Lighting Norway’s tunnels

Norway has over 1,100 tunnels with a total length of over 800 kilometers. Schréder, Phoenix Contact, and Ensto work together to light them safely.

Driving from bright sunlight into a dark hole and re-emerging is routine for many of Norway’s citizens. But what most don’t realize is what a great feat of engineering makes that journey both safe and efficient.

“Traditional street lighting goes on and off with the seasons, but in tunnels it’s linked to the intensity of the sun and the density of traffic,” says Koen Van Winkel, Business Segment Manager, Tunnels, for the lighting company Schréder. “Tunnel lighting has a huge safety impact and requires a massive amount of energy. If you trim the light level to match the real need, then you can save a lot of euros.”

Decades of tunnel experience

Van Winkel knows tunnels. Schréder is one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of outdoor lighting. The fourth-generation family company, founded by Jules Schréder of Belgium, has been lighting public spaces for 112 years. If you’ve visited the Champs-Elysées, the Chunnel, or the Coliseum in Rome, then you’ve seen their work. Less famous, though, are their tunnels, which they’ve been lighting since the 1960s and which have contributed significantly to the company’s success.

Norway has over 1,100 tunnels, some well over 100 years old. The modern ones are dug using explosives and tunnel boring machines, all with impressive accuracy. To make those tunnels safe for drivers requires technology no less precise. Ensto, Schréder, and Phoenix Contact of Germany have partnered to make that happen.

Schréder produces the luminaires, Phoenix Contact supplies the cabling and connectors and the control system, and Ensto provides the junction boxes, as well as the dedicated sales organization in the Norwegian market. Together, it’s a highly sophisticated plug-and-play tunnel lighting system, and it couldn’t have happened without Ensto, Schréder’s exclusive partner in Norway, Finland, and Estonia.

Corrosive environments

Leading the Norway projects is Jens Nilsen, Head of Ensto Lighting in Norway. Compared to other projects, tunnels are particularly challenging says Nilsen. “The lighting components will spend a 20-year lifetime in the tunnel, where it’s a very unfriendly environment. They’re subjected to salt from inside the tunnels, salt used on the roads, and the exhaust from trucks creates this aggressive environment which erodes all but the best materials and treatments. The project documentation is also critical to achieving the best results for the customer.”

Since it began cooperation with Schréder in 2017, Ensto has won, among other projects, two major tunnel projects in Norway. The projects are comprised of a total of five tunnels of 17 kilometers in length, all to be delivered in 2021. The Nordøyvegen project will bring access to islands of 2,700 inhabitants that were previously only accessible by ferry. The Lunnertunnel project is the reconstruction of a four-kilometer tunnel which, remarkably, will only be closed for 12 weeks.

Nilsen says it’s the Ensto-Schréder-Phoenix trio’s plug-and-play solution is one of the reasons that speed is possible. “Schréder and Phoenix worked together to build the Lumgate/ATS control system. If you put up the luminaires, use the quick connect cables, press play on the ATS control panel, then the whole tunnel works. If you have to change a luminaire, you take the old one down, put in a new one and it automatically plays its role.”

Endless tunnels

There are a lot of tunnels in Norway, and the country is building even more. Hundreds are slotted for renovation within the next ten years, all of which must eventually meet EU safety regulations for lighting, ventilation, and other factors.

“It’s partnerships like this one that can make things happen,” says Nilsen. “Ensto is great because it’s a culture where you can build something new.” And there will be a lot of new tunnels in Norway.


Pictures: Møre og Romsdal fylkeskommune, Schréder