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.
Construction has commenced on Foster + Partners’ multi-million transformation of one of Stockholm’s oldest locks into a dynamic urban quarter in Stockholm, Sweden.The SEK12bn ($1.4bn) project, known as New Slussen, has been designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with the city of Stockholm.The project will replace the lock’s dilapidated water and transport infrastructure.The new masterplan offers an opportunity to readdress balance between road vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists while enhancing the public realm.The development will include a new civic quarter that will provide transport links alongside new public buildings, new restaurants, cafes and cultural amenities.It will also feature a ‘Water Plaza’ — a pedestrianised public space arranged around the new navigation lock and realigned quayside.Foster + Partners’ head of design Spencer de Grey said: “The City of Stockholm has truly embraced a wonderful opportunity to re-establish and reinforce the vital link between Stockholm’s central islands of Södermalm and the heritage site of Gamla stan, rehabilitating the historic fabric of the city while creating a lively new urban destination for all.“This is a once in a life time undertaking in a uniquely significant and spectacular setting. We are honoured and very proud to be a part of this incredible and visionary project.”
Balfour Beatty has won a £170M contract to upgrade the baggage screening and handling systems for Heathrow Airport Limited in London. The project, awarded through Heathrow Airport Limited Delivery Integrator Framework to which Balfour Beatty was appointed in 2014, will include the upgrading and installing of a baggage screening and handling systems at Heathrow’s eastern baggage facility.The company will utilise the latest Building Information Modelling techniques to define the most efficient approach to design, manage logistics and to interface with live airport operations.Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty Group chief executive, said: “This contract award is testament to the strength of the partnership we have developed with Heathrow Airport Limited over the last 17 years. “The UK aviation sector is a core market for Balfour Beatty and we are delighted to play our part in helping Heathrow maintain its position as a leading travel hub and supporting local employment.”
Skanska has won a NOK735M ($88.3M) contract from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration for the construction of a phase of E16 in Norway.The scope of the project will include the construction of new road and widening of existing road to two fields, 8.5m-wide, on an approximately 11km stretch between Bagn and Bjørgo. It will also include a 4.3km tunnel, a 150m-long bridge, several smaller bridges, underpasses and a junction.Work on the project will commence in August 2016 and will be completed by December 2019.
3Angle consortium has secured a €220M contract from the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) for the A27/A1 motorway project in the Netherlands.The scope of the project will include the design, construction, management, maintenance, and financing for the reconstruction of the A27 motorway between Utrecht North and the Eemnes junction, as well as the A1 motorway between the Eemnes junction and the Bunschoten-Spakenburg connection.The project also includes the widening of the A27 from 2x2 to 2x3 lanes and the widening of the A1 from 2x2 to 2x4 lanes. The consortium will also widen the A27-A1 connecting curve within the Eemnes junction.Under the contract, 3Angle will manage and do the maintenance of the A27/A1 motorway for a period of 25 years.The final project contract is expected to be awarded by the end of July, with a financial close expected in October. The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-2019.
A joint venture between John Sisk and Lagan Construction is set to commence work on a triple-decker roundabout project in North Tyneside, UK.The £75M project will be delivered for Highways England and includes the lowering of the A19, beneath the existing A1058 Coast Road, and roundabout to minimise congestion. According to Highways England, the project will enhance the drivers’ safety, and provide better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.The scheme will be located on the main route to and from the Tyne Tunnel and will mean that people travelling along the A19 will no longer have to queue at the roundabout to go straight on. Instead, drivers will be able to use a new section of road, which will run under the existing junction.Highways England’s project manager Julie Alexander said: “Once complete, this scheme will improve journey times on the A19 by reducing congestion and improving safety for the thousands of drivers that use this junction each day as well as cyclists and pedestrians.“The A19 is a vital strategic link providing access to the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate, Silverlink Retail Park, Cobalt Business Park and South East Northumberland. During construction we will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum and ensure that traffic does keep moving.”Construction work is expected to commence in August 2016.
