Completion of record scale 17m high x 16.5m wide  
Stepney Green junction cavern for Crossrail, London
Reflecting on 2013
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
2013 has seen many landmarks reached as growth in the global underground construction industry continues apace. Reaching the half way point on Crossrail TBM excavation in London; finalizing a route for High Speed 2 in the UK; short listing pre qualifiers for the construction of the world's longest immersed combined road/rail tunnel between Germany and Denmark; launch of the world's largest diameter TBM in Seattle, USA; contract rollout of major metro systems in Singapore (Thomson Line) and Qatar (Doha metro); world record excavation speeds on the Legacy Way highway tunnels in Brisbane, Australia; a return for TBM excavation methods in Norway; and advancement of many more underground projects throughout the world - these take pride of place in another action packed year.
Among all the highs, 2013 will be remembered for significant changes in the industry's TBM manufacturing market. The greatest shock news announced the end of an era with, news that just five years after its acquisition of Canada-based Lovat, new owner Caterpillar was withdrawing from the TBM manufacturing business. In so doing, it brought down the final curtain on the Lovat TBM manufacturing story after supplying TBMs to more than 700 projects worldwide since its start of business in 1972.
Back in 2009 the acquisition was hailed by Caterpillar Group President Stu Levenick as representing an excellent "strategic fit" for the two companies, with the - multinational plant manufacturer Caterpillar and its huge purchasing power matching Lovat with its need to fund expansion to keep up with worldwide demand for its well-respected TBM technology. How ironic that just five short years later those same words would be used to explain the decision to end TBM production from 2014 and scale down spare parts and support activities until final closure in 2016. "The business was no longer classified as a strategic fit," explained the company in May.
During 2013 four Caterpillar machines wrapped up tunnelling on the Spadina Line extension in Toronto, the Lovat/Caterpillar TBM manufacturing home city, while the first pair of four Caterpillar TBMs for excavation of the same city's Crosstown LRT began their western section drives for the Obayashi/Kenny/Kenaidan Crosstown Transit Constructors JV in June. A second pair of Caterpillar machines will launch on the eastern drives in 2014 after the Aecon/Dragados JV was confirmed by project owner Metrolinx in November as winner of the design-build construction contract.
But the last TBM to roll off the Caterpillar production line is likely to be the Can$20 million 9.84m machine for excavation of a 2km section of Vancouver's new Evergreen Line. Construction consortium EGRT (led by SNC-Lavalin) received assurances from Caterpillar, following a series of emergency meetings, that manufacture and ongoing technical and sales support was guaranteed for the machine that had been ordered five months earlier. Assembly of the TBM in the launch shaft is currently underway with tunnelling expected to start in early 2014.
Acquisitions, consolidations, reorganizations
Another major change in the TBM manufacturing sector promoted Chinese ambitions to expand TBM production outside the lucrative domestic market and into the global sphere, with a strategy outlined officially in February and, were boosted by year end with news of the acquisition by China Railway Tunnelling Equipment Co (CRTE) of all intellectual property rights ownership of Wirth TBM and shaft boring technology from current owner Aker Wirth. "This was a landmark for our overseas strategy," said Sun Heng, Chief of the CRTE Scientech Development Department, adding that "the taking over of the Wirth hard rock TBM and shaft boring machine intellectual property will increase the CRTE competitive position in the hard rock TBM business." As part of the deal CRTE acquires the value of being able to use the brand name of a well-established TBM manufacturer for all TBM and shaft boring products that are based on the acquired technology.
On the contractor side, it was also a year of change. Following the collapse into bankruptcy of Austrian general construction company Alpine Bau, a subsidiary of OHL of Spain, Metrostav of the Czech Republic moved to acquire Alpine's separate tunnelling division, Alpine BeMo, as part of its bid to gain access to Western markets. Under a complicated internal arrangement the bankrupt Alpine Bau business arm held a number of tunnel construction projects in Asia and Eastern Europe, the most high profile disruption being to the Singapore Downtown Line where owner Singapore LTA was forced to appoint another contractor to take over the outstanding 50% of unfinished contracts C917 and C918.
In the USA leading tunnelling company Kenny Construction of Chicago, which holds a number of high-profile tunnel contracts, including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project in Toronto, was bought out by Granite for US$130 million, while in Europe the merger between Italian construction companies Salini and tunnelling specialist Impregilo (which owns North American tunnelling contractor SA Healy) was completed in April.
Impregilo/SA Healy holds a number of high profile contracts, including the 4.8km Lake Mead intake tunnel in Nevada which made steady progress in 2013 following a series of serious delays caused by difficult mining conditions; and the 2.7km San Francisco Central Subway, which saw launch of the TBMs in the middle of this year. In 2013 Impregilo/SA Healy added the Doha metro Red Line North in Qatar to its portfolio, and the 3.8km Anacostia River tunnel , part of DC Water's enormous Clean Rivers Project. In what proved to be a resurgent underground construction market in 2013 in the Middle East, Impregilo was also among the winners as three international consortia were awarded construction in three lots of the 176km Riyadh metro, including up to 40km of twin-running tunnels.
The Italian-based company is also among the five prequalified joint ventures announced in May who are competing for two construction contracts to build the world record 17km Fehmarnbelt undersea fixed link between Germany and Denmark.
