2010 in retrospect Dec 2010
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
- From the depths of the financial nightmare of 2009, the only way for 2010 was up and it lived up to that assumption for the most part. Milestones and historic benchmarks were set, deadlines and programmes were met and many publicly funded projects were spared the spending cuts axe – for the most part.
- Recovery from the 2008/2009 financial crisis has been faster than many predicted. This is driven largely by emerging markets with China taking the lead. Dramatic Chinese urbanization and the rapid expansion of disposable income among its burgeoning middle class is fuelling demand for public infrastructure and consumer goods and services. In his presentation at the annual Atlas Copco press lunch in London in December, Björn Rosengren, Business Area President of the company's Construction and Mining Technique division, described the Swedish giant manufacturer's strategy to make China "our home market" and to "challenge the growing fast local competitors with a strong offering in the mid range" of its own.
- Rosengren relocated from Stockholm to Shanghai during 2010 to head up the company's manufacturing, distribution, research and development, and after-sales service divisions in China and through India, Asia's second rapidly expanding economy.
- During his presentation Rosengren described how China and India, rather than emerging, are restoring the high percentage of global GDP that the two countries enjoyed before the Western world began its dominance with the industrial revolution (Fig 1). Today, China, with its controlled capital economy, is experiencing growth that is unprecedented. The migration of workers to vast mega-cities and the need to create transportation links across the country is consuming material resources and professional expertise at an extraordinary rate. Three further slides from Rosengren's presentation quantified China's mass urban development and civil engineering construction (Figs 2, 3 and 4). Twenty years ago, on the occasion of China's hosting of the 1990 ITA World Tunnel Congress in Chendgu, an eminent Chinese professor of civil engineering and tunnelling, Professor Gao, described China in his opening address as one large construction site. The rate of construction at that time pales compared to the activity of today.
- As well as Atlas Copco creating a firm presence in China, foreign TBM manufacturers have also established important businesses in China. NFM is part owned by the Chinese company NHI. Herrenknecht AG of Germany is well known in China having supplied the two 15.43m diameter slurry Mixshield machines to the twin 7.5km long Chongming highway tunnel under the Yangtze River in Shanghai as well as upwards of 200 units to many road, rail, hydro and metro projects throughout the country. The Robbins Company has a long-standing association with China, supplying machines to projects as far back as the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years it has entered the business of supplying soft ground EPB machines to metro projects in the country.
Historic achievement:Gotthard connection
An epic event in the world of civil engineering was marked on Friday October 15 when the first tube of thee Gotthard Baseline railway tunnel project in Switzerland recorded its breakthrough, providing a clear connection of 57km through the base of the massive from portal to portal. TunnelTalk recorded a peak in traffic data as thousands logged in to watch live coverage of the event through the direct on-line connection to the Swiss TV coverage of the momentous achivement and to see one of the four Herrenknecht TBMs on the gigantic mega-project cut through the final metres of the first tube. More than 85km of the project's total 152km of tunnels were bored with the TBMs with the remainder excavated with drill+blast. The parallel tube is expected to hole through in April next year (2011) with services planned to begin in 2017.
- On a trip to China in December, TunnelTalk visited a Robbins EPBM in Chengdu that had just finished its parallel drive of 1.4km on Lot 18 for the city's metro Line 2 while in Chongqing, two Robbins main-beam gripper TBMs had finished parallel running tunnels through sandstone to arrive at the wall of an intervening station box. Breakthrough will be executed once the station box excavation is ready to receive them. The machines had finished some 6km of twin running tunnel for the Line 2 project and are expected to continue on the far side of the current breakthrough station. In addition, we visited two additional Robbins EPBMs in assembly at the CSR factory in Chengdu ready for dispatch to the Kunming metro. The factory has assembled eight Robbins TBMs in the 41,000m2 machine hall, including the two 10.23m diameter machines, which are currently 2.2km and 2.7km into the 28km long Qinling West railway tunnel through the Qinling Mountains north of Xi'an.
- On 22 December, one of China's most difficult and expensive new railway lines, the 377km long Yichang to Wanzhou line in the southeast corner of the country officially opened.
- With some 74% of the line running in 159 tunnels and on 253 bridges, the line took seven years to build and cost 22.7 billion Yuan (US$3.4 billion) or 60 million Yuan (US$9 million) per kilometre. The line will cut an existing rail journey of 22hr over the mountains to just 5hr through them.
- On the same trip to China, TunnelTalk joined Professor Bai Yun to give a lecture on tunnelling to a 200 strong audience of civil engineering students at the Tongji University in Shanghai. Command of the English language and the probing questions presented by the students were measures of China's investment in the next generation of engineers.