Cheshire East Council’s cabinet has given the go-ahead to the £90M Congleton link road in Cheshire, UK.The new 5.7km road will run to the north of the town, South of Eaton, and will link the A534 Sandbach Road with Sandy Lane, to the A536 Macclesfield Road — providing a new village crossing at the River Dane.The project is set to enhance connection with other major towns and the motorway network, and improve the residents’ quality of life — through traffic reduction and better air quality.Half of the link’s cost will be funded by the central government, while £23M will come from developers and the remaining £22M will be met by the council.The scheme will now be referred to the Secretary of State for communities and local government for a final decision on the planning application, allowing time for the Council’s next steps — land acquisition and appointment of a contractor.Councillor David Brown, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: "I am pleased that both Cabinet and the strategic planning board have reached these decisions."This is the biggest road infrastructure scheme undertaken by this Council and I know it will be of enormous relief to many people in Congleton to know that it is proceeding."The link road will relieve traffic congestion in Congleton and, as a result, will boost the local economy by opening up new sites for development and create new opportunities for businesses and workers."The project has the potential to create 3,400 jobs in the region.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has provided a €150M loan for the construction of new sections of the D4 highway and the R7 expressway in the Slovak Republic.The project includes 27km of new sections from Jarovce to Ivanka Sever and Ivanka Sever to Rača of the D4 highway — part of the comprehensive Trans-European Network development programme. Together with the R7 expressway, they will provide a connection between the D1 and D2 highways.The 32km R7 expressway from Prievoz to Holice will connect the D4 and D1 highways and provide access to the city of Bratislava from the southeast.The loan is part of a larger financial package totalling €875M provided to the concessionaire Zero Bypass Limited under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. Zero Bypass Limited — owned by Macquarie Corporate Holdings Pty Limited, Cintra Infraestructuras International and Porr AG — secured the contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the newly-constructed segments of D4 and R7 for 30 years after an open tender process.Sue Barrett, EBRD director for transport, said: “This is a very important project and the EBRD is pleased to join forces with other financiers to make it happen. “The new road sections will play an important role in easing traffic congestion around Bratislava, open up access to other parts of the country and connect the Slovak Republic with Trans-European Networks.”
The €382M Kieldrecht Lock has been inaugurated at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium.Measuring 500m in length, 68m in width and 17.8m in depth, the Kieldrecht Lock is said to be the largest lock in the world.The new lock, which has been built over five years, is expected to strengthen the position of the Port of Antwerp as a major hub of the EU Trans- European Network (TEN-T).The European Investment Bank (EIB) has financed the project with a contribution of €160.5M.Antwerp Port Authority chairman Marc Van Peel said: “The Kieldrecht Lock forms a necessary key to the further development of the port on the left bank of the Scheldt River. In recent years, our port had successfully overcome many hurdles, now ranking as number two in Europe.“In order to retain that leading position, Antwerp must have a highly necessary basic infrastructure such as well-functioning locks that are adapted to the increased scale of international shipping.“However, Antwerp also needs space to grow, which explains the first phase of the construction of the Saeftinghedok — a new tidal dock on the left bank of the Scheldt river — the next infrastructural project that is high on the agenda.”
