2011 in perspective
2011 in perspective Dec 2010
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
All sectors of the tunnelling industry are looking towards a busy 2011. China and India are roaring ahead with intense and expansive programmes of road, rail, water and metro projects and the developed world has much to do to expand and upgrade existing infrastructure networks.
In China alone, the Railway Ministry confirms that there are currently 6,600km of railway tunnels under construction at this moment, another 6,000km of existing railway tunnels and a further 7,600km of rail tunnels in design and planning – and that is just the lengths of railway in tunnels, and doesn't include the route kilometers on bridges and at grade – and that's only for railway. Similar and perhaps more tunnelling is needed for highway and road networks, for water supply and sewerage systems, for urban metros and for hydroelectric schemes.
In India, and for highways alone, central government planning calls for building 4, 6 and 8-lane super highways linking the major commercial centres across the country. The need for rail, metro, water supply and sewerage, and hydro schemes is as demanding in India's major cities as it is in China.
In the developed world, major cities are advancing significant underground infrastructure projects not least of which are the U-Link metro extension and the Alaskan Way highway replacement tunnel projects in Seattle, the network of highway tunnels in Brisbane, major highway and railway tunnels across Europe including the Gotthard and Brenner Baseline rail tunnel connections, and the Crossrail.
15.62m mega-TBM factory tested at Schwanau

15.62m mega-TBM factory tested at Schwanau

To meet the higher demands of urban planners and project logistics, equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers continue to push at technological boundaries to make the perceived impossible possible. Ever longer and deeper immersed tube tunnels are vying now for top spot in the economic stakes over cable stayed bridge sea crossings, as illustrated this year by the result of the Femern link result; larger diameter TBMs are being contemplated and built for double deck highway tunnels for limited urban underground space with the largest ever EPBM now heading to Italy and materials continue to be developed to improve fire survival of underground infrastructure; the cost effectiveness of waterproofing and the more efficient management of the masses of monitored data collected during the process of excavating tunnels and for more efficient management and maintenance of tunnels in operation.
While the developing world appears to have a clear vision of its needs and how the tunnelling programmes are going to be realized under its Communist government and controlled economy, the developed world continues to grapple with the consequences of economic fears of double-dip recession, inflation, and urgent needs to reduce public debt and government spending. Cancellation of much needed ARC project under the Hudson from New Jersey to Manhattan is one of the high profile projects to be hit but budget cutting.
Cast side walls for reflector pain and easier wash down

Twin tube portal for the Hindhead tunnel in the UK

Many of these concerns, development programmes, and technological developments will be discussed and demonstrated at the many trade shows, exhibitions and conferences to be held during 2011. The year kicks off with the George Fox Symposium in New York on the 25th of January when another high turnout will discuss advances in drill+blast technology, hear progress reports from the Second Avenue, East-Side Access and No 7 Line subway and railway projects, and lament no doubt the cancellation of the area's ARC (Access to the Region's Core) project.
In February, from February 8 to February 11, the BAUMA India construction equipment trade show in Mumbai will provide an opportunity to present modern tunnelling equipment to the rapidly expanding infrastructure market and to know more specifically of how the country plans to manage the investment.
A rare chance to appreciate the plans for new tunnel infrastructure in the south east European countries is presented by the conference planned in Dubrovnik, Croatia in April.
In May, the international tunnelling industry will convene for the ITA World Tunnel Congress in Helsinki, Finland from May 21, 2011 to May 26, 2011.
The 2011 session of the RETC (Rapid Excavation and Tunnelling Conference) in North America will convene in San Francisco in June when a turnout to surpass the last RETC in Las Vegas in 2009 is anticipated and highly likely with San Francisco and California also a hot spot of tunnelling infrastructure projects both planned and in construction including the proposed California high-speed railway, the Bay Tunnel for water supply across San Francisco Bay and the proposed long water supply tunnel under the Delta to protect the sensitive environment as it channels water to the thirsty south of the state.
European links through Switzerland

European links through Switzerland

Following RETC and also in June, London will host its Underground Conference and Exhibition event attracting an audience and team of supply agents interested in hearing of the major projects planned and underway in the UK including Crossrail and the long Thames Tideway sewer tunnel augmentation projects in London.
With the amount of work around the globe expanding at an unprecedented rate, and tunnelling professionals and workers being attracted to jobs in all corners of the globe, the demand for new recruits and experienced engineers and tunnellers has never been greater. Training and education is top priority for many national tunnelling industries as well as for the new ITACET Foundation that aims to fill the gaps that universities and colleges fail to cover. There are also many job vacancy postings on the TunnelTalk Job Opportunities which also lists the CVs of experiences tunnellers looking for new posts as current projects and contracts come to an end.
All in all, 2011 is set to be another busy, busy year for the international tunnelling industry. After the rest and relaxation of the holidays, TunnelTalk wishes everyone a very prosperous and productive New Year and we will look forward to meeting you at scheduled events during the year.
Happy New Year!

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