Dubai destination for WTC2018 delegates 18 Jan 2018

TunnelTalk reporting

The Middle East has been a hotspot in the world for tunnelling during recent decades and while some of the industry’s largest investments and projects for the region are coming to their end, there is still a wealth of underground infrastructure planned and to be built in the coming year. A spotlight on this activity will be presented in April when the Tunnelling Chapter of the Society of Engineers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts the ITA WTC World Tunnel Congress in Dubai. A programme of more than 100 technical session presentations, in addition to Poster Sessions and a full to capacity exhibition hall will highlight projects completed in the region, those that are planned and introduce the contractors, consultants and industry suppliers operating in the region.

Fig 1. Dubai Metro will extend to the Expo 2020 site and to the new Dubai International Airport
Fig 1. Dubai Metro will extend to the Expo 2020 site and to the new Dubai International Airport

Dubai city is one of the world’s most iconic conurbations. A gleaming development of glass and concrete towers - including still currently the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa at 828m tall and opened in 2010 - that rise up from the desert sands and overshadow the original harbour and fishing port that was Dubai originally with its early low rise buildings of earliest developments in the 1960s. Iconic also are the man-made islands along the coast, the modern highways of up to six lanes wide in each direction and the public facilities such as the indoor ski slope that confirm, identify and define the location.

Linking all together into a modern metropolis calls on underground infrastructure for water supply and drainage, metro public transit and highway underpasses and tunnels to help ease urban traffic congestion in the city and create modern transportation links into other parts of the UAE.

Dubai has an existing network of public metro transportation part of which is underground beneath the old original heart of the city and otherwise elevated for the extended network. Dubai is also founded on what was originally a swamp area. The ground water table is just beneath the surface and is prone to flooding in the rare but torrential heavy rainstorms that can hit the region. Controlling the groundwater and protecting areas from recurring floods is a network of drainage tunnels and sewers, more of which are to be added in the next programme of public spending. As well as the Al Shindagha underpass tunnel for city traffic, several hard rock tunnels are on the highway connections through the mountains between the port of Khorfakkan to the Dafta and Shais region of neighbouring Sharjah Emirate. The new road project includes six twin tube, four lane tunnels of 1,300m, 860m, 300m, 1,400m and 2,600m long.

Initial investment in storm water drainage
Initial investment in storm water drainage
Additional investment in sewer infrastructure over the coming years
Additional investment in sewer infrastructure over the coming years

Extensions will be added to all these projects in preparation for Dubai hosting the World Expo in 2020. For the metro there is a 15km extension of the Red Line with 10.5km on elevated trackway and 4km underground with two underground stations (Fig 1). Under a US$2.9 billion contract, the Expolink Consortium of Alstom of France, Acciona of Spain and Gulermack of Turkey will complete the works and supply 50 trains for the extension and to upgrade rolling stock on the existing metro network. A 10m diameter Herrenknecht EPBM is excavating the single tube, double track running tunnel.

The Line is planned to be extended further to the site of the new international airport for Dubai, which is currently in construction. Once complete, the total network of Dubai Metro will be 90km, while the entire rail network, including the Dubai Tram, will extend to 101km.

Also for Expo 2020, Dubai is building a deep stormwater network. The project involves the construction of two deep tunnels underneath the city. The main 12km long Jebel Ali stormwater tunnel package was awarded to a joint venture of Porr, Austria and Besix, Belgium and the second major tunnel package through Deira, beneath Dubai International Airport, is currently in the tender stage. With the storm water tunnels at up to 10m i.d. there are plans that parts of these could be designed as dual mode facilities with road decks built into the internal space and closed to traffic in times of heavy rainfall when the full capacity of the stormwater management facility is needed. The concept was first used for the SMART tunnel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Drill+blast excavation of highway tunnels through the mountains for Emirate connections
Drill+blast excavation of highway tunnels through the mountains for Emirate connections

Further to the storm drainage tunnels, there are plans in Dubai for a Strategic Sewer Tunnel Project comprising two deep wastewater tunnels with a combined length of 70km and a further 140km of link sewers and pumping stations. The system will serve the catchment areas of Deira and Bur Dubai with one main tunnel collector transferring from the Bur Dubai region to a treatment plant at Jebel Ali, and the other conveying flow from the Deira and Dubai International Airport area to a treatment plant at Al Warsan.

Further reports on these new and current projects will be published by TunnelTalk in the coming Dubai Focus issues.

For the WTC2018 congress in April, TunnelTalk is the Official Media Partner and is promoting the event and supporting the exhibition exhibitors to our international readership. Connect to our Exhibition Preview and interactive stand locator service and watch for further WTC2018 news reports as the April 2018 fixture approaches.

The theme of the Congress is The Role of Underground Space in Future Sustainable Cities and papers will be presented across three days of simultaneous conference sessions.
Topics to be discussed will include:

  • Multi-utility tunnels – The ultimate solution
  • Contractual risk sharing – a win/win arrangement
  • The right tunnelling construction method for the right application
  • Maintenance-free design in sewer tunnels – fact or fiction
  • Urban dewatering and flood control with underground structures
  • Review of current design methods for mined tunnelling projects
  • Innovation in tunnelling technologies
  • CAPEX vs OPEX – how to define life cycle project cost
  • Sustainable use of underground space
  • Ground engineering and risk management
  • Advances in the material sector
  • Repair and maintenance of underground structures
  • Smart City – how can underground space contribute
  • The importance of project management in project development
  • Case studies on TBM projects
  • Life safety for underground structures

Programme of the WTC2018 schedule

With the World Tunnel Congress will also be convening of the 44th General Assembly of the ITA International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association. At the General Assembly, representatives of the current 74 member nations will be updated on the activity of the Association’s Executive Council and report on the activity of its four Committees – ITA-COSUF, ITA-CET, ITACUS and ITATech, - and its 14 currently active Working Groups.

The Tunnelling Chapter of the UAE Society of Engineers was formally recognised as an ITA Member Nation in 2011. The Society of Engineers was formed in 1979 and today has 40,000 members. It is a member of the Arab Engineers Federation, the World Federation Engineering Organization, and the Gulf Engineering Union. With a goal to unite the regional tunnelling industry and promote the development and use of underground space, the SOE UAE Tunnelling Chapter organizes the Arabian Tunnelling Conference each year and attends regional relevant events such as Middle East Rail. The UAE Tunnelling Chapter with be the first to host the World Tunnel Congress in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).


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