Over 600 ceiling panels to be removed from tunnel near Haneda airport.
The operator of the Tokyo metropolitan expressway on Saturday began removing concrete ceiling panels from a tunnel near Tokyo's Handea airport, after the company found defects in fasteners during emergency checks ordered in the wake of a fatal ceiling collapse in a highway tunnel near Tokyo earlier this month.
All 684 ceiling panels will be removed by Thursday, according to Metropolitan Expressway Co. The tunnel near Haneda employed the same suspended ceiling structure as the Sasago Tunnel, about 80 kilometers west of Tokyo on the Chuo Expressway, where a section of ceiling collapsed Dec. 2, killing nine people.
These are the first ceiling panels to be removed from tunnels along expressways in Japan operated by six companies, excluding the ceiling panels removed from inside the Sasago Tunnel after the recent tragedy, the company said.
West Nippon Expressway Co. plans to remove concrete ceiling panels from inside three tunnels in Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures, while East Nippon Expressway Co. is inspecting tunnels it manages to determine whether removal is necessary.
The tunnel near Haneda airport opened to traffic in 1964, and is 300 meters long with 20-meter ceilings suspended over lanes carrying traffic in opposite directions. Each panel is 2.6 meters long by 40 centimeters wide by 5 cm thick and weighs 130 kilograms.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism ordered expressway tunnels be inspected immediately, and ahead of the year-end and New Year holiday period when traffic volumes increase substantially.