Road-rail vehicles protect Belgian railway tunnel

Published:  31 October, 2013

The Zaventem and Vilvoorde fire services in Belgium are operating on unusual terrain with their new rescue pumpers with all-wheel drive and track traveling device.

This is because these are not only able respond to emergencies by road, but also by rail. As portal fire services, among other assignments, Zaventem and Vilvoorde are responsible for the fire protection of the 2.127km-long Diabolo Tunnel under Brussels Airport. The one enters the rail tunnel via the south portal and the other via the north. Their vehicles have been specially equipped with a track-traveling device, as well as all-wheel drive for the roads. The firefighters drive on wheels to the tunnel portals and then, via a ramp, run onto the track where the six-axle track traveling device is lowered. The trucks can then run through the tunnel at speeds of up 40 km/h.

Right on track
The vehicles are ready to run on rails in roughly three minutes and no technical aids or lifting gear are required. The railing procedure can be controlled externally via remote cable control, or directly from the driver’s cab. Auxiliary cameras on each of the vehicle axles monitor this process, in order that the track-traveling device, which consists of a front single-axle and a rear double axle on a pivotal bogie are brought precisely into line. At the same time, the 12m-long vehicle is lifted hydraulically and the wheels are retracted, thus making the vehicle ready to run. The cockpit display now switches to the rail travel mode in which the steering wheel is mechanically blocked. Everything else remains the same for the driver as on the road. The accelerator pedal speeds up the truck and the brake pedal slows it down. 

Powerful extinguishing technology
As far as extinguishing is concerned, the two identical vehicles are fitted with powerful N55 pumps (output: 5,000 l/min at 10 bar), Aquamatic combi-foam proportioning systems and RM25C fender turrets. Depending on requirements, the double Aquamatic controls two differing foam tanks, one containing 375l of Class B and the other 125l of Class A foam. The vehicle water tank holds 2,500l and LED tank gauges are mounted on the left and right of the bodywork.  

The turrets are mounted on the front of the track-traveling device and possess searchlights, stationary heating and automatic emptying. The latter prevents the extinguishing water from freezing in winter. Outside the tunnel, during fires in buildings, vehicles and wildland, the road-rail vehicles are deployed as classic rescue pumpers although clearly their special features are in particular demand in the Diabolo Tunnel. 

First class own protection systems 
These consist primarily of an extensive selection of safety devices. Both vehicles have pump & roll operational capacity, which means that can move and extinguish simultaneously, as well as spray nozzles for the protection of the cabs and superstructure. The nozzles are seated on Inox lines that run around the outside of the vehicle. The trucks also possess a considerable range of gas measurement technology, in order to determine the concentrations of noxious substances (carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, etc.) in the tunnel.  In addition, 90,000l of oxygen are carried in reserve for the crew. All the cabin seats, including those of the driver and co-driver, are fitted with a holder for a long-time SCBA (twin-pack devices with 2x 6.8 l bottles) including a direct filling connection. As a result, every crew member has sufficient oxygen for at least three hours.

Furthermore, should the truck’s diesel engine shut down due to a shortage of oxygen, it can still leave the tunnel by means of an auxiliary emergency drive system. This consists of an e-motor with a capacity of around 16 kW and two lead-acid battery packs. Infrared cameras mounted at the front and rear of the truck provide the crew with vision even if the tunnel is full of smoke and they retain their sense of direction by means of a special, GPS-based navigation system. All the measurement data and the infrared images are shown on the cockpit display. 

A full range of rescue equipment
The equipment of the 33t rescue pumpers includes especially efficient lifting systems such as hydraulic jacks, wedge rams and high-pressure cushions, which allow railway wagons to be raised and re-railed. In addition, a hydraulic winch that can be used in both road and rail operations is integrated into the chassis frame. A set of hydraulic rescue equipment is also installed in the vehicles to free people from trapped wreckage.

The vehicles are also fitted with Flexilight lighting masts in order to illuminate the operational scene or tunnel. The power required is generated from within the vehicle using an integrated 40 kVA generator, which is indirectly driven by the engine via hydraulic pumps. 

The vehicles were purchased by the Belgian railway operator Infrabel and their manufacture took place in the course of intensive cooperation between Rosenbauer, Infrabel and the two Belgian fire departments that will be operating them. The vehicles are built on MAN chassis with 6x6 all-wheel drive and 540hp engines, while the rail-traveling devices come from the Zweiweg company.

The Diabolo Tunnel links Brussels Airport with Europe’s high-speed railway network. Accordingly, using the Eurostar and Thalys super trains, one can travel on to Cologne, Amsterdam, Paris or London without changing.

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