Russian real estate development company LSR Group has begun construction on a new tram network in Krasnogvardeysky, St. Petersburg.The corresponding concession agreement was inked between the government of Saint Petersburg and Transportnaya Kontsessionnaya Kompaniya, a joint venture of LSR Group and Leader Investment Company. The overall project, including the upgrading of existing lines and the construction of a new tram network and its operation over the period of 30 years, is expected to cost RUB32.7bn ($488.6M).In particular, the construction and maintenance of the tram network will require an investment of RUB12.7bn ($189.7M).Construction work is expected to be complete in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The Femern Link Contractors joint venture has won three conditional contracts for the Femernbelt transport link between Denmark and Germany.The contracts from the Danish government, which have a total value of €3.4bn, include the design and build of what is set to be the world’s longest immersed road and rail tunnel.One of the contracts covers the building of the portal structures, toll buildings, bridges and ramps, while the other two cover the construction of the immersed tunnel and the factory that will manufacture the precast tunnel elements.The tunnel will be 18km long and will connect Denmark’s Lolland Falster region with Germany’s Schleswig Holstein region, shortening the journey between both countries from one hour by ferry or a 160km detour by car to just ten minutes by car or seven minutes by train.The joint venture, which includes VINCI Construction Grands Projects, Per Aarsleff, Royal Bam Group, Solétanche-Bachy International, CFE and Max Bögl Stiftung & Co, is expected to start construction work in January 2018, subject to permits from the German Government.The link will take approximately eight and a half years to complete.
After the tunnel’s first blast in the main shaft 17 years ago, the Gotthard base tunnel in Switzerland opens today. To celebrate the completion of the world’s longest rail tunnel, the country is holding an opening ceremony.1,200 guests have been invited for the festivities that are expected to cost €8M. German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president François Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi are among the guests of honour at the ceremony. At the weekend, additional opening events are expected to attract 50,000-100,000 visitors.The longest tunnel — named after the patron saint of travelling merchants, St Gotthard— runs through the Alps, between Erstfeld, Uri, and Bodio, Ticiano. Trains using the €11bn rail tunnel won’t go into service until 11 December 2016, when it will be fully operational. Until then, test runs will be conducted at the rail line.When fully operational, 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will travel through the two-way tunnel each day, reducing the journey times between Zurich and Milan from more than four hours to just two-and-a-half hours. Travel through the tunnel itself will take just 20 minutes, with a stop at the control station of Sedrun.Gotthard has overtaken the 53.9km Seikan Tunnel in northern Japan as the longest rail tunnel in the world, demoting the 50.5km Channel Tunnel between Britain and France to third place.The Gotthard base tunnel in numbers: • Start of construction works: 1999• Length: 57.09km• Total length of tunnels: 151.84km• Diameter of rail tunnels: 8.5m• Highest elevation: 549m• Depth: 2,300m• Mountain rock excavated: 28.2M tonnes• Concrete used: 131,000cu m• Workforce: up to 2,600• Maximum train speed: up to 250kph• Cost: €11bn
Mott MacDonald and Sweco have won a £50M contract from Transport Scotland for the A96 Dualling road project in the UK.Under the contract, the joint venture will carry out route option assessment and detailed design work for the dualling of the 29-mile western section of the A96 between Auldearn and Fochabers next month.New Minister for Transport & Islands Humza Yousaf said: “This major design contract marks a further milestone towards the dualling of the A96 with all the investment and improvements that it will bring to local economies right across the north of Scotland.“Road users will not only enjoy the benefits of improved journey time and reliability, better connectivity between destinations but also, crucially, improved road safety for all those who use this key artery connecting two of Scotland’s economic hubs.“In addition, this contract will also provide a huge boost for the local and national economy, with the successful bidder securing steady work for years to come and many more opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work.“We also remain on track to finalise the preferred option for the A96 Dualling Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) scheme, with draft Orders due to be published later this year.“Along with our ambitious plans to build over 80 miles of new dualled road on the A9 between Perth and Inverness, delivering the new £1.3 billion Queensferry Crossing over the Forth, and the £500M M8-M73-M74 improvements in Glasgow, this contract is yet another example of the significant investment the Scottish Government is making in transport infrastructure right across Scotland.”The A96 dualling is part of the Scotland’s trunk road upgrade project between Inverness and Aberdeen, to be finished by 2030.