When announced, it was unclear how the Salini-Impregilo merger would affect Italian tunnelling contractor and TBM manufacturer Seli. Seli is Salini's tunnelling partner on a number of contracts including the Copenhagen Cityringen metro project and several contracts for the Rome metro. By the year end, Seli was again facing financial difficulties of its own. Despite making strategic partnership alliances and financial agreements with Coastal of India and Gezhouba of China in March and November 2011 respectively, the company's solvency was causing concern for its clients and partners on the Cityringen project in Denmark, where two of four TBMs were on site and the second two were yet to begin factory assembly, and in Kashmir, India where its plus 20km long TBM drive through the Himalayas for the Kishanganga hydro project headrace tunnel was reaching the end of the most difficult stretch of geology on the drive and heading towards a major success for application of TBM technology beneath high mountain overburden and through young, tectonically active geological conditions. Seli also has supplied and is using three TBMs for hydro projects in Panama.
2013 Project focus
On the project front there seems to be no let up, with underground solutions the preferred option in both the transportation and utility sectors.
In the UK Crossrail reached a landmark half way point in terms of TBM excavation, with seven of the eight Herrenknecht machines in the ground. Both the eastern (May) and western (August) giant SCL crossover caverns at Stepney Green were completed during 2013, and as progress towards E&M fit out continues into 2014 route planning and early public consultation continued throughout the year on the possibility for a north-south Crossrail 2. Still in a buoyant UK, progress continued towards two-phase delivery of the High Speed 2 rail link between London and Birmingham and Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds. In order to pacify opposition and ease passage of the necessary Parliamentary hybrid bill for Phase 1 between London and Birmingham, further key sections were aligned underground during 2013 to take the total TBM requirement to 40km of twin running tunnels.
Meanwhile, and also in London, 16 contractors organised into seven JV teams and a single company bidder were shortlisted in October by Thames Water for £2.3 billion underground construction of the long-awaited 25km Thames Tideway CSO tunnel, in three lots.
In Europe, Norway progressed a number of large projects during 2013 - with prequalifiers confirmed for TBM construction of the new Oslo-Ski high speed rail connection, and construction starting at Ryfast on what will be the world's longest subsea traffic tunnel. But it won't be the longest for long - also during 2013 even more ambitious plans for a 27km subsea link at nearby Rogfast were outlined as preparations for detailed engineering design moved towards tender stage. At Sparvo in Italy the world's second largest TBM broke through on the second and final drive to overcome challenging geological conditions and confirm the capacity of large-diameter TBM technology to deliver on time and on budget.
In Turkey, a new rail connection between East and West was delivered as the first trains began running passengers under the Bosphorus in what is the deepest immersed tube tunnel in the world to date, and one of the most significant civil engineering achievements of all time. Meanwhile the 13.6m Herrenknecht Mixshield that will excavate the major part of the 5.4km single tube double-deck highway tunnel under the same waterway completed factory testing in Germany.
In the USA the world's eyes were firmly on progress of the world's largest TBM as launch finally took place of the Hitachi Zosen mega-machine under downtown Seattle for construction of the double deck tunnel that will replace the earthquake-damaged SR99 Alaskan Way viaduct. Early problems with union agreements caused nearly two months of delays, and with the machine currently at a standstill after encountering an obstruction at 1,000ft, Seattle Tunnel Partners' construction team of Dragados/Tutor Perini face a challenge to get the TBM moving again. In Indianapolis rapid progress was made on the 12.2km long Deep Rock Connector, one of a large number of CSO tunnels either under construction or in planning as water authorities in the USA continue to meet the stiff requirements of the Clean Water Act, while in the US transportation sector Los Angeles moves forward with development of a multi billion dollar investment in light-and heavy-rail services.
In South America Brazil counts down to hosting the Soccer World Cup and the WTC in 2014, as well as the Olympics in 2016; metro extensions Rio de Janeiro and a new 12.2km metro line in Fortaleza are welcome news, delays in the procurement process for the first phases of high speed rail, including more than 90km of tunnels, less so.
Australia awarded contracts for construction of its longest and deepest ever rail tunnel, the North West Rail Link in Sydney, with French-based NFM Technologies making a clean sweep of all four TBMs that are required to complete the project. While excavation of the Legacy Way traffic tunnels in Brisbane was completed in world record time. Melbourne, meanwhile, shortlisted three JV teams for construction of the 4.4km twin running highway tunnel that forms part of the city's Aust$6-8 billion East West Link.
In Asia underground construction continued at pace throughout 2013 on Delhi's metro extensions, on the second and third phases of Singapore's Downtown Line, in Thailand, China and Hong Kong - with the latter awarding a major undersea highway project to link Tuen Mun in the New Territories on the mainland and Chek Lap Kok Airport on Lantau Island. Singapore also continues rollout of the next phase of its extensive metro development - the Thomson Line.
But these are just a small fraction of the work of the underground construction industry throughout a busier-than-ever 2013. News of these projects and many others will be represented in the TunnelTalk Annual Review 2013 print magazine which will be available for distribution from early 2014 and through out the coming year.
To all those involved in the industry the world over, TunnelTalk extends best wishes for the end of year holidays and for a prosperous and busy New Year in 2014.

Add your comment

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. You share in the wider tunnelling community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language professional.
In case of an error submitting Feedback, copy and send the text to
Name :

Date :

Email :

Phone No :

   Security Image Refresh
Enter the security code :
No spaces, case-sensitive