National Freeway No. 5, Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel-Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it possible to raise the speed limit for National Freeway No. 5?
The speed limit for the north of Toucheng Interchange (Nangang System Interchange-Toucheng Interchange) was set at 70km/hr, and 90km/hr for the south of Toucheng Interchange (Toucheng Interchange-Su'ao Interchange) in the early period when the freeway was open. The lower speed limit for the north of Toucheng Interchange is because of lower design speed in parts of the section.
After operating for years, the Bureau has surveyed traffic conditions, reevaluated road safety, and discussed the feasibility of adjusting the speed limit several times. The speed limit now is 80km/hr for north of Hsuehshan Tunnel (15K) and 90km/hr for South of Hsuehshan Tunnel.
2. What types of vehicles are not allowed on National Freeway No. 5? What are the controlled sections?
(1) National Freeway No. 5’s Shiding to Toucheng Interchange was scheduled for a two-stage opening in either direction. The first stage (from June 16th 2006) allowed small vehicles access. The traffic condition of the first stage determined the schedule of the second stage (from November 15th 2007) which allowed buses to enter. No large trucks will be allowed.
(2) The transportation of dangerous cargo or vehicles that exceed length, width, height or weight limits is prohibited in either direction at the Shiding to Toucheng Interchange.
3. What are reasons for opening up to small vehicles and large coaches in different stages?
(1) Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel is 12.9 kilometers in length. It is currently the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia. Its unique environment poses a first-time challenge for road users, management, and rescue personnel. A period is required for all parties to adapt to it.
(2) Before large coaches are allowed to enter the tunnel, the drivers will receive relevant training. Therefore, the schedule to open the tunnel to large coaches depends on the conditions after small vehicles have been on the road for a period of time.
4. Why are certain vehicles not allowed to enter Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel?
(1) The tunnel is an enclosed environment. There is great difficulty in expelling any leakage of dangerous substances (flammable, erosive or poisonous) from vehicles, and it can hurt or kill personnel involved. It is also difficult to perform rescues for this type of accident. Therefore, all the freeway tunnels prohibit vehicles carrying dangerous substances from entering. This will apply to all the long tunnel freeway sections in the future.
(2) Historical statistics for traffic accidents on highways show that large trucks are more prone to accidents compared with other types of vehicles. In addition, the accidents in relation with large vehicles are more complex and tend to be more serious. It is more difficult to operate any rescue tasks and such tasks take a longer period of time because towing also requires the cleaning up of the spilt cargo. The impact on traffic is paramount. Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel is 12.9 kilometers in length. It is also an enclosed environment underground. A fire on a large truck for three minutes is likely to raise the temperature by over 1000 ℃ and the heat released can be as much as 300MW, which far exceeds the tolerance road users are able to bear when they attempt to escape. Fire fighting will be extremely difficult. In addition, the prolonged burning of fire at a high temperature will also be detrimental to the structure of the tunnel. Therefore, large trucks are not allowed to enter Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel in order to assure driving safety.
(3) The traffic conditions will improve on Tai 2 and Tai 9 Lines dramatically as soon as the Pinglin-Toucheng Section is opened as it will attract a large number of small vehicles currently traveling on Tai 2 and Tai 9 Lines.
5. Why there are restrictions on certain vehicles on the Shiding-Pinglin Section on National Freeway No. 5?
The Pangshan Tunnel between Shiding Interchange and Pinglin Interchange is 3.8 kilometers in length. Therefore, the vehicles on the restriction list between Shiding Interchange in the north to Toucheng Interchange in the south cannot travel on this section either. Also, in order to prevent road users from driving dangerously, there are control stations at the entrance of the tunnel (at the north entrance of Wutu Tunnel in the north and Toucheng Toll Station in the south) to curb any violations.
6. What sections in the tunnel are small trucks prohibited from driving on?
Large trucks are not allowed to enter Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel. They are not allowed to travel on Shiding Interchange-Toucheng Interchange on National Freeway No. 5. According to Article 3-1-2-2 of the Statute Governing Road Traffic, small trucks are defined as any truck with a weight below 3,500 kilograms. Therefore, any truck with a weight below 3,500 kilograms is a small truck and can enter the aforesaid section. Any truck with a weight over 3,500 kilograms is a large truck and cannot enter the aforesaid section.
