Shani Wallis and Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
Much was anticipated of WTC Switzerland and in the event, much was demanded of its delegates. A tough venue to navigate; a lack of coffee and coffee breaks; exhibitors unhappy at being far from the action; a general lack of information; and a sense that the WTC had gate-crashed the simultaneously-running Swiss Tunnel Congress, with the Swiss exhibitors collected on their own dedicated level and parallel Swiss-focused technical sessions seemingly held in isolation from the main event. Shani Wallis and Peter Kenyon report after a WTC that recorded some significant highs and some unforgettable lows.
- Denmark took the helm of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) this week when Søren Degn Eskesen was elected as President of the international association for the next three years. Eskesen takes over from In-Mo Lee of South Korea who, as President for the past three years, has overseen major changes and developments for the non-profit, non-governmental international organisation.
New ITA President Søren Eskesen
Immediate Past President In-Mo Lee
- During his three-year tenure, the ITA has grown to 71 Member Nations, with the accession at the 2013 General Assembly of three new members - Bhutan, Bolivia and Cambodia. Now Past President In-Mo Lee, leaves the Executive Council, and its new President, with many initiatives to take forward, as well as various issues to manage and resolve.
ITA Young Members proposal
Among the more exciting initiatives is the proposal by the BTS Member Nation society of the UK to develop an ITA Young Members Group. Based on a formula that maintains the BTS Young Members Group, established in 2008 and Chaired currently by Petr Salak of the Dr Sauer Partnership in the UK and supported by the entire BTS membership and managing committee under current BTS Chairman Damian McGirr of Donaldson Associates, an ITA Young Members Group would be tasked with bringing new blood into the industry and maintaining continuity of expertise and knowledge from one generation to the next. At his first General Assembly, new President Eskesen took up the proposal and encouraged all Member Nations to look to develop their own Young Members Groups and confirmed that the ITA ExCo will be working to determine how these Young Members will be integrated into the ITA family. "We look forward to the success of this as young people are the way to the future," said the new President.
UK delegates Petr Salak (left) and Damian McGirr proposed an ITA Young Members Group
- In welcoming the international tunnelling community to Switzerland, the WTC2013 organising committee set many a challenge for the delegates. The venue, the CICG - Centre International de Conférences Genève, is an impressive building with a large tiered lecture theatre at its heart and surrounded by an array of different levels and floors from a basement level, through ground floor to upper levels across which more than 100 exhibition booths were located. Finding your way around the venue to the different meeting rooms and other facilities was an exercise in orienteering, but without the map. Plans of the venue were printed in a large, glossy programme of 90 pages or more that was left in the bag. The upper level accommodated only Swiss industry exhibitors. Those on the ground level, particularly near the entrance and the registration area, enjoyed the greatest degree of traffic, while those in the basement and on lower levels were left feeling neglected and far from the action.
- More than 1,800 delegates from 63 countries attended the event, indicating the increasing interest in the development of underground infrastructure across the globe and a clear recognition of the Congress theme: Underground - the way to the future. "More than 350 abstracts for the technical sessions were submitted," said Felix Amberg, Chairman of the Organising Committee. "From these 305 were accepted for publication in the Proceedings, with 100 selected for presentation and another 160 included in the electronic poster sessions."
New Vice Presidents
- The Opening Ceremony was a long four-hour session, programmed without a break but punctuated with musical intermezzos of traditional Swiss folk music and entertainment. Following three welcome addresses, the Sir Alan Muir Wood Memorial Lecture was presented by Dick Robbins of the USA. Dick's presentation focused on the development of modern mechanised tunnelling and drew on his personal contribution and knowledge of the history of TBM tunnelling methods and his vision of the future and areas in which the technology might develop further.