- Tunnel link highlights
One of the most momentous events of 2010 went almost unnoticed. In April the first of four slurry-TBM drives docked successfully into the immersed tube section of the Marmaray rail crossing of the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey to connect two continents and join the European side of Istanbul with its Asian side. Constructed by a design-build consortium led by Japanese contractor Taisei Corporation and Turkish company Gama-Nurol, the 1.4km link is the deepest immersed tube tunnel in the world at 58m beneath the sea surface. Parsons Brinckerhoff of the USA provided preliminary design of the immersed tube tunnel and supervised its construction.
- It was a particularly good year for immersed tube tunnelling. In November the proposed immersed tube across the Femernbælt to provide a 19km long road and railway fixed link between Denmark and Germany came in with a price lower than the cable-stayed bridge alternative.
Fig 5. Layout of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao link
- In Asia, the 30km long fixed link to connect Hong Kong to Macau to Zhuhai on China's mainland, includes a 6.7km immersed tube tunnel between two man-made islands in the strait between Hong Kong and Macau. In November the design-built contract for the artificial islands and immersed tube section of the 73 billion Yuan (approximately US$11 billion) project was awarded by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority to a consortium led by the China Communications Construction Co, AECOM Asia Company Ltd, Shanghai Urban Construction (Group) Co, China Highway Planning and Design Institute Inc, COWI A/S, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering and Rail Transit Design and Research Institute and the CCCC Fourth Harbor Engineering Investigation and Design Institute. When complete the tunnel will become the longest immersed tube tunnel in the world (Fig 5).
- In South Korea the 8.2km fixed link between Busan and Geoje Island with its 3.7km immersed tube undersea tunnel and linking bridges opened in December marking a milestone in the country's construction history.
- In the world of TBMs, the industry continued to push the limits. The world's largest TBM ever, a 15.62m diameter Herrenknecht EPBM, an extraordinary size for its type, was accepted by the customer in late December for delivery to its Italian highway tunnel project in January while in Seattle procurement of the Alaskan Way highway tunnel to replace the dangerously earthquake-compromised elevated structure will see manufacture of a proposed 17.6m diameter TBM. The type, manufacturer and details of the TBM order are yet to be confirmed.
Route of the Crossrail underground alignment
Seattle's Alaskan Way replacement tunnel project is one of the projects saved from cancellation amid public spending cuts. Funded by State, City, County and local resources, the estimated $1.02 billion tunnel contract within a wider $4.24 billion overall project is surviving fierce attack by the Mayor of Seattle who objects to the City being held responsible for any cost overruns. The State's contribution is capped at $2.8 billion with the City providing $927 million and the County and private contributions making up the remainder. After a technical review of proposals submitted in October, the financial parts of two competing tunnel contract bids were opened in December to reveal the best value proposal is that submitted by a group led by Dragados of Spain. The design-build contract is set to be awarded in January.
- Dragados was also successful in London where the Crossrail project - another mega £16 billion civil tunnelling project to survive feared public spending cuts - awarded the company's joint venture with John Sisk & Sons the largest of two tunnelling contracts. Contract C305 comprises 8.3km of twin tube tunnels running east beneath the streets of central London to connect Farringdon station to Stratford station to the north and Canary Wharf station to the south. Other winners for the first set of underground construction contracts awarded include Bam Nuttall as leader of a group with Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Construction that takes the Western Running Tunnels Contract C300 for 6.2km of TBM-driven tunnels from Paddington to Farringdon, as well as Contract C410 for SCL works at the intervening Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations.
- Morgan Sindall is leader of a group awarded C510 for the early access shaft and SCL works for Whitechapel and Liverpool Street stations on the alignment of the C305 running tunnel alignment.
- The biggest disappointment to the industry was cancellation of the ARC project in New Jersey. Contracts had already been awarded for the new rail line under the Hudson River to increase capacity between New Jersey and Manhattan. Some $478 million of the estimated $11 billion to $14 billion current cost had been spent and an order for a Robbins TBM by the Schiavone/Shea/Skanska JV for the Palisades Tunnels on the New Jersey side had to be cancelled. The US Federal Government is now demanding back $271 million in FTA funds advanced to the State of New Jersey for the project. Suggestions continue for saving the project but as time draws on, revival seems less and less likely.
- It was a year also of major triumphs and heart wrenching disaster for underground works. Jubilation at the rescue of 37 miners from a collapsed mine in Chile quickly turned to mourning doe the 29 miners killed in massive explosions at the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand.
