“The size of this project is remarkable — the viaduct is one of the largest in the world,” says Olivier Tricoire, Nouvelle Route du Littoral deputy director of operations. The ‘Nouvelle Route du Littoral’ is currently under construction in Réunion Island’s — a French department — Indian Ocean and is set to be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by the French government. The 12.5km highway, parallel to the coast, will connect Saint Dennis with La Grande Chaloupe and replace the existing coastal road between Saint Dennis and La Possession. The existing road is exposed to sea spray when there’s heavy swell — frequently occurring due to the absence of a continental plateau — and to the falling of rocks. The 80,000 people who frequently use the road are often stuck in traffic jams, as the authorities have to close one or two lanes for a period of two months to a year. The new coastal highway will eliminate these issues, as it will be 20-30m above sea level — expected to be above the highest waves of the biggest storms. The €1.7bn development has been awarded to two joint ventures. The construction of the 5.4km viaduct section — €715M of works — is under the responsibility of the viaduct joint venture, which comprises Vinci Construction Grands Projects, Dodin Campenon Bernard, Bouygues Travaux Publics and Demathieu Bard. The second contract, worth €530M, has been awarded to a joint venture of Vinci Construction Terrassement and local companies SBTPC and Grands Travaux de l’Océan Indien, which will be responsible for the 6.7km of embankments and La Possession interchange. The dual carriageway will have two lanes in each direction, and has been designed to accommodate a rail line later on. Tricoire says: “The Regional council chose to not increase the personal vehicle capacity and instead to promote collective transport. The project includes lanes only for bus — and later tramway — and also pedestrian and bicycle ways.”
Several projects are now in execution around the world and WCN, as part of its roads week, has listed 13 worth knowing about.1) National Highway Development Program, IndiaThe $71bn National Highway Development Program was implemented in 1998 and aims at improving the road network in India.The project — being delivered in seven phases — includes the construction, rehabilitation, expansion and upgrade of nearly 56km of highway.The Golden Quadrilateral phase, completed in 2015, connects the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, through a 5,846km road. The scope of the project also includes the construction of around 50,000km of roads, under Phases I-VII, Port Connectivity, and the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East (SARDP-NE).Even though the development only accounts for 2% of the total length of roads in the country, it carries about 40% of the total traffic. The programme, owned by National Highways Authority of India and planned by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways of India, started in 2001 and is expected to be complete in 2021. 2) Central to Sukhumvit Bypass Upgrade, ThailandThe $26bn project involves the construction of an underground tunnel from Central Road to Soi Pornprapanimit in Chonburi, Thailand.The four-lane tunnel will be 1,900m long and 20m wide.The project also includes the construction of four subterranean lanes, road separators, footpaths, as well as the installation of air ventilators, signalling, security and lightening systems. Additionally, a U-turn on top of the tunnel — featuring an island with dolphin sculptures — is set to be constructed.The upgrade will reduce traffic congestion, as well as provide a freeway road to the region.Construction on the project, carried out by the Ministry of Transport of Thailand, commenced in February 2015 and is expected to be complete in 2018.3) Trans-Sumatra High Grade Highway, IndonesiaThe $25bn Trans-Sumatra High Grade Highway project is set to connect the Lampung and Aceh provinces in Sumatra Island.The project, also known as Trans Sumatra toll road, involves the construction of a 2,600km toll road to be developed in 24 sections.The scope of the work also includes the construction of pavements, supporting walls, toll stations, pedestrian walkways, as well as the installation of safety systems.The development — aiming at improving connectivity and economic development in the region — has suffered many setbacks. In 2012, the land acquisition process started, but faced long delays due to disputes along the route.Construction work commenced in 2014, and the first eight sections are expected to be complete by 2019. Construction companies selected for the highway include PT Adhi Karya (Persero), PT Wijaya Karya Beton, PT Hutama Karya (Persero) and PT Pembangunan Perumahan (Persero).4) Westconnex Motorway, AustraliaThe Westconnex Motorway will provide a link between Westerm Sydney, Sydney Airport and the Port Botany in New South Wales. The US$13bn project includes the construction of a 33km road — connecting the country’s M4 and M5 motorways — to be delivered in three stages. Stage I involves the construction of 13km of road, including the construction of the M4 east link between Homebush and Haberfield. Additionally, it includes the upgrade of the Concord Road interchange and the realignment of surface roads at City West Link and Parramatta Road.Stage II includes the widening of the existing M5 East to eight lanes from the Kings Georges Road interchange, and 9km of twin tunnels. Construction in this stage is expected to be complete by 2019.Stage III involves the construction of an 8.5km, three-lane road tunnel between Stage I at Haberfield and Stage II at St Peters. Construction work is expected to commence in late 2018 and be completed by 2023.Construction on the motorway has started in 2015 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2023.The project’s contractors include Samsung C&T Corporation, CPB Contractors Pty Limited, Fulton Hogan Australia Pty Ltd, John Holland Pty Ltd, Rizzani de Eccher S.p.A., CPB Contractors Pty Limited, Dragados S.A. and sub-contractor Samsung C&T Corporation.5) Lahore-Karachi Motorway, PakistanThe National Highway Authority of Pakistan is undertaking the construction of the Lahore-Karachi Motorway project with the aim of reducing journey times and congestion. The $7bn project includes the construction of a 1,152km dual six-lane motorway to be executed in four sections. The first section involves the construction of a 136km, six-lane motorway from Hyderabad to Karachi, while the second includes the construction of a 296km motorway from Hyderabad to Sukkur.The third stage includes the construction of a 387km motorway from Sukkur to Multan and the fourth section the construction of a 333km motorway from Multan to Lahore.Furthermore, bridges, underpasses, footpaths, cycleways and service roads are being constructed.Construction work commenced in 2015 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.The chosen contractors for the project include Frontier Works Organization, China Railway Zoth Bureau Group and Zahir Khan & Brothers. 