7. When did Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel open to buses, and are they split into different types?
(1) The Shiding to Toucheng section of National Highway No. 5 (including Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel) opened to buses on November 15th 2007.
(2) The tunnel is open to buses, general tour buses, and other large passenger vehicles.
8. What are the important inspection items before vehicles enter Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel?
(1) According to Article 14 of Freeway and Expressway Traffic Regulations drivers should properly examine their vehicles before entering any freeways. Inspection is a prerequisite for all the drivers before they set off on their journeys
(2) As the vast majority of vehicle fires are due to overheating, drivers should make sure they have inspected their own vehicles, specially the temperature, before setting out their journeys. It is very difficult to escape from a disaster and operate rescue tasks in Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel, which is 12.9 kilometers in length. They should double check before they enter the tunnel. If the temperature is too high, they should take a short break at an upstream interchange by driving away from the freeway. They should resume the journey after the temperature drops.
(3) There are two traffic lanes but no road Hsuehshan(Xueshan) in Hsuehshan Tunnel. If any cargo falls off due to loose packaging, it is not easy for the vehicle at the back to steer out of the way. Therefore, it is imperative that all the cargo is tightly fastened. No overloading is allowed.
(4) Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel is a downward slope from north to south. Drivers should ensure their brakes work properly before they hit the road. They should also try their brakes before entering the tunnel to make sure they are functional.
9. What should drivers pay attention to before entering the tunnel?
(1) Drivers should follow the instructions of traffic lane control signals and CMS. There are also many traffic lane control signals at entrances and above all the traffic lanes. CMS are also installed at entrances and within the tunnel. They inform drivers whether lanes are clear from road constructions, traffic accidents or other situations. The red square ╳ sign on the traffic lane control signal indicates that there are situations ahead and drivers should not enter. Rather, they should follow the instructions of CMS.
(2) Switch on headlights in the tunnel.
(3) Turn the radio to any FM channel (Police Radio Station is recommended.)。
10. As there is already lighting in the tunnel, why is it compulsory to switch on headlights?
Daytime lighting inside the tunnel is inferior to most normal road conditions. If headlamps are not switched on, it will be very difficult for the drivers of the vehicles at the back to gauge the relative locations or even respond to emergencies. Although there are UPS in the tunnel, there will still be a short window of no lighting if the power fails without any warning. Such a situation is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, drivers should switch headlamps the moment they enter the tunnel and should not switch them off until they leave the tunnel.
11. Why should we listen to FM radio in the tunnel?
Information regarding driving safety, road conditions and emergency will be broadcasted on all the FM channels as soon as drivers enter the tunnel. As soon as road users switch to FM channels on their radios, they can listen to the broadcast. During an emergency, Control Center staff will insert breaking news and updates so that road users can follow instructions (such as switching off engines, waiting in cars, and abandoning cars and escaping).
12. What are the safety issues drivers should take heed of when driving in the tunnel?
(1) The changing of traffic lanes is not allowed in the tunnel.
(2) Drivers should observe the instructions of the traffic lane control signals, CMS, speed limit signs and fence instructions.
(3) Drivers should maintain a safe distance of at least 50 meters from the vehicle in front in Hsuehshan(Xueshan) Tunnel in normal situations. If the speed falls below 20 km/hr or zero due to traffic congestion, accidents or other special situations, drivers should still maintain a safe distance of over 20 meters.
(4) Drivers are advised to be vigilant of the vehicle in front.
13. Why is changing lanes prohibited in the tunnel?
(1) Daytime lighting inside the tunnel is inferior to most road conditions. Switching traffic lanes under poor visibility enhances the danger. Therefore, it is necessary to prohibit the changing of traffic lanes with the double white solid lines to avoid the dangers associated with the changing traffic lanes in the tunnel where there is poor visibility.
(2) There are double white solid lines on all the traffic lanes. Also, there are signs that prohibit changing traffic lanes in the tunnel in order to ensure that all drivers observe the regulations.
14. Why is there a greater required safe distance? How can drivers know whether they are maintaining an appropriate distance?
(1) An appropriate safe distance is required for driving in all conditions so that a buffer is left for emergency braking as soon as an emergency arises. As previously stated, the driving environment in the tunnel is different from most conditions. Visibility is shorter, particularly around bends. A safe driving distance is imperative in order for drivers to cope with all manner of unexpected situations.
