- 2011 opened with floods threatening the underground infrastructure and construction sites in Brisbane, Australia, and closes with floods inundating large swaths of Bangkok city in Thailand and flash floods wiping out thousands of lives and the fabric of rural and village infrastructure in the Philippines. The worst of all natural disasters in the year was the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the east coast of Japan in March and led to one of the worst nuclear accidents of all time when the Fukushima Daiichi plant failed as a result.
Floods require urgent action:
Bangkok examines flood prevention plans
New York tunneling projects weathered Irene
Brisbane Airport Link works avert inundation
In search of resilient cities
- Through all, the underground infrastructure in these areas of devastation survived remarkably well confirming once again that tunnels and underground structures can be designed and built to maximise their inherent advantages in the event of earthquakes or flood events. The metro systems, water supply and sewerage conveyance systems and other vital underground services remained operative or were quickly reinstated after a brief outage for review.
- The ITA Committee on Underground Space has started an initiative to ensure that the community of international tunnellers will contribute as far as possible to the current discussions about how to plan, design, and build efficient cities of the future that are also resilient to natural and man-induced disasters. The work started at the ITA WTC in Helsinki this year (2011) and will continue at the WTC2012 in Bangkok in May.
- The other major disaster of 2011 has been the effects of the economic crisis around the world and particularly in EU countries.
- Amid all, the struggle rages as to whether government spending on public works, rather than cancelling all in efforts to cut public spending, is the correct policy for short and long term recovery. The UK remained committed to its public allocations to major infrastructure including Crossrail, High Speed Rail 2, the Thames Tideway cleanup, and major programmes for urgent upgrade of undercapacity London Underground stations. Its neighbour Ireland, has cancelled its plans for new underground mass transit systems in the capital city Dublin, and projects in Spain, Italy and Greece are all under pressure. Denmark, Germany, Sweden and France as well as the healthier, but not untouched, economies of the Far East - China, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong; are ploughing ahead with major infrastructure projects that include long tracts underground.
- The United States on the other hand is in a bitter battle in Congress to find direction and consensus on a public-spending policy. While the stalemate continues, infrastructure development remains on hold, despite pronouncements and promises of large investment dollars being made available by President Obama. Countries of South America are concentrating their underground efforts on developing their vast mineral wealth and improving transport connectivity across their mountainous terrain.
Cancellations and takeovers:
Ireland drops €5.6 billion metro projects
Halcrow sells out to CH2M HILL
McNally sells out family ownership
New private equity owners for DSI
Frontier Kemper a Tutor Perini subsidiary
- Economic hard times also saw a set of high profile merges and takeovers - none more high profile than the takeover of the UK consultants Halcrow by America's CH2M Hill. In the construction industry Frontier Kemper became a subsidiary of Tutor Perini and McNally gave up its generations of family ownership.
On a brighter note, a handful of super-sized projects advanced around the world. China starts and finishes under projects of immense scale and challenge including long undersea links, high speed rail expansions and urban infrastructure, not without high risk and some catastrophic failures, but at a rate that just cannot be quantified, often by the directors of organisations themselves.
Mega projects advance:
Robbins 14.4m TBM ends its 10km drive
Monumental excavation finalised at Gotthard
Brenner Baseline gets official start
Politicians back Europe's mega immersed tube
Hong Kong starts massive XRL project
Niagara hails long awaited breakthrough
Voters back the bored tunnel in Seattle
China's mega sea link moves forward
Record-setting sea links open in China
Mega TBM action:
NFM 14m EPBM ready for shipment to Spain
Tracking the world's giant-sized TBMs
Russia confirms order for largest TBM ever
Mighty TBM procurement for Seattle
Japanese machine for Alaskan Way mega drive
First of two NFM mega EPBMs ready for Spain
New Zealand to build 14m EPBM road link
- In Europe all sectors of the mammoth St Gotthard baseline rail link undertaking connected to finish all excavation and an undertaking of similar magnitude for a Brenner baseline through the Alps between Austria and Italy received its vital funding commitments and became a project with a timeline and schedule for massive underground excavation operations.