6) Longchuan to Huaiji Highway, ChinaThe on-going Longchuan to Huaiji Highway project has been announced in 2013 and is expected to increase mobility and provide a smooth flow of traffic.For this effect, a 368km-long and 26m-wide highway is being constructed in Guangdong, China. The $6.6bn project also includes the construction of walkways, flyovers, a 26m-wide roadbed, and a toll plaza, along with the installation of signalling and lighting systems. Construction work — by Guangdong Hualu Transportation Technology Co Ltd — is expected to be complete in 2018.7) G75 Lanhai Expressway: Weiyuan-Wudu section, ChinaThe G75 Lanhai Expressway will connect the region of Weiyuan to Wudu in Gansu, China. The $5.8bn project involves the construction of a 244km highway, including bridges, tunnels, interchanges, walkways and tollbooths. It will also include the installation of signalling and lighting systems. The expressway is being delivered in 23 sections and construction work in section 4 and 6 is now underway. Construction work started this year and is expected to be complete in 2019.8) Tolo Highway/Fanling Highway widening, Hong KongThe Tolo Highway/Fanling Highway is set to provide a good transport link between Island House Interchange and Fanling in Hong Kong.To help to achieve that aim, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Highways Department is widening roads and constructing new bridges.The $5.6bn development also includes the construction of a carriageway, noise barriers, retaining walls, water-mains, drainage and sewerage, geotechnical and landscaping works, as well as the installation of fire hydrants and sign boards.Construction work started in 2009 and is being delivered in two phases. The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for Phase I was awarded to Gammon Construction Limited and China State Construction Engineering Limited, while a Hyder Consulting, Arup and Black & Veatch joint venture secured the design-build for phase II.Phase I has been completed and phase II is now under construction. The highway is expected to be complete by 2018.9) Altanbulag-Ulaanbaatar-Zamyn Uud Highway, MongoliaThe highway, almost 1,000km long, will connect the regions of Altanbulag and Zamyn Uud in Mongolia.The scope of the project includes the construction of a 367km highway from Altanbulag to Ulaanbaatar and 630km of highway from Ulaanbaatar to Zamyn Uud.The $5bn project — aimed at reducing traffic congestion — also involves the construction of ramps, lane dividers, pedestrian ways, as well as the installation of lighting systems. The highway is being built by the Chinggis Land Development Group (CLDG) — in a design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis. Construction work started in 2015 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2018. 10) Wenchuan-Maerkang Highway – ChinaThe $4.7bn Wenchuan-Maerkang Highway project was announced by the Sichuan Transport Investment Group Co in 2012.The project involves the construction of a two-way, four-lane 173km-long highway in Sichuan, China. It also includes the construction of tunnels, bridges, concrete pavements, service area and related infrastructure.Construction work started in 2014 and is expected to be complete in 2017.The EPC contractor for the project is CCCC Fourth Highway Engineering Co., Ltd.11) State Highways Improvement II – IndiaState Highways Improvement II project is set to improve the road network in Karnataka, India.The $4.5bn project involves the construction of 830km of two-lane highway in the first phase and 633km in the second phase.The highway is being delivered on a design, build, finance, operate, maintain and transfer basis.Construction work started in 2011 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.12) Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade, AustraliaThe Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is undertaking the Pacific Highway upgrade with the aim of reducing travel times and cost for the people.The US$4.3bn project involves the upgrade of four-lane, 155km dual carriageway between Woolgoolga and Ballina on the North Coast of New South Wales. The development — being developed in 11 sections — includes the construction of 10 grade-separated interchanges, access bridges, overpasses, viaducts, cross-drainage bridges, service roads and a 1.5km new four-lane Harwood bridge over the Clarence River.The scope of the work also includes the installation of signalling and safety systems. The latest contract for the project was awarded to Ferrovial and Acciona consortium in July 2016 for the design-build of Harwood Bridge.Works on the first and second sections are underway. The entire project — expected to reduce travel times by up to 25 minutes — is scheduled for completion in 2020.13) Pan Borneo Highway Upgrade, MalaysiaThe Pan Borneo Highway Upgrade project consists in the upgrading of 1,663km of carriageway from Borneo States of Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia.The highway is being upgraded from a single-carriageway into a dual-carriageway.The scope of the work also includes the construction of bridges, pedestrian ways, and other related infrastructural facilities as well as the installation of signalling and safety systems.Lebuhaya Borneo Utara Sdn Bhd is the main contractor for the $4.2bn project — being developed in different stages. Construction work started in 2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2023.* For more information on road projects, visit Timetric's Construction Intelligence Center.
