Waagner Biro’s Underpass & Tunnel Maintenance Keeps the UAE Moving

    HomeBlogBlogWaagner Biro’s Underpass & Tunnel Maintenance Keeps the UAE Moving

When travelling anywhere in the UAE via road networks, there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter underpasses and tunnels at some point during your journey. Highway road tunnels and inter-emirate vehicle underpasses are vital components of an essential busy road network, and keeping them clean and functional is crucial for safe and efficient passage.


From ensuring that all the lights work and are of the right strength to washing the grime and stains off the inside walls, it’s important to carry out regular maintenance on road tunnels and vehicle underpasses around the country.


Waagner Biro offers extensive turnkey engineering solutions that include the design and building services of bridges and steel structures. But more than just designing and building infrastructure, we’re also great at maintaining them. Our maintenance and cleaning solutions help to keep the UAE functional, efficient and safe – with one of our specialities being underpass and tunnel maintenance. 

First, develop an effective tunnel and underpass maintenance program


You’ll want to create an effective tunnel and underpass maintenance program once the construction of your underpass or tunnel begins to draw to a close. Aim to have your maintenance strategy strike a balance between preventative and corrective maintenance. In fact, it is considered good practice to have approximately 70% to 80% of all maintenance activities performed under a preventative maintenance approach.


Waagner Biro offers end-to-end solutions, which means that we’ll help you craft the perfect maintenance and cleaning program for the tunnel or overpass that we design and build.

What types of maintenance does Waagner Biro provide?

Preventative maintenance

Carrying out preventative maintenance reduces the likelihood of failure, as well as extends the service life of components. This regular and routine maintenance of tunnels and underpasses ensures that the infrastructure is kept functional and prevents any costly, unplanned inconveniences stemming from unexpected deterioration or failure.


Furthermore, conducting a program of relatively small periodic repairs and activities will keep your infrastructure in good condition – thereby avoiding the large expense of major rehabilitation or replacement. 


To craft an optimised approach for preventative maintenance, you’ll want to focus on cyclical, conditional and predictive-based methods. Cyclical methods see maintenance performed at predetermined intervals and are ideal to implement when there is established service life. Conditional preventative maintenance uses observations and measurements to gauge the onset of failure. And, lastly, predictive preventative maintenance is based on mathematical forecasting models and statistical analysis.

Annual maintenance

This refers to the routine maintenance and cleaning performed on an annual basis that aims to restore all components of tunnels and underpasses to normal operational conditions. 


Conducted yearly or as per the manufacturer’s notes, annual maintenance includes partial or complete disassembly of facilities and assets, inspection to detect damaged, defective or worn-out parts, and repairs and replacements of said defective or damaged parts. Equipment and systems are then reassembled, tested and put through a trial run before recommencing the full operating level.

Corrective maintenance

Also known as on-demand maintenance, this type of maintenance is the most effective strategy against occurrences that are difficult to predict, such as damage from vehicle impacts, sudden equipment malfunctions, or unanticipated tunnel system failure. 


Corrective maintenance should be viewed as a contingency plan that must be developed in advance to facilitate the repair process and return the tunnel to service. 

Tunnel system rehabilitation

When nearing the end of their useful life, individual tunnel systems are often rehabilitated. Also known as refurbishment, tunnel rehabilitation implies that a large-scale repair program is being developed with extended durations, substantial engineering input and substantial costs. 


Tunnel rehabilitation includes carrying out projects such as overhauling the ventilation systems, upgrading the fire suppression equipment, replacing the lighting system, or making extensive structural repairs.

Maintenance activities that take place 


Removing debris

Having debris present in tunnels and underpasses can pose several safety concerns. To prevent this, debris should be removed from tunnels and underpasses regularly since it could obstruct vision, damage vehicles, foul equipment, or present a fire or safety hazard. 


Washing of tunnels and underpasses

Once the interiors of tunnels and underpasses become dull with dirt and grime, they need to be washed. The washing process consists of spraying the tunnel with water and detergents, scrubbing the surfaces with rotating brushes, and rinsing off the soap and grime using water jets. 


The frequency of washing will vary from infrastructure to infrastructure, as factors such as the environmental conditions, traffic levels and the type of vehicles, such as diesel-burning trucks, will influence how dirty the interior surfaces get – some might need to be washed quarterly while others might only need to be cleaned annually. 


Not only does frequent washing of tunnel and underpass surfaces make it easier to keep clean and maintain the levels of reflectivity, but it also makes the inspection work easier.

Optimising the lighting

Lighting and visibility play an important role in accident prevention. Therefore, lights should be easy to service to limit lane closures and maintenance time. Lights should also be sealed from harmful environmental effects and keep out moisture, bugs and dust. 


Road tunnels and vehicle underpasses require a specific strength of light – too bright and the lights may blind or distract drivers, or too dim and the tunnel can seem claustrophobic and daunting, as well as increasing dangers from obstructions and other hazards. Instead, aim to use the walls of the tunnels to reflect artificial light and create a false ambient lighting effect.


The ideal outcome is to have the level of lighting encourage drivers to use their dipped beam or trigger the automatic headlight sensor in many modern vehicles, as well as provide sufficient light for any pedestrians or emergency incidents, such as breakdowns.

Drainage inlets and pipes

All roadway drain inlets should be cleaned of debris and flushed with water to prevent clogging. For the sake of efficiency, this should be scheduled with tunnel washing activities.

Pavement markings and signs

Pavement markings and signs should be cleaned or re-painted when they become dull or faded. You want them to be as luminous as possible so that drivers are clearly able to identify the pavement markings and signs when travelling through the tunnel or overpass at acceptable speeds.

Corrective maintenance activities that take place


Damage to tunnel or overpass

Vehicle collisions, fires, explosions, floods, earthquakes, rockslides and landslides are just a few incidents that can cause damage to tunnels and overpasses. Corrective maintenance can be called out soon after to repair the damage. 


Concrete detachment

Concrete can loosen and detach because of faulty placement techniques, corrosion of rebar, damage from excessive heat, impact from vehicles and deterioration. Some of these processes may even occur without warning.


When concrete debris is discovered in the roadway portion of the tunnel, it should be cleaned up immediately, with any loose or dangling concrete removed using small hand-held hammers, pry bars, jackhammers or other appropriate tools.

Sudden equipment failure

Equipment failure is one of the more difficult situations to predict, particularly when electronic components are involved. An appropriate contingency plan should be ready for implementation to restore service as quickly as possible. 


Pavement repair

Roadway wearing surfaces are typically comprised of concrete or asphalt materials Sealing cracks and patching potholes are part of roadway maintenance. Extensive subgrade repairs may be needed due to insufficient drainage or loss of fines in the subgrade. Pavement repairs should not be allowed to impact the vertical clearances of the tunnel.

Get in touch with us


Waagner Biro Bridge has been building bridges for over 160 years now, and for the last 50, we’ve been providing both governments and private clients throughout the Middle East with reliable, technically-advanced and cost-effective turnkey engineering solutions.


We combine design and construction under one roof for better communication, project management and a more cost- and time-effective end product. Our interdisciplinary team covers everything from design to erection, and we have our own fabrication yard to produce solutions immediately and as needed.


If you would like to learn more about our services in Dubai, get in touch with us and one of our team members will be happy to help.