Education and Training:
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Kuala Lumpur opens tunnel Training Academy
UK tunnel safety and training schemes in focus
UK MSc course for masters in tunnelling
BTS focus on health and safety
Austria's MSc course in NATM tunnelling
- In North America, a long and tormented road for the water delivery project at Niagara finally holed out, leaving behind the largest hard rock TBM bored tunnel at 14.14m and a schedule for months of concrete lining before the work is complete. On the west coast Seattle is going ahead with its mega EPBM tunnel to replace the damaged double deck viaduct along the city's shoreline. A history of tunnelling 'can do' in Seattle continues with a project that will attract all eyes and attention.
- 2011 also marked confirmation of an order for the largest TBM ever. At more than 19m diameter, the giant machine will excavate a road tunnel under the Neva River in St Petersburg, Russia.
- Education and training continues to exercise particular attention. As the tunnelling industry booms world wide, there is a chronic shortage of human resources at all levels of the industry.
- Master courses in tunnelling have been established at universities in many countries and training academies will have taken over the task of training skilled labourers from what can no longer be a process of training on the job.
- With training will come increased safety, both of the workers and the structures they are excavating. Reports of two fatalities in the industry this year and a fine of $55,000 levied on one company in the United States for one while in New York, the personal injury lawyers are on the case to secure recompense for a young man killed by a lump of falling green shotcrete.
STUVA explores a sustainable future
Quality delivered to few at Amsterdam
Shanghai examines underground developments
European conferences draw the crowds
Another successful IUT
Upbeat RETC in San Francisco
Tough conference competition
Helsinki ITA-WTC highlights
Dubrovnik symposium draws a crowd
bC India prepares for international showcase
- A long list of questions could be compiled to investigate how the accident happened and who is really responsivble.
Meeting, greeting and networking
It was a busy, busy year of conferences and exhibitions. TunnelTalk managed to attend 12 international events during 2011 starting with the bauma exhibition in Mumbai in February and a symposium in Kuala Lumpur in March, and continuing to Dubrovnik, Croatia in April, ITA WTC in Helsinki (May), RETC in San Francisco (June), IUT in Switzerland (Sept), the Salzburg Colloquium and the AFTES congress in Lyon (Oct), Amsterdam and Shanghai (Nov) and STUVA (Dec).
Mixshields ready to go for Queens tunnels in New York
Aker Wirth TBMs for Koralm contract
Herrenknecht begins roll out of Crossrail orders
Slurry TBMs commissioned in Bangalore
ESA Queens Tunnels all set to start
Miami Port Tunnel excavation underway
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Caldecott Fourth Bore holes through
San Francisco Central Subway award
Seattle LRT breakthroughs
Metro tunneling starts in Toronto
Strabag to build Toronto wastewater tunnel
Brisbane completes Airport Link excavation
Long wait over for Lake Mead TBM
Tunnel fire events and fire fighting:
Smoke billowed from the UK tunnel portal
Truck blaze damages UK traffic tunnel
Fire fighting functions for the Channel Tunnel
Mont Blanc Tunnel at age 46
- As a booming industry, many a conference organising company is encroaching on the business that industry society and associations have had to themselves over past decades. The task now is to decide which of the events to attend, both as a presenter, delegate and exhibitor. The market will make sure that the best and most important will win through.
- In bring the year to a close, TunnelTalk recalls the projects that got away from us and on which we will bring news next year. One of these is the trouble that has held up the full opening of the Gautrain service in Johannesburg.
- Water ingress of well beyond the specified allowance has the underground section from Rosebank into Park Station in central Johannesburg closed while grouting operations try to stem the flow in the final 3km drill+blast section. This has marred what has otherwise been a service so well received by the residence of South Africa's Gauteng region.
- There are also ambitious subsea tunnel projects being advanced in Norway; plans progressing for expansion of the Los Angeles Metro; new hydro and nuclear power plants to build; and company news developments and strategies to report.
- Next week we will look forward to the New Year and present our predictions of what 2012 might hold.
- Meanwhile, in this week, when many all over the world are preparing to close down offices and construction sites to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, TunnelTalk extends to all very best wishes for happy holidays. It also spares a thought for those who might have to work on through to prepare tenders for January deadlines or provide the skeleton staff on job sites.
- Happy holidays!
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