The opening of the world’s longest rail tunnel is set to take place as planned on 1 June 2016.The CHF12.2bn ($12.3bn) Gotthard base tunnel, which measures 57km in length, runs under the Swiss Alps and is designed to reduce travel times across Europe. Construction of the tunnel started in 1999, 17 years ago, and since then 28.2m tonnes of mountain rock has been excavated during the tunneling works. Trains will be able to travel in the tunnel at speeds of up to 250km per hour, reducing the journey times between Zurich and Milan from more than four hours to just two-and-a-half hours.
Swedish construction firm NCC has secured a contract from the Swedish Transport Administration to build the SEK3bn ($360M) central station phase of the West Link project in Sweden.The project will include the construction of a railway tunnel from the E6 Highway in the east, a rock tunnel through the Lejonet redoubt, an underground commuter train station located immediately north of Gothenburg Central Station, and the remaining railway tunnel to the west up to the Gothenburg Opera House, a section of nearly 2km.The contract will be delivered under a new model called Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) under which NCC, in partnership with the Transport Administration, will be responsible for project planning and cost optimization. NCC Infrastructure business area manager Svante Hagman said: “We are really positive to the fact that the Transport Administration has decided to procure this project as an Early Contractor Involvement contract.“This cooperative format will enable us to integrate our organizations and create joint understanding of the challenges that a project of this size involves. “We have previously worked in close cooperation on large-scale tunnel projects, such as the City Tunnel in Malmö and the Stockholm City Line, which has given us valuable experience in terms of sustainable technical solutions and the use of leading-edge technology in civil engineering works.”Construction is expected to commence in 2018 and the project is set to be completed in 2026.
The UK government has given the go ahead for the upgrade of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon.Estimated to cost up to £1.5bn, the 21-mile project will include a new bypass of Huntingdon between Swavesey and Brampton, the widening of sections of the A1 and A14 roads, and improvements to a number of junctions.The development will also involve improvements in Huntingdon Town Centre to include a new local access road.Highways England director for complex infrastructure Chris Taylor said: “The scheme will provide much needed additional capacity to improve journey times and safety.“We are keen to keep the momentum going and will get preparations for construction underway as soon as possible after the end of the six week statutory challenge period.”Construction work is set to commence in late 2016 with the new bypass and widened A14 opening to traffic in 2020.
Royal Bam Group subsidiary Wayss & Freytag Ingenieurbau has secured a contract for the construction of a €220m subway tunnel in Frankfurt. The 2km double-track tunnel will be built in the city centre, in the new Gateway Gardens district.The cut and cover tunnel will be about 11m wide and 6m high. Wayss & Freytag Ingenieurbau will move approximately 900,000 sq m of land and will process 180,000 sq m of concrete.Gateway Gardens is a new development situated close to Frankfurt Airport and houses offices, service areas, hotels, conference and exhibition spaces,, and restaurant and retail facilities.The Gateway Gardens Tunnel is expected to be operational at the end of 2019.
Britain’s Network Rail has assigned two separate contracts worth £90m for the final stage of the Reading and Paddington signalling system, and for the signalling power works between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington.
The railway along the strategic TEN-T North Sea-Baltic Corridor, linking the Baltic Sea with the Ukraine border, is to be upgraded by PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe. €250m of funding will be provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the project, which will contribute to the modernisation of the 171km section of the railway line between Warsaw and Lublin and the rehabilitation of the Łuków-Lublin freight bypass. EIB believes that the project will ease commuter traffic in Warsaw and Lublin through the construction of new tracks. The upgraded railway connections will also enhance passenger safety through the implementation of updated security systems. EIB’s vice president László Baranyay said: "The EIB loan will help to improve Poland's railways along a strategic Trans-European transport corridor with positive consequences for the environment, transport safety, capacity and speed. "This will help to improve the quality of life of passengers, particularly people commuting to work in Warsaw and Lublin, as well as modernising the transport links needed to help further Poland's economic development."
A joint venture led by Astaldi and Max Bogl has won a €100m contract from National Company of Motorways and National Roads for the Brasov–Oradea motorway in Romania.