If you believe the old song, the M25 motorway that circles London is ‘The Road to Hell’. But while many motorists may be inclined to agree with that sentiment — particularly during the coming bank holiday weekend — there are plenty of roads around the globe that offer much more than traffic jams and suspect hotdogs from service stations. From those that take in remarkable natural scenery, through to those constructed using innovative technologies — we look at some of the world’s most interesting roads.1) The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway
“We did it. We – the Vogel family from Boise, Idaho – did it. We did the impossible, and I couldn’t be happier that we did,” wrote Nancy Sathre-Vogel, in her family blog, when she and her family reached Ushuaia, in Argentina.Eight years ago, John and Nancy Vogel left their teaching jobs, took their twin boys out of school, bought two single bikes and a tandem and embarked on a journey to cycle the Pan-American Highway.The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads, extending from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. According to the Guinness World Records, the 48,000km highway, which runs through the North and South American continents, is the world’s longest ‘motorable road’.The highway comprises official and unofficial sections. The official section runs from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Buenos Aires, Argentina, while the unofficial sections can be found to both the north and south of the official route.The route — including the official and unofficial sections — spreads across 14 countries: the USA, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina.However, if you are thinking in cycling or driving all the way down until Ushuaia without stopping — except to rest, sleep or eat — take that out of your mind.The route is interrupted by a 160km-wide break, named the Darién Gap, between Central and South America.The Pan-American Highway is for many the ultimate road trip and here — as part of the WCN’s Roads Week — we provide you with everything you need to know, so you can start, if you fancy the challenge, your ‘little’ adventure.
As technologies for road construction advance, so too do the highways that connect cities, countries, and even continents. We look at the seven longest roads in the world today.1) Pan-American Highway, American continent
As the seventh-largest state in the US by area, Nevada needs its roads. And the largest freeway construction project in the state’s history is currently underway.Called Project Neon and commissioned by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), the undertaking covers a 3.7-mile corridor through the heart of Las Vegas and will cost almost $1bn in total. It includes the approach spiral Interstate 15/US Highway 95 interchange — otherwise known as the Spaghetti Bowl — where around 300,000 vehicles pass through daily, conducting 25,000 lane changes every hour.Design lead on the project team is Atkins, who are managing all design and engineering services, including the project’s Active Traffic Management System (ATM). This is key to realising the NDOT’s overall construction plan, which prioritises safety and driver awareness.It involves keeping motorists informed with real-time information and updates — before, during and after the construction of the freeway project. Atkins has previous experience with this type of technology, having designed freeway management systems for more than 80 miles of roads in Southern Nevada in the past.The dynamic message signs positioned over the freeways provide information on alternative routes, any traffic incidents and restrictions, and instructions regarding lane control and variable speed limits.The project is indicative of more than one current trend in the road construction sector, says Atkins.“As a design, engineering and project management consultancy, we have seen an increase in the use of public-private partnerships (P3) to fund and operate projects, as well as an increase in design-build as the method for project delivery,” says Barry Schulz, chief operating officer for Atkins, North America.
Metro projects and hydropower schemes continue to drive India’s tunnelling market, and more opportunities are yet to come but challenges remain in the competitive market, Bernadette Ballantyne reports.Until the turn of the new millennium, India's tunnelling market was dominated by hydropower and irrigation tunnels, many of which meant drilling into the challenging geology of the Himalayas. "These are the toughest ground conditions in the world, closely followed by the Andes and then the Alps," says Manoj Verman, president of the Indian National Group of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) and an independent consultant on tunnelling and rock mechanics. "The geology is very varied.It is not uncommon to encounter weak zones, shear zones, fault zones and water in the same path," he says noting that the high overburden stresses from the mountain can also cause problems. Combined with the inaccessible nature of some of the locations and the climatic extremes that include snow and flash flooding, working conditions are inhospitable at best and impossible at worst. It is clear to see why projects here are so challenging.Early TBM hurdlesDealing with the hard and changeable Himalayan rock has traditionally been a drill and blast affair, but the use of tunnel boring machine (TBM) appears to be gaining momentum despite an inauspicious start. "In mountainous regions TBMs have been used and the first three projects were a disaster," says Verman. "There is frequently changing geology and if a TBM goes fast it can get stuck and that is a nightmare. If the height of the mountain is very high it stresses too much and if the rock is soft then it squeezes, under the same height of overburden if the rock is strong then it will burst so these two are extreme cases and they both happen under high stress."An early example of a stranded TBM was on the Dul Hasti hydropower project in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, which began preliminary construction in 1985 and became operational in 2007. Shear zones regularly crossed the 9.64km head race tunnel alignment and water seepage was high leading to tunnel roof collapses that eventually buried the TBM, leaving it beyond salvation.Better progressHowever there have been some more positive breakthroughs. In June 2014 contractor and TBM manufacturer Seli announced that it had completed 14.7km of tunnelling on the Kishanganga hydropower project in Kashmir, mainly for construction of the 12km headrace tunnel. Revealing average rates of over 400m per month and a maximum of 816m in a single month, the scheme has been widely recognised as a huge breakthrough