The Pyrenees mountains form the border between France, Spain, and Andorra, and are a natural barrier for the development of cross-border infrastructure. Mountain roads are also extremely vulnerable to natural hazards like avalanches and falling rocks, which are being exacerbated by climate change. The SECURUS project responds to the challenge of protecting the road connections around the Bielsa-Aragnouet tunnel and Portalet pass throughout the year by going beyond administrative and geographical borders and improving the coordination of human and material resources of the three countries. The project is divided along three major action lines:
- Carrying out preliminary studies on natural risks
- Ensuring safety of users against recurrent natural hazards such as snowslides, landslides, soil erosion, thunderstorms, etc.
- Developing and updating the cross-border Action Plans related to emergency teams and coordination and support for winter maintenance.
CTBA, the ‘Consorcio para la Gestión, Conservación y Exploración del Tunel de Bielsa-Aragnouet y sus Accesos’, leads a partnership of five partners, including the EGTC Portalet Space, the Department of Hautes-Pyrénées, and two French municipalities, Saint-Lary Soulan and Aragnouet. The CTBA and the EGTC's participation helps implementing the project, which has been frequently hampered and slowed by administrative, legal, governance, and technical challenges associated with implementing road safety measures.
The added value of addressing the issue through a cross-border approach is based on the sharing of resources and knowledge, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective joint measures to improve the safety of border residents.
The project covers two cross-border itineraries: the Bielsa-Aragnouet road linking the towns of Lannemazan (France) and Aínsa (Spain), and the Pourtalet pass road linking the towns of Laruns (France) and Biescas (Spain). The areas covered by the project are Huesca (Spain), Pyrénées Atlantiques and Hautes Pyrénées (France).
The project is part of the Interreg V-A Spain-France-Andorra (POCTEFA) Cooperation Programme 2014-2020 with an ERDF contribution of about €2,740,000 and it is financed under priority axis 2 “Promoting adaptation to climate change and risk prevention and management”. The project started in July 2017 and ended in June 2019.
Following a successful first phase, the SECURUS II project continued to make progress in protecting the area's roadways. The project began in 2018 and was completed in May 2022.
Starting with preliminary studies to assess the area's conditions, the project partners carried out a variety of actions centred on the protection and prevention of avalanches, landslides, and erosion, as well as electrical storms. To improve winter maintenance and solve the problem of snow entering Pyrenean roads, a fixed avalanche release system was introduced (to prevent the detachment of snow masses). In addition, a new monitoring system with a network of cameras every 3-4 kilometres was installed on the Portalet pass road to improve driver safety, particularly in winter. This new system aims to inform drivers about winter viability by sending timely information on the condition of the road in the event of snow accumulations and avalanche risk, available on the Portalet Space website.
Other project activities have resulted in the creation and revision of Intervention and Safety Plans focusing on first-responder teams. Activities included not only website-based awareness campaigns, but also school visits, information panels, international events, and conferences. For example, a project-produced paper on avalanche risk management and actions for forecasting and mitigating this risk was presented at the International Winter Road Congress in Poland in 2018. The project received high praise for its efforts and was awarded the best paper on winter viability at the congress.
The project’s set up and process can be replicated for similar cross-border routes. Indeed, the project’s approach can be replicated in other similar cross-border contexts, by implementing joint measures to improve the safety of citizens crossing the border.