- The year's devastating oil spill off the destroyed deep sea oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of the USA re-inspired investigation of bored tunnel alternatives to access off-shore oil reserves. The tunnelling technology for long off-shore effluent outfalls, strait road and rail crossings, and landfalls for subsea oil and gas pipelines already exists. The infrastructure within the long undersea accesses and the safety issues concerned are more the barriers to be overcome.
- Underground project highlights in 2010 included successful commissioning of the New Delhi Metro and the Gautrain airport link in Johannesburg in time to provide convenient public transport services for the Commonwealth Games in October and the Soccer World Cup in June respectively. These were major successes in contradiction to expectations of missing these important deadlines. Major underground works continued also during 2010 in Brisbane, Australia with advance of the city's Airport Link road tunnels and award of its Northern Link highway tunnel project. In India metro tunnel contracts for the city of Bangalore were awarded and in Malaysia, the longest rail tunnel in the region recorded its successful breakthrough.
- On the conferencing and international tradeshow agenda, 2010 saw the successful staging of the ITA WTC in Vancouver, Canada in May and the NAT conference for North America in June in Portland. Unfortunately, the once every three-year BAUMA tradeshow in Munich in April was almost scuppered completely by the ash cloud rising from an active volcano on Iceland. The treacherous cloud grounded air traffic throughout Europe for several days. TunnelTalk made it to the show through the Channel Tunnel on Eurostar from London to Paris and from there to Munich on the TGV and the ICE high-speed services of France and Germany. Better luck is anticipated for the first BAUMA exhibition to be staged in India in Mumbai in February and certainly for the next Munich event in 2013.
- Another packed year of tunnelling activity awaits us in 2011 and TunnelTalk will take a look at what might be expected during the New Year in our next Alert. Until then, we wish all our readers, advertisers, supporters and collaborators very happy warm and safe end of year holidays with time to prepare for the year ahead.
Tom Kuesel, Al Provost and Dru Desai
Tom Kuesel contributed to the design of more than 140 tunnels during his distinguished 43-year career with Parsons Brinckerhoff. He died at 83 in February of 2010 and was remembered by colleagues as a 'tunnelling engineer's engineer'.
A leading personality in the international tunnelling and mining industry, Al Provost, died in June 2010.
- In a tribute compiled by his colleagues at Harrison Western in Denver, Colorado, Al is described as 'a helluva engineer'. Click on the image above to download a copy of the tribute pdf.
In November the North American tunnelling industry remembered a colleague and friend Dru Desai.
- As an employee originally of DMJM (Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall) Dru ended his career as a member of the AECOM team as DMJM and others were absorbed into the consulting engineering corporation.
2009 in retrospect - TunnelTalk, Dec 2009
2010 in perspective - TunnelTalk, Jan 2010
Epoch-making Gotthard Baseline - TunnelTalk, Oct 2010
Immersed tube recommended for Femern link - TunnelTalk, Nov 2010
Giant TBM accepted and heading for Italy - TunnelTalk, Dec 2010
Best value proposal for Alaskan Way - TunnelTalk, Nov 2010
Immersed tube recommended for Femern link - TunnelTalk, Dec 2010
Crossrail awards tunnelling contracts - TunnelTalk, Dec 2010
ARC cancellation hits industry hard - TunnelTalk, Nov 2010
Black & Veatch expands water services in China - TunnelTalk, Jan 2010
LED explosion-proof vehicle lamp - TunnelTalk, Mar 2010
SELI-Kawasaki agree to extend collaboration - TunnelTalk, Aug 2010
EPBMs to usher in metro travel in Xi'an - TunnelTalk, May 2010
Taking mega TBMs to greater limits - TunnelTalk, Jun 2010
New support system on West Qinling TBMs - TunnelTalk, Jul 2010
Robbins slurry TBM for sub-sea drive - TunnelTalk, Sep 2010
Robbins EPBMs undercut downtown Zhengzhou - TunnelTalk, Oct 2010
Delhi Metro meets deadlines - TunnelTalk, Oct 2010
Gautrain begins airport link services - TunnelTalk, Jun 2010
BAUMA stage for discussion - TunnelTalk, Mar 2010
ITA success at Vancouver - TunnelTalk, Jun 2010
NAT Portland surpasses the 2008 event - TunnelTalk, Jul 2010
TBM launch for Brisbane Airport Link - TunnelTalk, Aug 2010
Brisbane awards Northern Link highway - TunnelTalk, Sep 2010
Underground advance for Bangalore Metro - TunnelTalk, Jul 2010
Remembering - Al Provost - TunnelTalk, Jun 2010
Remembering - Dru Desai - TunnelTalk, Nov 2010
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