for mechanised tunnelling in the Himalayas. "This tunnel was a tremendous success," says Verman pointing to other forthcoming schemes that are planning to use TBMs. Client THDC India has appointed Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) to use a TBM for delivery of a 10m diameter, 12km long head race tunnel for the 444MW Vishnugad-Pilpakoti hydropower scheme in Chamoli in the state of Uttarakhand. The TBM is scheduled for delivery and assembly on site in February 2016.Long awaited success in the mountains combined with a huge demand for TBMs to build a growing number of city wide metro schemes, means that TBM manufacturers are upbeat about the prospects. TBM manufacturer Robbins established its Indian subsidiary in New Delhi in 2005."We started by supplying 10m double shield TBMs to contractors for an irrigation water supply tunnel which is 43km long. It would be the world's longest tunnel without intermediate access once completed," says Kapil Bhati, general manager for Robbins India, noting that the company's 10m-diameter machines are the largest in operation in India today. "The tunnel will take the water from a river and then over to a drought affected areas irrigating 500,000 hectares of land and further providing drinking water. We have completed around 25km as of now with two TBMs. We are still continuing and expected to complete 2.5 years from now," he says.Of course such a huge job has not been without its challenges and although boring of the outlet began in 2007 access to the inlet end was not available until 2011 due to land acquisition issues."After that advancements were pretty good even with geology being more difficult than anticipated. We are still doing around 300m/month average on each side of the tunnel so the production average is good in spite of the hard rock and tough geology," says Bhati.Another water tunnel transferring flows from the same river, is also underway using a third Robbins 10m-diameter machine. The tunnel is half way through with three years to go, says Bhati. A fourth 10m-diameter machine is also building a 12km water transfer tunnel.Metro growthAs these schemes roll on, Robbins has also been busy supplying and supporting machines for metros in India's bustling cities. "Soon after the irrigation tunnels the metro projects started," says Bhati and the company began by supplying machines to Delhi and then Chennai. "Delhi Metro was totally soft ground so we supplied a spoke type of earth pressure balance (EPB) machine. Those machines performed very well and had very good advance rates."The geology of Chennai is mainly soft but there are a couple of areas where there is rock or mixed ground and then we have supplied a mixed face EPB machine for that geology," he says."The result has been a more challenging bore in Chennai with rock at the bottom and soft ground at the top combined with ingress of water. Cutter changes and interventions were challenging but we have still been successful. There are around 200m left to bore."In Jaipur which is currently building the first phase of its metro starting with a 12km east-west connection, 2.8km of which are underground, the company met with soft ground. "The contractor had two old Robbins machines in stock so we refurbished those machines for the contractor and those are being used. The main challenge here is the heritage structures over the top. It is an old city," he says noting that in the areas where the metro transitions from elevated to underground there is just 5m of cover and yet the marginal tolerance is just 1mm.Tip of the icebergThese are just the tip of the metro iceberg. "Right now there are metros being built in New Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta and Bangalore. Elevated and underground both," says Sanjib Bhattacharya, chief of TBM tunnelling at ITD Cementation India, which is comprised of Italian Thai Development Public Company Limited with the Indian branch of the UK's Cementation. In his 22 years with the company Bhattacharya has delivered 50km of traditional tunnelling with NATM and 21km of TBM routes. "We just completed 7km of TBM tunnelling in Delhi. I was the project manager and out of 7km there were four EPB TBMs, two mixed shield and two soil all from Herrenknecht. In Delhi out of 36 machines, some 19 were Herrenknecht," he says. The Delhi metro is now undertaking its third phase of construction which will result in a further 160km of new lines 54km of which are underground. At its peak in mid-2014 there were 26 TBMs working simultaneously. The tunnelling is over 80% complete as Tunnels and Tunnelling goes to press and has not been without its challenges. Bhattacharya says that one particularly tough section was a 1.25km drive that ran beneath Delhi airport's runway for a distance of 400m meaning that the contractor was not able to carry out geotechnical investigations."This was very unpredictable because the geological data was not there. We designed our machine cutterheads and cutting tools on the basis of available geological parameters. It was around rock, we encountered quartzitic rock of around 200-210Mpa. Very, very hard. So in accordance with that we designed our machine to 250MPa. But unfortunately when we entered the airport area where the survey was not possible we encountered 350MPA," says Bhattacharya. As a result the construction costs ballooned from USD 14 to USD 15 per metre to around USD 35 as the hard rock quickly ate up the cutters. "It was a huge cost and meant that we were only getting four or five metres per day."As a result progress on this section was two to three months behind schedule, says Bhattacharya, however he points out that better progress on another drive where they avoided the rock and used the soil EPB machine made back the time.Despite having taken cores every 50m the nature of the airport site prevented investigation in this area and Bhattacharya says that the client accepted this when the contractor made a claim for the additional costs. "In India contracts are very rigid. 