believe that the conservative Japanese engineers could have made such low-level mistakes.

  • 3

    Peter Wilson

    I use (used) this tunnel every week. Nexco needs to be taken to task on this. 5-yearly visual inspection.. Give me a break! In terms of spend they can redirect spend on new projects like the Maglev train project- massive luxury in my opinion and spend on fixing these old structures.

  • 2

    Disillusioned

    Gov't orders inspection of aging expressway tunnels after 9 die in cave-in

    It's a shame they didn't order the inspections before the cave-ins, isn't it? Bloody wombats!

  • -1

    Nessie

    Why not use light-weight alumimium panels as false ceilings (or no ceilings)?

    Expense. For no ceilings, I think there might be issues with air circulation.

  • 3

    zichi

    The purpose of the concrete roof is to prevent rock fall.

  • 1

    rickyvee

    i'm confused. what exactly does 5-yearly means? an inspection every 5 years or 5 inspections a year? have i been living in japan too long?

  • 4

    skroknog

    The government is always on the scene .... after the fact.

  • 4

    cleo

    Why not use light-weight alumimium panels as false ceilings (or no ceilings)?

    The space above the false ceiling is used for air circulation. In longer tunnels (this one is over 4km long) exhaust gasses can build up to high concentrations if there is no ventilation, and the air has to be pumped in under quite a bit of pressure to get it to move; anything lightweight or flimsy would buckle.

    At least, that's how they were explaining it on telly last night.

  • 0

    SamuraiBlue

    From my understanding most Japanese tunnel are made from arch construction methods to do away with pillars and the concrete slabs are set to relieve the enourmous weight from the top to the sides.

    If a concrete slab was placed as a key stone fails it triggers a cascade effect which will collapse the entire arch.

  • 3

    nandakandamanda

    According to the Japanese Yomiuri, the regulations state that the bolts require special monitoring. The operators say now that they could not actually reach up far enough to do the ultrasound check, so it is looking more and more likely that they were never checked, not even once.

  • 3

    Crazedinjapan

    Where are the people that were on yesterday criticizing people making educated guess's on why this happened ...as was stated one part of the inspections wasn't done. Why wasn't it done ? To cut costs ?? Why cant people look at some of the comments on here no as critisizm ..but as constructive critisizm. Sometimes this is what it takes to draw out change.

    Are the families of the people that paid to use that expressway system going to be compensated in some form for the loss of their loved ones ? Nothing monetary will ever replace a family member but its a start other than a crappy apology for skipping on part of the inspection process .

    How about using/adding the same technology they use for testing gas pipelines for stress cracks and metal fatigue. We are talking about metal beams supporting 1.5 tons of concrete. Tunnels then invariably have higher amounts of water seepage and condensation around metal supports.

  • 4

    GW

    CrazedIJ,

    Bang on! Pointing out faults some confuse with hating Japan blah blah blah, when all we are doing showing things that are problems & need fixing but NEVER DO!

    Yeah sure sometimes I get a bit heated, but I hate seeing examples day in day out of how the govt & beaurocrates & the amakudari crowd systematically destroy Japan right in front of our eyes non-stop, yeah it gets you down & ticked off.

    Would be nice to see some of these people PAY for the damage they do but they seldom do, ok rant off, for now.

  • 3

    Crazedinjapan

    Thanx GW for the comment. Sometimes a little jaded sarcasm ( not at the sacrifice of innocents ) is needed. Tax is something they are big on collecting but most of it is not going into the infrastructure where it's needed.

    For over a decade I've seen countless disasters that could have been lessoned or avoided if money went to the actual purpose that it was collected for. It costs a person 6000 +yen with ETC to drive from Nagoya to Yokohama . The sheer number of vehicles and years that this has been collected could come up with a better way of inspecting these expressways ???

    Someone will resign, then get a cushy job ( helping hand ) at some other company or institution . Pathetic !

  • 1

    AKBfan

    Thanks goodness I will not be driving over the festive season. Sounds like motorway madness is on the cards.

  • -1

    Crazedinjapan

    AKBfan you can take the shore route if needed, makes the trip extensively longer but is pretty scenic.

  • 0

    tmarie

    So it seems like, yet again, safety measures were cut due to money/time and the public is, as always, the ones that has to pay for it.

    I watched this yesterday and thought "I bet someone cut corners" and sure it enough, it seems this is the case. Shame on these companies for doing this and shame on Japan for allowing them to get away with it. I hope the victim's families demand millions to "compensate" the lives wasted in this.

    My next question is... if Tokyo IS hit with a large earthquake, are these tunnels safe? Can folks get out of the area? It seems not. Something needs to be done ASAP about this.

  • 2

    bajhista65

    Why is it when a disaster or an incident like this happened, the government will order a thorough check up of Tunnels, Nuke power plants etc...ASAP Is it not customary for the Japan's Minister of Public Works and contractors to handle repair and maintenance of this kind of structures that can cause danger to humans. Btw, those tunnels and express way were built from people's taxes. Until now, people are paying expensive toll fees to roads built by the people's tax money for good maintenance and repairs.

  • -2

    SuperiorCat

    Given that 9 people have been killed it would have been nice had one person offered their condolences rather than have so many talk only of their tax or take this opportunity to yet again used this sad accident as an excuse to criticise all things Japanese.

  • -1

    tairitsuiken

    Just send out a questionnaire.

  • 4

    GW

    S.Cat,

    If you had read the threads about this you can see PLENTY of condolences. And criticizing govt ineptness & corruption isnt critisizing Japanese, learn the difference.