(2) The safe distance in the tunnel in normal situations is set at 50 meters. There is a red fire hydrant cabinet every 50 meters to the right side of the tunnel. They are very obvious and easy to spot. As long as the driver is able to identity whether his own vehicle and the one in front are within the same fire hydrant cabinet, he will know whether he is keeping the required safe distance. If his or her own vehicle and the one in front are within the range of the same fire hydrant cabinet, it means the distance is less than 50 meters.
(3) Road bumpers are installed before and in the tunnel. There are three in a group and the distance between each group is 50m.
(4)The double white solid lines on the traffic lanes are accompanied by one light reflecting mark every 5 meters on the traffic lanes. They serve as an indicator for safe distance when there is traffic congestion.
15. In addition to the regulations for cars, what should bus drivers pay special attention to?
(1) Bus drivers should be fully aware of the relevant road safety regulations.
(2) Bus drivers should thoroughly check the safety facilities on their vehicles before driving.
(3) All large vehicles must enter the control station for inspection.
(4) Buses should only drive in the outer lanes in the tunnel.
(5) Bus drivers should assist the passengers to evacuate in an emergency.
16. What are the regulations for buses regarding inspection at the control station?
(1) To reinforce the control of passenger buses and illegal entry, a total of three control stations are set up along National Highway No. 5, including the Wutu Control Station (control traffic bound for Ilan), Toucheng Toll Station (control traffic bound for Taipei), and Pinglin Interchange (control traffic entering the Pinglin Area).
(2) On the "Section between Shiding Interchang and before Pengshan Tunnel Road" towards the Ilan direction, large vehicles are limited to the far right lane of the climbing slope, and all buses are required to enter the control station for inspection. Bus drivers should pay special attention while entering this section.
(3) The above-mentioned control stations are staffed by control personnel and patrolled by a police inspection team. Vehicles violating relevant regulations, including vehicle types banned from using the road, vehicles warned but which fail to obey, and vehicles banned from the road will be escorted off the road immediately.
17. Which vehicles will be escorted off the road?
(1) Types of vehicles: large trucks, small vehicles carrying hazardous substances, and those exceeding the permitted length, height, width, and weight.
(2) Vehicles overloaded/loaded with cars that cannot be further dismantled, registered as scraps, deregistered, and vehicles without licenses.
(3) Drivers over the legal alcohol limit.
18. What should we do when our vehicles break down or there are accidents in the tunnel?
(1) Drivers should try their best to park their vehicles in the emergency parking bays at the roadside when there are traffic accidents or breakdowns. Meanwhile, they should switch on danger warning lamps.
(2) If drivers cannot steer their vehicles away from the traffic lanes due to accidents or breakdowns, they should switch on the danger warning lamps and place signs 100 meters behind the vehicles.
(3) Drivers should inform the relevant authorities with the emergency telephones on the road side or their mobile phones as soon as possible.
(4) When waiting for breakdowm assistance, the passengers in the vehicles should retreat to the maintenance walkways outside the traffic lanes or any other safe location (such as telephone booths and emergency parking bays), in order to avoid collision with other vehicles or secondary accidents.
(5) Road users upstream of accidents should follow the instructions from CMS, radio within the tunnel and the speakers.
(6) If the traffic lane is occupied by a broken down vehicle, it is allowed to switch traffic lanes. If the whole lane is blocked due to any accident, drivers should follow the instruction of CMS, the in-tunnel radio, of the police and engineering staff on duty.
19. What should drivers do in case of a fire in the tunnel?
(1) Road users downstream of a fire
Drivers should move away as soon as possible if there is a fire behind of the vehicle. It is not allowed to stop or slow down to watch. In addition, drivers should inform the emergency services as soon as their own safety is assured.
(2) Road users at scene of fire
(i) Drivers should park their vehicles immediately toward the road sides when they see a fire in front so that the road is clear for the rescue vehicles to enter.
(ii) Drivers should immediately switch off their engines and order all passengers to get out of the vehicles.
(iii) When leavinging from vehicles, it is fine to take important items, but keys should be left in the vehicles and the vehicles should remain unlocked. This is to facilitate rescue personnel in removing the vehicles.
(iv) Drivers should inform the relevant authorities by using the emergency telephones on the road side or their mobile phones. Alternatively, they can press the fire alarm button on the fire hydrant cabinet.