- The three keynote lectures that followed described the importance of the underground to the future development of Singapore, by Chong Kheng Chua, Vice Director of LTA; to the expansion of the road system in Switzerland by Dr Rudolf Dieterle, the Director of the Swiss Federal Roads Office; and recounted the contributions of the Swiss to the art and science of tunnelling through the centuries and generations by Prof Georg Anagnostou of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
39th ITA General Assembly and WTC2013
- Prof Anagnostou presented the first of several controversial remarks and developments during the course of WTC2013 and the 39th ITA General Assembly when he rounded on ITA Member Nation Austria for suggesting in its book of 2012 commemorating 50 years of NATM experience, that the TBM drives of the Gotthard railway base tunnels belong to the worldwide development of the NATM. Prof Anagnostou said: "I feel obliged to clarify that NATM has never had anything to do with tunnelling in Switzerland." Prof Anagnostou went on to quote statements concerning NATM by the late Sir Alan Muir Wood, a founder and Honorary Life President of the ITA, and warned the ITA that "the industry is damaged by unfair comparison practices" and that it should show "zero tolerance towards such practices". Prof Anagnostou is nominated and confirmed as the presenter of the Sir Alan Muir Wood Memorial Lecture for next year at the WTC2014 in Brazil.
- A second controversial development concerned one of the ITA Working Groups. It decided in Geneva that it would cancel its WTC meeting in Brazil next year because few were planning to attend due to the travel distance. An alternative to hold the meeting instead in Europe found little understanding. The representative for Brazil in the General Assembly stated that no Working Group could act unilaterally to cancel their obligation to meet at every General Assembly. Many in the Brazilian delegation added at break time that they and others from far destinations make every effort to attend WTCs that are held every other year in Europe (and in the rest of the world in the intervening years), without complaint, often having to make two or three connecting flights to reach the host city location.
- The next WTC in Brazil is to be held at Iguassu Falls, which is about an hour's flight from São Paulo. In its presentation at the General Assembly, Brazil pointedly expelled myths that getting to Iguassu Falls was only possible in small propeller aeroplanes of 20-50 passenger capacity, explaining that there are three international airports within 20km of the venue - one each in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina; that there are up to 10 flights a day to Iguassu on Airbus and Boeing jets; and that making the connection in São Paulo to the domestic flight is less complicated than making transfers to domestic flights in big European airports such as Heathrow or Frankfurt. The chance to visit Iguassu Falls, the obligations to the work of the ITA and its Working Groups, and the opportunity to appreciate the tremendous amount of tunnelling work that is programmed for Brazil and other countries of South America in the coming decades, may well encourage the doubters to change their minds and embrace the idea of making the trip to WTC2014.
ITACUS Open Session followed on from WTC Bangkok
In search of resilient cities
A major success of the WTC in Geneva was the last in a three-year programme of Open Sessions by the ITA Committee on Underground Space (ITACUS) that promotes the use of tunnelling and underground construction for the development of sustainable and resilient cities. Progressing from Helsinki in 2011 to Bangkok in 2012 and to Geneva this year, Chairman Han Admiraal and Secretary-General Antonia Cornaro prepared an impressive programme to explore the final chapter in the series - Deciding on Better and Resilient Cities.
- Together with partner association ICLEI, the international association of Local Governments for Sustainability, the programme included keynote presentations by Margaretta Wahlström, the UN Special Representative of the UN Office for Disaster Reduction in Geneva; David Cadman, the President of ICLEI and former Vice-Mayor of the City of Vancouver, Canada; Samuel K C Ng, Chief Geotechnical Engineer/Planning, Civil Engineering and Development Department of Hong Kong; Yvette Körber, Managing Partner of the Cargo Tube project for Switzerland in Zurich; and James Ramsey, Architect with the RAAD Studios in New York City and Co-Founder of the Lowline Project for turning a disused and abandoned underground tram station into a public park in lower Manhattan.
ITACUS programme download
Samual Ng (inset) illustrates growth of tunnelling (left) and the current availability of underground real estate in Hong Kong
- In the round table discussions, Wahlström, Cadman and Ramsey were joined by Jean-Michel Paumier (Economical, Social and Environmental Council of the Greater Paris Region), and Shipra Narang Suri, Vice President ISOCARP (the International Society of City and Regional Planners, and a partner organization with ITACUS), to explore a roadmap for the future of the initiative and the many different aspects that each organisation faces in expanding the appreciation and effective use of underground real estate beneath mega-cities.
ITACUS roundtable (from left): Han Admiraal; Jean-Michel Paumier, Margaretta Wahlström, James Ramsey,
David Cadman, Shipra Narang Suri and Antonia Cornaro
A varied technical programme, spread across three days and four locations about the venue, covered a variety of technological, scientific and project updates, with the most popular being the very first session on Monday afternoon.