  • -1

    tairitsuiken

    >

    Nexco needs to be taken to task on this.

    Of course they do. And won't be. The "investigation" is probably only a show for the masses, making sure no one actully demands guilty parties being charged with negligence. Japan Inc, FTW!

  • 2

    tmarie

    Baj, because Japan is known for being reactive and not proactive? Always takes a tragedy here for something to be done about safety standards. Revolving doors, swings in the park, fire escapes, stairwells, kids in cars on hot days... ALL have been dealt with AFTER folks have died.

  • 1

    nandakandamanda

    Just read an interview with one truck driver of a food manufacturing company who said that their drivers used to joke among themselves about that tunnel and wonder how long it would hold. The walls used to run with water and sometimes it would pour out in a torrent through the cracks between the ceiling panels and splash onto their windscreens.

  • -3

    SuperiorCat

    GW @ 10-19.

    I did read the thread and saw only one comment that even came close to saying anything about the dead. The comments are still there should you wish to read them.

  • 1

    Fadamor

    I think America is facing the same problems about how to updates its infrastructure without spending trillions of dollars.

    Yes. Eisenhower initiated the interstate highway system back in the late 50's, and all the bridges and tunnels built back then are reaching the end of their life. It's a big problem and there's little money available to resolve things.

    The government is always on the scene .... after the fact.

    This is a bit unfair. The only time you CARE when the government is on the scene (and the only time it gets reported) is after something goes wrong. The truth is that the government is there a lot more than you realize - both before AND after an incident.

  • 3

    waltery

    The tunnels are the tip of the iceberg. Just have a look around the train stations( Nippori Kittasenju to name a couple) and you can see the sloppy work, unmaintained, dirty, corroded, paint peeling, un cared for infustruture.

  • -5

    nigelboy

    This is a bit unfair. The only time you CARE when the government is on the scene (and the only time it gets reported) is after something goes wrong. The truth is that the government is there a lot more than you realize - both before AND after an incident.

    True. And some preventive measures that are taken are considered "wasteful spending" so you can't win with the public.

  • 1

    telecasterplayer

    Why do tunnels needs ceilings? Why not just drive through the tunnel? If the lights are mounted on the side walls or from posts in the middle, why does there need to be a suspended ceiling made of concrete of all things?

  • -4

    YuriOtani

    Why can't they use the same formula for concrete the Romans used? Some of their stuff is still up and in operation 2000 years after being built. It would seem they make things to be replaced.

  • 1

    itsmeagain

    Looks somewhat similar to the brand new Boston big dig tunnel which collapsed in 2006 bringing down a 3000kg concrete roof panel on a car, killing the passenger and injuring the driver. Poor engineering of the panel support structure was the cause. Tunnel was closed for over a year for inspections and modifications.

  • 2

    zichi

    The transport infrastructures built in the 1960's and 1970's need updating but that won't come cheap but it maybe a necessary expenditure. Experts need to come with ways of updating the structures which are both cheaper and safer. Like inserting a tube in sections which is strong, cheaper than concrete.

  • 1

    hkitagj

    Just remove the one tone walls existent inside the tunels. It is an engineering mistake trying to keep it fixed by small screws.

  • 2

    cleo

    Why do tunnels needs ceilings?

    To provide ventilation. The tunnel is over 4km long. Without ventilation, the air in the middle of the tunnel becomes heavy with exhaust fumes. The ceiling isn't for hanging lights on.

    .... made of concrete of all things?

    The air needs to be pumped through under pressure, because of the length of the tunnel. Anything flimsy would buckle.

  • 1

    Crazedinjapan

    SupCat , I guess you weren't reading yesterday's threads or day before. Many people have said Rest in Peace to the passed ones. I personally said that and asked if restitution would be compensated to the families of the victims of negligence. Also stating a apology doesn't mean enough without a plausible explaination as to why this disaster occurred.

    Like I said the criticism is not always Japan bashing and is constructive. You surely sound like you are offended to see anything that has negative content towards Japan, unfortunately this website does post a lot of negative stories. It's up to the readers to post their thoughts in hopes of drawing attention to a problem.

    I just watched a news clip of them now testing the hangers of these slabs that they said wasn't reachable before this event, seems pretty easy to reach now...only took the sacrifice of 9 people to give them the drive and ambition to do that ... Very disgraceful!

  • -1

    Crazedinjapan

    These tunnels are just the beginning of faults to be show in construction , maitenance , inspections. If you travel further on to the Shuto expressway that runs from Kawasaki through the other side of Tokyo , you can look down when stopped in a traffic jam and admire all the severely rusty nuts and bolts holding it together...not very comforting when you are suspended 60' of the ground 5-8 stories up. The money collected off the tolls ..where's it going ???

  • 2

    GW

    Crazed

    The money collected mostly goes to make more highways to no-where which see little use, in the past this made sense to an extent but has gotten absurd after the late 80s to present, ditto for shinkansen now EVERY TOWN wants a station.........its messed up now bigtime

  • 1

    almxx

    Events like this just point out that the kind of world we need, is a world where we maintain and improve everything we have, instead of constantly expanding. In our current situation, business is ever trying to expand and get wealthier. Countries, the same thing. It is like having a house that you endlessly add rooms to. Commerce wants you to always want something new, which they will supply at a high price...When what is needed are goods and services that are intended to last as long as possible, with as little servicing as possible. This would be a world of only necessary labor and would result in a happier life for all. The rich would lose no wealth, and the workers would not need wealth. A smooth running society is more important than the constant urge for more. Constant growth is a society's cancer.

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