400m survey was not possible so we put a claim in and this was (logically) accepted by DMRC as the data couldn't be got in advance."Critical geological dataAs this experience shows, obtaining geological data is critical for any tunnelling project and is an area where Verman says that clients themselves need to put in more effort in the planning stages if they want to see their projects succeed. "The biggest lesson I would offer clients is 'please investigate more'. What is absolutely lacking in the country is proper site investigation or geotechnical investigation before the project," he says pointing to a World Bank study which he led five years ago which reached the same conclusion. "In state of the art projects 3–5% of cost is spent on investigations but in India it is not even 0.5%. People always say they have had geological surprises. They are surprises because they are not investigating. That is the biggest lesson that should be learned.""I fully agree," says Bhati. "There is hardly any sufficient data available before the tendering process commences. We understand regarding areas which have the limitations like Himalayas wherein the cover above the TBM is as high as 1 to 2km. On the other hand, water transfer tunnel projects or metro projects have the accessibility of lands which clients want to cut short by not providing the proper information or doing proper geographical mapping which results in the award of the tender to the contractor as it is," he says."The contractor in turn has to gather that information by himself which takes time therefore delaying the project and losing more time. Better and earlier information on geological details allows the manufacturers to design the machines and give them provisions to equip the machine to encounter all the problems in front."One of the side effects of this is that projects are less attractive to international contractors who are not prepared to take the risks pushed onto the contractors under the design and build arrangements. "For the time being, due to aggressive local competition and actual contract versions comprising unacceptable risks for the contractor, we refrain from tendering for tunnel projects in India," a spokesperson for contractor Strabag says.Yet ironically clients are demanding that international firms participate in main contracts. "Indian clients are putting a condition [in place] that the tunnelling manager must be an expert from outside of India," says Bhattacharya who says that the international financing provided to the metros also pushes for European consultants to be involved."It is true that they have more experience than us but the fact is that we are building experience. I have a team now running four TBMs simultaneously and now I am looking at Mumbai and Kolkata. We have the resources. Only problem is that the Indian companies don't have the technical credentials so they can't pass the technical bids so that is why we are making JVs."However he says that this is changing and that for smaller bores of 1-2km Indian contractors are wining projects without international partners. Another advantage that local firms have is their proximity to clients and their long term market positions which mean that local companies are more willing to accept delayed payments through claims. International firms however see this as too risky.One way of reducing risk, says Bhati is to have the TBM manufacturer support the project through its life, not just at the beginning. "Most of the time delays are because manufacturers are not supporting the project and the contractor is not capable of coping with the difficult geology. On most of the jobs what we are doing we are supporting them on execution on a per metre basis," he says.This strategy has been particularly important to the Bangalore metro for which delays have been widely reported in the local media. Mumbai Metro Line three"On Mumbai Metro there are seven packages and we got package four," says Bhattacharya whose firm ITD Cementation are in joint venture with Continental Engineering Corporation of Taiwan and Tata Projects. Financial bids were opened in October and Tunnels and Tunnelling International understands that the client Mumbai Metro Railway Corporation is currently scrutinising the project budget which is lower than the forecast costs. One of the major issues which will be faced in the execution of metro tunnels in Mumbai city will certainly be the rock strata which will push up the tunnelling costs. The entire 32.5km line is underground."Geological survey suggests 90% rock which will vary from 50 to 150MPa," says Bhati who has first-hand knowledge.Contracts for this line are yet to be signed . Other MetrosMumbai may be the next major project set for award but there are many more on the horizon. "Phase four of Delhi is coming with 90km of tunnelling. Bangalore phase one is about to complete and phase two is coming next year. Chennai phase three coming next year. Kolkata has another two underground packages coming," says Bhattacharya also pointing to forthcoming schemes in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad and Puna."The market is very promising perhaps one of the best in the world at this time, says Verman. "Now is the time that the country has to start moving into delivering infrastructure in difficult areas. Many projects are already sanctioned but procedures are such that they are not tumbling out in the way that we expected. However remain very optimistic. I am expecting 2016 to be a crowded year."Data from the Timetric Construction Intelligence Center places the value of work underway with a tunnelling element at USD 31bn however given the scale of projects planned — Verman says there are 3,000km of tunnels in the pipeline, the figure seems likely to rise substantially over the next five years."I was involved in planning a railway through the Himalayas from Rishikesh to Karnaprayag, 125km long alignment of which 105km is in tunnels so that is the kind of project you are looking at and for this kind of distance you have to use TBMs, especially for the longer tunnels," he says.Bhati of Robbins points to four main growth areas for the TBM tunnelling market. "We have hydropower projects in the pipeline which we see being awarded in 2016 and a couple of them will be using heavy provision of TBM. Then the metros like Mumbai which will be awarded in the next few months.Bangalore and Chennai are planning phase two. Seeing the success of Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai everyone sees that it is the best solution possible. For the next 10-15 years one city after the other will keep having metros come up," he says.Water transfer tunnels to divert much needed resources is also a priority, as are road tunnels. "These are the future. People have realised that there is limited space available above ground so we have to go under. There is a 22km underground tunnel in Mumbai which is going to come from the southernmost part of the city through the coast to the airport. It is entirely underground and will be about 12m diameter, and has now been approved.”Learning from the pastExpectations are therefore high for India's growing and maturing tunnelling industry, but challenges remain and Verman urges government to learn from the past in terms of better planning and reducing bureaucracy so that contractors are able to get on and deliver. "There are huge projects coming forward and government should support this industry and nurture it because it is in the government's interest that these projects are built.”
