Operation Sunrise lights up Hindhead Tunnel after sunset


27 Mar 2024

As the sun set over the Surrey Hills, the A3 Hindhead Tunnel closed for routine maintenance, however there was more about to happen on this wintry Tuesday night.

Operation Sunrise lights up Hindhead Tunnel after sunset

Code named ‘Operation Sunrise’, 90 staff and volunteers from National Highways and local emergency services arrived to take part in a planned emergency exercise to test our joint response to a major incident.

The exercise simulated a road traffic incident resulting in multiple vehicle fires, including an electric vehicle. It was played out as it would in real life, with the tunnel closed to make it as realistic as possible.

We spoke to Tunnel Safety Officer Whitney Gee to find out more: “With safety our number one priority, exercises like this are essential. We can demonstrate and rehearse what we, and our partners, would do in close to live conditions, while checking the tunnel’s life safety systems, operational procedures and emergency plans, both on-site and remotely, including evacuation of the tunnel.”

The planning and preparation for these events takes several weeks of dedication from each participating organisation.

"“Well practiced inter-agency working at the UK’s longest non-estuarial road tunnel aids in improving safety and operational measures and helps us plan our tunnel maintenance and improvements. So thank you to everyone involved.”"
Whitney Gee, Tunnel Safety Officer

We conducted this exercise alongside planned maintenance work, avoiding the need for future closures and keeping disruption to a minimum.

With volunteers from the Casualties Union Charity simulating casualties, we were able to rehearse medical triage and evacuation during the exercise. And as this included a wheelchair user, we were able to see how we could improve guidance and accessibility arrangements for anyone with reduced mobility within the tunnel.

Special thanks also go to Kier Highways, Surrey Police, Hampshire Police, South East Coast Ambulance Service, The Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service and Waverley Borough Council.