- In a packed meeting room, with all seats taken and barely enough room to stand, the audience heard updates from projects that involve two of the world's largest TBMs - one at Sparvo in Italy, which is on the homeward stretch in the second tube, and the other, the mega-TBM for the single tube, double deck highway tunnel in Seattle, which is almost ready for launch after years in the planning, financing and procurement process.
Sparvo EPBM soon to be overtaken in size by....
- The 2.5km Sparvo highway tunnel features the world's biggest EPB machine, until next month at least, and is currently completing the second of two drives, having completed the first in late 2012. Karen Bäppler, Head of Geotechnics at Herrenknecht, told the audience that the machine was relaunched following a seamless and successful turning operation that utilised a specially-constructed air-powered hydraulic trolley system that had to be specially engineered owing to space restrictions at the job site and the size and weight of the giant machine. Final breakthrough is expected later this year.
- It felt like the world record baton was being handed over, as in the following paper Alejandro Sanz of Dragados, part of the contractor team of Seattle Tunnel Partners, informed delegates of progress relating to the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project. At 17.48m, the Japanese Hitachi-Zosen manufactured machine is nearly 2m bigger than the Herrenknecht at Sparvo, and with a 27% larger face.
...Hitachi EPBM soon to launch in Seattle
- As assembly of the machine continues, the world will be watching this project closely, and none more so than Dr Martin Herrenknecht, who could not resist questioning the choice of machine during a lively question and answer session. "Why did you choose an EPBM? I would have selected a Mixshield slurry system," he said. "I wish you good luck but you will have problems," he warned. Delegates were treated to an unexpectedly light-hearted turn in proceedings from the man whose company adamantly promoted a slurry machine for the project and which is about to lose the record for the largest machine in world.
- Dr Herrenknecht added in reference to anticipated boulders in the glacial deposits of the drive in Seattle: "You would be much better cutting the boulders. Settlements will be a problem and how will you get in under 5.6 bar pressure? With this high water pressure I am quite afraid. I think that finally you will end up with a slurry machine on a screw conveyor."
- In response, an unruffled Sanz said that Dragados and Seattle Tunnel Partners were happy with their choice of machine. "We have analysed the situation carefully and for us an EPBM is good enough." Without specifying which project and which machine manufacturer he was referring to, Sanz added: "In this area [Seattle] there has been a problem with a slurry TBM getting stuck."
- With the world's eyes on Alaskan Way there can be no doubt that water pressure is not the only type of pressure on STP to deliver. But it might not be too long before even that record is broken. The Neva River crossing in St Petersburg, Russia will feature a 19m diameter Herrenknecht machine, although Dr Herrenknecht did inform delegates during his interjections that "unfortunately" the go-ahead has still not been given for this delayed project.
- As the proceedings of the WTC2013 and the ITA 39th General Assembly came to a close, the delegations gathered up their memories of their time in Geneva with its highlights and lowlights, disappointments and successes, and prepared to move on to Iguassu Falls, Brazil, South America. Under new President Eskesen, who won the Presidential election 40 votes to 17, the industry waits to see how the international association will progress and flourish.
The ITA General Assembly moves next to the WTC2014 next year to be hosted by Brazil at Iguassu Falls
WTC technical programme and exhibition - TunnelTalk, May 2013
Sir Alan Muir Wood Memorial Lecture 2013: Dick Robbins, USA (available soon on the ITA website)
Salzburg marks 50 years of NATM - TunnelTalk, October 2012
In search of resilient cities - TunnelTalk, December 2011
38th ITA General Assembly and WTC-2012 - TunnelCast, May 2012
Giant Sparvo EPBM completes first drive - TunnelTalk, August 2012
Seattle prepares for mega-TBM assembly - TunnelTalk, May 2013
VIDEO: Mega-TBM assembled and tested in Japan - TunnelCast, December 2012
Technical parameters of Seattle's mega EPBM - TunnelTalk, December 2012
VIDEO: Mega dimensions of Russian Orlovski Project - TunnelCast, September 2012
Tracking the world's mega-TBMs - TunnelTalk, Discussion Forum
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