Repairs are finished for giant TBM ‘Bertha’. Patrick Reynolds reports on the two-year-long process.Bertha, better known as Big Bertha, is a 57.5ft (17.53m) diameter tunnel boring machine (TBM) built in 2013 for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement tunnel in Seattle, a JV between STP and local firms Frank Coluccio Construction and Mowat Construction, and also HNTB Corp and Intecsa-Inarsa.The machine, built in Japan by Hitachi Zosen Sakai, broke down after an alleged encounter with a steel pipe, damaging several cutting blades, taking two years to fully repair it.By the beginning of 2016, the giant TBM Bertha in Seattle is expected to restart boring on the delayed, central waterfront section of the USD 3.1bn Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project, following repairs to the machine.To prepare, Bertha has been undergoing an unusual, if not unique, experience for any TBM, not least the world's largest: she is being buried to commence boring.A 120ft- (36.5m-) deep shaft was constructed to reach the TBM, allowing its vital front section to be brought to the surface for repairs. Following the work, the TBM was reassembled, the cutterhead was turned and other no-load tests were completed. The last task is load testing to relaunch the TBM for its drive below the viaduct.To that end, the shaft has been backfilled with sand and controlled density fill, allowing Bertha to bore once more. Slowly. For a few hundred feet only, at first.Even though the TBM was first launched two-and-a-half years ago, it still has most of its relatively short, 1.7mile- (2.7km-) long tunnel drive yet to finish.The TBM was stopped in a ‘safe haven’, which is a pre-planned, jet-grouted zone designed to allow last checks and adjustments before Bertha bored below the elevated highway again.Fortunately, perhaps, the troubles that brought Bertha to a halt in late 2013 occurred shortly before the machine moved under the seismically-weakened viaduct. Performing a TBM recovery under the viaduct could have been much more difficult. Even outside that zone, the investigation and repairs undertaken presented “a significant challenge”, says Chris Dixon, project manager with Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the designbuild JV contractor comprising Dragados and Tutor Perini.Coincidentally, Bertha is preparing to resume boring around the time when, as per the contractor's original schedule target, tunnelling was to have been finished. Bertha is expected to emerge around the beginning of 2017, according to the latest construction schedule issued in November 2015 by STP. The entire Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project is to be finished by April 2018.But while the focus shifts from repairing the Hitachi Zosen TBM, and with the tunnelling industry, the coastal city and the state hoping for untroubled progress ahead, the beginnings of legal fights and insurance liability debates over blame have started.The complex arguments over fault, liability and financial consequences are contested between the project owner —Washington State's Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the JV contractor and TBM manufacturer, and various insurers. Lawsuits have been submitted over recent months.Over the two-year standstill, STP and Hitachi Zosen received no payments from the client related to the TBM recovery costs. STP has only received payments for progress achieved on the many other continuing works, such as around the tunnel portals and concreting of the decks within the tunnel bore so far.But, finally, the project looks set to change gear as Bertha prepares to build the rest of the 52ft (15.85m) i.d. tunnel below the waterfront during 2016.Rise of the TBM optionThe aim of the redevelopment project at the waterfront is to improve Seattle's overall transport and economy. Debate over how to do so ran for years, and a host of studies were performed on realizing a fresh infrastructure vision and removing the seismically vulnerable viaduct on state highway SR99.Back in 2008, the leading alternatives did not include the TBM option, especially to construct a large single tunnel, although all possibilities had had reviews.The long-term vision was to create an 'incredible' waterfront for the city — ideally one with minimal traffic on the surface. Putting as much as possible underground was elected to be the way forward, and the deep bore option became a late stage winner in early 2009.The JV contractor proposed building the tunnel with an earth pressure balance TBM, and aimed to have the tunnel open to traffic before the end of 2015. The owner's contract performance deadline was late 2016 for substantial completion of the SR99 tunnel, with performance bonus and penalties either side of the target.STP hired Japan's Hitachi Zosen to manufacture and supply the EPB TBM. Washington state set up an Expert Review Panel (ERP) to look over key assumptions in cost estimates, identify risk during the construction phase, comment on development of funding sources, and consider the project's schedule.Launch, then stopIn late 2011, construction staging commenced in Seattle and manufacturing efforts got underway for the TBM in Japan. The TBM was assembled in dry dock in late 2012, before it was shipped across the Pacific Ocean to Seattle.Many activities in both Seattle and Japan were on the critical path of the project schedule, the ERP cautioned in its February 2013 report. It issued an opinion that the target launch date of June 2013 was not expected to be achieved.However, the TBM was assembled in Seattle over April-July at the south end of the tunnel alignment, and then formally launched at the end of July 2013.Bertha's 2-mile- (3.2km-) long drive was expected to take about 14 months. In its following report of February 2014, the ERP noted that early operation of the TBM had delivered better than expected performance.The tunnelling plan was to set off slowly. The TBM would stop early to perform planned maintenance and checks at key ‘safe havens’ along the first 1,500ft (457m) of the northward drive before then diving below the elevated highway.By early December, and despite the late start in mid-year, the shield had advanced more than 1,000ft (305m), reaching where it was expected to be against the schedule, the ERP reported. The panel also said the shield had advance more quickly than expected by the project team, and pulled back time against the schedule. But then trouble struck. The machine overheated and progress slowed as “unanticipated and increasing resistance was experienced”, WSDOT reported. The TBM was stopped on December 6, 2013.At that point, as per the contract between STP and Hitachi Zosen, STP was about to take ownership of Bertha from the TBM manufacturer. Hand-off was planned to follow after the first, proving and settling, stage of tunnelling, constructing the tunnel up to Ring No. 200, as WSDOT had noted in a statement on December 5, and Dixon confirms.Investigation and recovery planWith Bertha stopped under cover of 60ft (18.2m), the contractor lowered the high water table around the TBM. Drilling