(v) When the situation permits, drivers or other road users should use fire hydrants to assist in putting out the fire and others in escaping.
(vi) Drivers are advised to escape as quickly as possible.
(3) Road users upstream
(i) Drivers should park their vehicles by the roadside immediately when they see the information displayed on CMS or learn from the tunnel radio that there is a fire downstream so that the road is clear for the rescue vehicles to enter.
(ii) Drivers should immediately switch off the engines and order all the people to get off the vehicles.
(iii) When escaping from vehicles, it is OK to take important items, but the keys should be left in the vehicles and the vehicles should remain unlocked. This is to facilitate rescue personnel in removing the vehicles.
(iv) It is advised to escape as quickly as possible.
(4) Emergency escape
(i) It is advised to run in the opposite direction from which the vehicles are driving in order to stay away from the black smoke. Alternatively, it is advised to follow the radio for escape instructions. If there are no instructions available, it is advised to follow the escape signs by estimating the distance to a connection tunnel for pedestrians or vehicles.
(ii) It is advised that one should bend down when escaping in order to reduce the hazard from black smoke as it is distributed higher up.
(iii) It is advised to immediately enter a connection tunnel for pedestrians or vehicles. It is also advised to contact Control Center by using the emergency telephone in the connection tunnel and listen to their instructions.
20. In case of a fire, how does a bus driver assist his/her passengers to escape to safety?
(1) The bus driver should open the bus doors and the safety doors and guide the passengers in evacuating orderly against the traffic flow.
(2) When the situation permits, the bus driver may use the fire facilities in the tunnel to help extinguish the fire and rescue the passengers.
21. Why must car keys be left in vehicles in the event of a fire?
When escaping from vehicles, road users should take important items. However, the keys should be left in the vehicles and the vehicles should remain unlocked. This is to facilitate rescue personnel in removing the vehicles. If there are many vehicles in the tunnel, it will hinder rescue vehicles from gaining access.
22. How should drivers report incidents (or accidents) when they occur?
(1) Drivers should move away as soon as possible if there is a fire behind the vehicle. It is not allowed to stop or slow down to watch. In addition, drivers should inform the road services authorities as soon as their own safety is assured.
(2) It is advised that the road users on the spot or behind the spot should report the accidents first with the emergency telephones by the roadside. (In case of a fire, they can press the fire alarm on the fire hydrant cabinets.) This will enable Control Center to learn of the location and activate all the relevant facilities nearby. If it is not possible to report the accident with an emergency telephone, road users should report the accident with a mobile phone; however, it is important for them to make sure of the exact location.
23. In case of a fire, why should people at the back of the accident run in the opposite direction from the traffic?
(1) This is because the fans in the tunnel emit air in the same direction in which vehicles are driving. The smoke will be ravel in the same direction from the fire disaster point. Therefore, the upstream (back) of the fire is safer because there is no smoke there.
(2) Only road users very close to the fire spot know exactly the location of the fire. Therefore, even if the personnel far away from the fire do not bear the brunt of the smoke, they should still escape in the direction opposite from the direction in which vehicles are running.
(3) It is advised to enter the closest connection tunnels for pedestrians or vehicles after escaping in the opposite direction from which vehicles are driving in order to stay away from the fire disaster and wait for the aides in the connection tunnels. It is also advised to follow the instructions of the radio and contact Control Center by using the emergency telephones in the connection tunnels in order to proceed to escape and evacuate.
24. Are there any other cautions for road users?
(1) In addition to the reinforcement of disaster prevention and safety education conducted by the Bureau of Highways and relevant units, the National Highway Police Bureau has installed automatic law enforcement facilities inside the tunnel. Road users must observe the relevant road safety regulations closely.
(2) Drivers are urged to make a thorough inspection of their vehicles before driving on the highways. Vehicles broken down inside of the tunnel (due to shortage of fuel, electrical failure, lack of water, and flat tires with tire tracks less than 1.6mm) will be fined.
(3) Buses must enter the control station for inspection; failure to do so will be reported for further legal action.
(4) When detecting vehicle problems inside of the tunnel, drivers should make every attempt to drive through the tunnel before checking the vehicles if the exit is near.
Date of Posting :2007-12-06
Source of Information:Traffic Management Division