The rockstars of tunnelling 12 Oct 2017

Roland Herr, International Journalist for TunnelTalk
Young professionals and students from the world over were invited by the WTC 2017 and the ITACET Committee and ITACET Foundation to join the latest WTC training course in Bergen. Organized as part of the WTC, and as it has been each year now for 13 years, the delivery of ‘rockstars’ of the international tunnelling industry were not thrown by an audience that could have doubled or trebled to be at capacity or by weather-dependent clouds and venue glitches. Roland Herr attended the Training Course for TunnelTalk and brings a presentation-by-presentation and on-the-spot report.
Eivind Grov welcomed 60 to the 2017 WTC ITA-CET Training Course
Eivind Grov welcomed 60 to the 2017 WTC ITA-CET Training Course

"Education and training has special emphasis as one of the main goals in the ITA strategic plan," stated Eivind Grov of Norway in his welcoming address and quoted ITA President Tarcisio Celestino as his representative. Two very comprehensive days with more than 20 highly interesting and highly profiled topics, with a focus on Excavation and Support in Soft Ground Conditions followed.

After an introduction ITACET Foundation and its mission by Professor Robert Galler of Austria, Chairman of ITACET, the two-day course opened with a definition of soft ground and its classification by Professor Bjorn Nielsen (Norway) who explained the main characteristics and behaviour of soft ground and its interaction with water. Martin Knights (UK) then took the participants on an entertaining trip into the history of excavation and support in soft ground conditions and Nasri Munfah (USA) followed up with an overview of open-face tunnelling - NATM (New Austrian Tunnelling Method), SEM (Sequential Excavation Method) or SCL (Sprayed Concrete Lining) - in soft ground. To close the loop, Tim Babendererde (Germany) explained the principles of mechanised tunnelling and gave later a second presentation in which he compared the possible fields of application for slurry and EPB (earth pressure balance) TBMs (tunnel boring machines).

Robert Galler, ITA-CET Chairman
Robert Galler, ITA-CET Chairman

Dr Anne-Lise Berggren (known as the Ice Queen to colleagues in Norway) explained the freezing method of presupport in waterbearing ground and its applications as a valuable auxiliary method to assist successful excavation of tunnels and underground structures throughout the world. Brad Grothen (USA) presented an interesting overview of the challenges to overcome if and when hard rock TBMs encounter soft ground conditions and the development and dual mode TBM technology. To follow up the technical discussions, Professor Galler explored the question ‘which tunnelling method is most appropriate for any given project - mechanised or open-face?’

As practical examples of having answered that question, the first day was closed with a series of interesting case studies of the soft ground TBM and open-face tunnelling projects of the world presented by Piergiorgio Grasso (Italy) on excavation of large caverns for the Sao Paulo Metro; Francois Renault (France) on the Hallandsas Project in Sweden; Nasri Munfah (USA) on the Alaskan Way replacement tunnel project in Seattle; and Karel Rossler (Czech Republic) on the support methods selected for excavation of the Tunnel Zilina.

Programme of the performances in Bergen
Programme of the performances in Bergen

The second day session, on Saturday, started with a delay for some late participants who face closed doors at the University of Bergen. Fortunately some hard weekend-working students helped with entry to the building, sooner or later.

The morning started with Grasso describing the new developments for geotechnical investigation in soft ground and Armund Bruland (Norway) giving an outlook into the future of building tunnels in Norway. This was followed by Elena Chiriotti (France) who described the challenges of urban soft ground tunnelling; Felix Amberg (Switzerland) who gave an overview of the main parameters for design in open face tunnelling and, last but not least, one of the most refreshing and engaging presentations of the course by Daniele Peila (Italy) on settlement control and soil conditioning for EPB closed-face mechanised TBM tunnelling. He began by stating: "I feel like a rockstar with this microphone headset on..." and this very likeable description was a metaphorical comparison.

Some of the best specialists and experts of tunnelling in the world took their time to present and pass over their knowledge - but for only 60 people in the audience.

Which celebrated rockstar would perform for an audience of only some 60 people? According to the presentation of Professor Galler on the first day, 61 training sessions were co-organised by ITA-CET and the the ITACET Foundation and to a total of more than 6,100 participants. That means an average of about 100 participants per training course. It is absolutely sad that, for whatever reason, only some 15 young professionals and students from Norway and some 45 from the rest of the world were on the receiving end of the the experience and knowledge presented for free from leading experts. The organisers, and especially ITA, need to ask themselves how to improve the promotion and the participation of this absolutely high profiled event. For a participating fee of more than USD$500, every participant should expect to gain access to the hall and use the toilets without problems.

‘Rockstar’ Peila performed an entertaining presentation
‘Rockstar’ Peila performed an entertaining presentation

After the presentations, the Saturday afternoon was fullfilled with company and product presentations by Normet, Mapei, Sika, BASF and Bekaert Maccaferri. At the end of the course, a panel discussion between experts Grasso, Galler and Peila presented the opportunity to exchange experience and for participants to ask more questions.

With an eye on the quality of the presentations and presenters, it was one of the top events at the WTC 2017 in Bergen. But the overall organisation was, unfortunately, not the standard that could be expected for such an event. The next two-day WTC 2018 ITACET Training Course will be held in conjunction with the World Tunnel Congress being organised by the Tunnelling Chapter of the UAE Society of Engineers in Dubai in April 2018. The anticipation is that the expert rockstars of the industry will play to a larger, more-comfortably accommodated and equally enthusiastic audience of young professionals and students of the exciting world of underground space and infrastructure development.

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