wells to a depth of approximately 120ft (36.5m), water pressure was reduced to enable the TBM crew to safely start inspecting the machine’s excavation chamber in early January 2014. Probe holes were also bored ahead to check for potential obstructions.The investigation of the top 15ft (4.6m) of the chamber revealed a piece of 8in (200mm) diameter pipe — a section of steel well casing — in a cutterhead opening, WSDOT reported at the time.In late January, a programme of hyperbaric interventions allowed inspections into more of the excavation chamber. Many of the cutterhead openings were found to be clogged, which was then viewed as the more likely cause on the mining difficulty and not major obstructions — none of which were found inside or in front of the TBM, WSDOT said in February 2014.Then, as a trial, STP restarted the TBM to build a ring. More high temperatures were recorded, like before the December stoppage. Investigating further, STP found damage to the main bearing seal.Laura Newborn, spokeswoman for WSDOT, has expanded on the initial information, explaining to Tunnels & Tunnelling North America that the well-casing was found inside the material blocking a cutterhead opening."The cutterhead was clogged," she says. "The piece of metal was not blocking the opening."She adds that the metal detected in front of the cutterhead turned out to be the nose of the cutterhead. "There was no metal found in front of the machine," she adds.WSDOT said at the time that the steel pipe found in the cutterhead was a well casing, installed in 2002 and used by geologists to study groundwater flows following the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The owner added that location of the pipe was included in reference materials in the contract. However, according to JV contractor member Tutor Perini's third quarter-2015 results, presented in its 10-Q filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, STP claims the steel pipe to be a "differing site condition that WSDOT failed to properly disclose." Tutor Perini added that the Disputes Review Board had said the pipe was a differing site condition, but noted that WSDOT has not accepted the finding. WSDOT's spokeswoman told Tunnels & Tunnelling North America the "root cause of the damage to the TBM is still under investigation."Reach and repairSignificant repairs would be needed at the TBM. The ERP said the stoppage to TBM tunnelling would throw out the project schedule by some months. It called on the client and contractor to stay away from debates over blame and financial liability, and keep their focus on investigating and resolving the technical problems.In its February 2014 report, the panel advised that the contractor be given appropriate time to develop a recovery plan. "Returning the TBM to operation should be everyone's primary objective," it added.During the halt in work, the contractor undertook wider inspections and also maintenance work, including replacing damaged cutter tools. But the discovery of damage to the bearing seal system also called for replacement of the main bearing. With such major works required, it was decided that the TBM could not be repaired underground. The shield had to be accessed from the surface and opened up to retrieve the cutterhead and cutter drive unit. STP developed a recovery and improvement plan, which it believed would allow the repaired TBM to resume tunnelling in March 2015.STP's plan was to sink a large diameter access shaft a little ahead of the halted TBM. The 80ft- (24.3m-) wide shaft was built through much of 2014 and readied to receive the TBM.The dormant machine was restarted in February 2015. It broke into the shaft and came to a rest on a concrete cradle, cast on the base of the shaft. Hitachi Zosen hired a heavy lift contractor to extract the front sections of the TBM, and this was done in late March. Mammoet designed a modular lift tower capable of sliding over the 120ft-deep shaft and repair area.Soon after, in its April 2015 report, the ERP said that while reasons for the TBM problems were not yet clear, and also were subject to ongoing legal and commercial debates, the contractor had been constructively using the stoppage period, adding that STP planned "to apply some lessons learned" from the tunnelling work done up until then. The ERP, through its discussion with project parties, said in its April 2015 report that the recovery plan for the TBM "appears to be viable," adding it was reasonably confident the machine could be repaired.The panel added that STP and WSDOT had shared information — "without direction from WSDOT" — on how to improve the TBM's function. "It appears that many of WSDOT's comments have been considered in the redesign and repair plan," ERP said.WSDOT had formed its own Restart Team to monitor the contractor's work and risk and mitigation efforts. "Fully disassembling and assessing the machine was always the key to determining how long the repairs would take," said Dixon, in mid-2015.Revise and rescheduleThe ERP commented the stoppage was "unusually long" due to the scale of investigation and repairs needed, and the area was a congested urban environment with geotechnical challenges. Working around the core recovery challenge, the contractor examined and re-programmed a number of other tasks for the tunnel, such as manufacturing all of the precast segments needed for the entire tunnel and storing them, ready for use. Other re-programmed construction activities, helping to offset some of the effects of the TBM stoppage, have included, says Dixon: • Completing the underground structure of the south operations building; • Constructing the interior cast in-place concrete roadway structure within the completed portion of the bored tunnel; • Advancing north and south cut-and-cover sections enough for their handover to other works packages; and, • Redesigning M&E systems, installing and commissioning them faster in sections instead of keeping with the original plan of doing everything in one go after excavation is completed. By the time of ERP's report in April 2015, the panel had learned the contractor then expected a later restart of the TBM — in August.It also noted, and as STP and WSDOT have continued to say, the rescheduled completion target cannot be determined until after the TBM has been restarted, has bored again but also has been re-checked at the last safe haven.In mid-July, installation of the new main bearing commenced. But the schedule was pushed back further with TBM restart then pencilled for late November.Hitachi Zosen completed the above ground repair works in mid-August, allowing the heavy sections to be placed back down the shaft for reassembly at the open front end of the TBM. Finally, in late November, the cutterhead was rotated and system checks performed in a "no load" test.With those successes, the access shaft finally could be backfilled. The next crucial step for Bertha are the pitstop checks. All being well, the big bore will proceed below Seattle's waterfront over the coming months.* This is a version of an article that first appeared in Tunnels & Tunnelling.
