The term "operator" describes the body representing the owner on site and responsible for operating the tunnel. This key player for tunnel safety works in close relation with the other players concerned (owner, public authorities, emergency services, sub contractors, other operators, users, etc.). Its main task is to manage traffic, civil engineering aspects and tunnel equipment, together with crisis and administrative management related with its missions. It plays a crucial role for optimum implementation of the tunnel safety management system: this is demonstrated by its involvement in design studies (including risk analyses) and definition of operating principles, not forgetting the day-to-day monitoring of tunnel operation (event management, carrying out safety exercises, implementing experience feedback, regular updating of operating documents, staff training, coordination with other bodies involved, etc.).
With respect to this player, the following aspects are highlighted in the existing Technical Report 2008R03 "Management of the operator-emergency teams interface in road tunnels" :
More generally the lessons learnt from exercises and real events have shown that the behaviour of all those in charge of operating the tunnel is a decisive factor in ensuring the safety of people during an incident.
One of the key issues regarding this topic is appropriate reaction of the operating staff responsible for monitoring and controlling tunnels. They are the very first to be involved in road tunnel crisis management and as such carry very considerable responsibilities on behalf of the operator in terms of daily tunnel management. Their task is all the more difficult in that they may at any time be required to manage potentially serious events for which the probability they will happen is extremely low. In the event of a serious incident that may require evacuation, they dispose of various types of dynamic equipment that will enable them to inform and warn users in real time, whilst encouraging them to adopt the appropriate behaviour. This issue is dealt with in the Technical Report 2016R06EN entitled “Improving safety in road tunnels through real-time communication with users”. This document is intended for all parties involved in the design and operation of road tunnels (owners, operators, designers, emergency services). The report describes how to communicate information to users in normal, congested and critical conditions. It then details the various systems that could be activated in order to optimise real-time communication with users. Illustrations show how these devices can be used in cases of congestion, a serious incident or fire and explain how they must be adapted to the changing circumstances of the event.
To react in the appropriate manner, tunnel operators must be able to understand and control sometimes complex situations, meaning they must be very good at stress management. Specific and appropriate training is thus essential. European regulations require the personnel involved in operating tunnels to receive "appropriate initial and continuing training" (European Directive 2004/54/CE - Annex 1 § 3.1 "Operating means").