London’s Crossrail project not only now has an official name — it was revealed the the cross-city rail system will be called the Elizabeth line — it is also less than a year away from the start of the first testing phase.It was a year ago that tunnelling was completed — using two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) called Victoria and Elizabeth, continuing with the regal theme.That followed three years of tunnelling that started in May 2012, and now, four years on, the project is approaching 75% complete, says Crossrail project manager Nisrine Chartouny.The first services will start in May 2017 with trains running from Shenfield to Liverpool Street. The tunnels below the capital and ten new stations in central London will open in December 2018 and the line will open fully in December 2019, when it will connect Reading and Heathrow in the west with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.It’s the largest transport project in Europe, and will add around 10% to the capacity of London’s rail network, serving 40 stations — ten of which are new for the project. An estimated 200M passengers will ride the line each year.
Plans for a Helsinki–Tallinn undersea rail tunnel are a step closer to reality after Finnish and Estonian ministers signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) earlier this year.The MOU binds the two states to further investigate the viability and economic impact of the tunnel’s construction.The 50-mile undersea rail tunnel has been on the table for almost a decade, with multiple studies considering the potential for socio-economic development between the two cities.According to a study financed by the European Union EUBSR Seed Money Facility, published in February 2015, the project is set to be a success.Predicted to treble travel and boost trade, the tunnel, if built, will be one of the longest underwater railway tunnels in the world, serving four million people living within a 200km radius of both capitals. It will also carry about half of future cargo traffic in the area.25,000 daily commuter trips are to be expected in the first ten years after the opening of the railway, which promises improved accessibility and reduced commuting times from the current two-and-a-half hours by ferry to a 30-minute journey. The revenue generated by passenger traffic would amount to €67bn by 2080.Trains will be able to carry 800 passengers each and cargo with a total capacity of 96/TEU, reaching speeds of 250 km/h.Expected to take eight to ten years to be finished, the total cost of the development can vary between €9bn and €13bn and construction work can start anytime between 2025 and 2030. Further plans include the construction of a €3.6bn Rail Baltica high-speed train line to link Finland, the Baltic States and Poland, improving the connection between central and northern Europe.Socio-Economic ImpactA decisive factor on the tunnel’s construction is its ability to boost economic activity in the Nordic region.The region can become one of the significant centres in Northern Europe, as the two cities house more than 2.5M inhabitants and see over 7.5M passengers travel annually by ferry for business or tourism purposes. By 2080, the total number of passengers between the two cities is expected to reach 41M.Although transport via the new tunnel is slated to bring a 1–3% increase to Finland’s GDP within 20 years in operation, that will not be replicated in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which will see only an increase of 0.5% in GDP.Both countries are expected to collect the benefits of the wider consumer market and shared labour market that the tunnel would open to.The European study concludes: "The figures also show that direct and indirect benefits during the construction and operation period to the economy of both countries are remarkable. “The competitiveness of the twin-city area will be strengthened by improved accessibility, new companies and business, better image and a variety in living options.”Risks and ChallengesThe project poses risks in the construction and execution phases as well as economic, political and technological challenges.In its initial phase, the tunnel’s main problems are related to the geology at the proposed exit location in Estonia, as an important source of water supply for the city is located there.Apart from the uncertainty surrounding its funding, the study also warns that "globally, the political risk for the project progress could be a culmination of the crisis between East and West."At a national level, tensions might arise due to the different process and culture surrounding of the decision-making process."The political success of the tunnel project will depend on the wideness of its impact area and how it is combined with the whole transport system of both countries," the study says.These are still early days for any clear decision, but a potential next step for the project would be the foundation of a Finnish-Estonian project organisation followed by a full feasibility study to make it clear when the tunnel is to be expected.According to Hannes Virkus, an adviser at the Estonian ministry of economic affairs, real decisions shouldn't be expected before 2018.* This is a version of an article that first appeared at www.railway-technology.com.
As delays in projects go, being held up by almost 350 years is a big one. The idea of building a shipping canal across Thailand’s Kra Isthmus, reducing the usual trade route for ships between the Indian and Pacific oceans by more than 1,200km, was first mooted in 1677. However, despite the proposal resurfacing in the 20th century, fears over the environmental impact and the potential for it to divide the country have held it back. Now, the Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) has put forward the idea of a ‘dry canal’ to carry ships across the south of Thailand, from Kra Buri to Chumpon Bay in the Gulf of Thailand, bypassing the Malacca Strait.
Involving tunnelling through 33km of mountain, the Koralm railway tunnel is set to become the longest entirely within Austrian territory.