CONFERENCES Shanghai examines underground developments Nov 2011
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
China's rate of infrastructure development continues to astonish and the extraordinary pace of underground infrastructure development was high on the agenda when delegates gathered in Shanghai for the 5th International Symposium on Tunnelling. Organised by a team of high-ranking industry, academic and government-authority engineers, the two day event, held every second year, attracted more than 500 delegates from throughout China and included about 75 delegates from overseas.

Factory tour of the 14.9m machine for another Huangpu River highway crossing with tour hosts (from right) YANG Fang Qing of Shanghai Bridge and Tunnel Co and DU Xiao Mei of STECMC and visitors (from left) Søren Degn Eskesen, Casper Paludan-Müller, Martin Knights, and TunnelTalk Editor Shani Wallis

As a co-sponsored event, the ITA had high profile presence with the delegation led by President In-Mo Lee from Korea, Immediate Past President Martin Knights from the UK and former Secretary-General Claude Berenguier of France who is now Executive Director of the Association's Committee on Education and Training (ITACET). Other notable ITA members and internationals who also presented papers included Søren Degn Eskesen, Ow Chun Nam, Nick Barton, Remo Grandori, Pietro Lunardi, Johannes de Wit, Tadashi Hashimoto, and Casper Paludan-Müller.
Supported by the Shanghai Municipal Government and organised by the information division of the Shanghai Tunnel Engineering Company (STEC), the event reaches back to a time a few short decades ago when China was thirsty for information and technology from foreign companies and organisations. Now there is much to know from the Chinese counterparts, particularly in their approach to city planning, their triumphs of underground infrastructure construction, their ambitions for new major projects, as well as the problems and failures that their rapid expansion and construction has exacted. These were shared in several papers that focused on risk, risk management and tunnel failure and recovery. Leading individuals of China's underground civil engineering fraternity, including WANG Zhenxin, retired Chief Engineer with Shanghai's Metro Construction Corporation; Professor SHI Peidong, Professor of Geo-Engineering at the Zhejiang Institute of Building Research & Design; and GUO Shanyun of the Tunnel & Underground Works Branch of China's Civil Engineering Society, departed from set paper texts to warn of the hazards of rapid development, without thorough consideration of planning concerns and design limitations, illustrating their points with examples of major failures in China over the past years.
  • Earlier ground engineering and pile foundation disasters in China

QIAN Qihu of the Chinese Academy of Engineering presented studies on China's development of maglev high-speed rail transportation through tunnels with partial vacuum environments, while MEI Zhirong, President BOD of the China Railway SW Research Institute explored long distance TBM rail tunnelling through adverse mountainous geology, and SHU Yu presented a study on risk and safety assessment for urban metro operating systems in China.
The weekend was also a busy time for delegates and international visitors.
ITACET training course
The ITA continued its November engagement in China with a two-day training course on the safe operation of metro and road tunnel infrastructure.
Organized by the Tongji University and the Shanghai Society for Civil Engineering (SSCE), and managed by the ITACET Foundation, this provided general as well as in-depth sessions on management of emergency situations, monitoring technology, fire control (detection and passive and active fire fighting systems) as well as a study of international regulations and research into safe operation of underground structures.
Led by Claude Berenguier, as Executive Director of the ITACET Foundation, a team of international tutors that included Felix Amberg from Switzerland; Henry Russell of the USA; Niels Peter HØj of Switzerland; and Peter Reink of Switzerland, conducted two full days of presentations to an audience of about 100 participants from Chinese client organizations, universities, consulting firms and tunnel operators. ITACET plans to repeat the training course on a five-day format, and other two-day professional refresher and further education training courses are planned during 2012 on various topics in Nepal, Cambodia, Bangkok, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Singapore and elsewhere. Information can be gathered from the ITACET website.

ITACET metro and road operations training course

Post conference tours
For conference delegates, there was a choice of technical tours to SETC's manufacturing plant in Pudong; the Shanghai Museum of Urban Planning and Development; and to the 2010 Expo area.
The STEC manufacturing plant was a hive of activity. As well as many smaller diameter TBMs of their own design and "intellectual property" as they assured the visitors (TBMs of less than 11m diameter), the factory was nearing final fabrication of a 14.9m diameter slurry machine, in collaboration with Herrenknecht.
This is for a new twin tube highway tunnel under the Huangpu River, its 22nd tunnel crossing at last count, the first having been built in the 1960s by a Chinese-designed STEC-built 'blind' tunnelling shield.
The tour, managed by Mr YANG from the highway Tunnel & Bridge company, and by Ms DU Xiao Mei, a senior commercial manager with STECMC, also took in a tour of the bay where an EPBM of Chinese design and manufacture was nearing completion for dispatch to India where the Underground Construction division of STEC has a contract on the new metro Line 1 project in Chennai. The tour also passed by the precision segment mould fabrication hall where moulds for the big 14.9m machine and the Chennai Metro machine were in phases of fabrication.
On Sunday, those of us who signed up were in for a fascinating insight into the unbelievable development (and financial investment) of the Shanghai urban area over the past 20-25 years with a worthwhile trip to the Museum of Urban Development near People's Park. The scale model of the inner city skyline (to the outer ring road and including all buildings of more than 10 stories high) took up the entire third floor of the building and was a wonder to see.

Urban Museum model of Shanghai inner city

Other outstanding exhibits included a chronological display of Shanghai's famous Bund area, from its days as a barren river shoreline, through development of the famous early 20th Century buildings (including the landmark Peace Hotel); and on through its recent renaissance that raised the Huangpu River flood defences; beautified the river front and diverted most of the heavy through traffic into a double deck 4-lane highway TBM tunnel, excavated directly parallel with the famous historic buildings in 2007-09 and opened ahead of the 2010 Expo.
Another was an exhibit of before-and-after photos that showed how just a few years ago, Pudong was a wasteland prior to its transformation with the building initially of the iconic Pearl telecom tower.
Where it was once the only modern structure on the south side of the River from the Bund, it is today dwarfed by the fabulous skyline of skyscrapers that have erupted around it, including current construction of what will be the world's tallest building (though no one yet will say how tall it will be) – the intention being (it was said by the guide) to keep growing and outstrip any other contenders in the planning.
There was only one thing missing in the museum that would have topped it off for a tunneller. There was a small corner of the building devoted to the water, sewers, utility tunnels, metro, road and rail tunnels in the museum. What was missing was a 3D model of the underground infrastructure beneath the 3D model of the city's surface infrastructure. Difficult to achieve perhaps, but there is room (the surface model can be viewed from the balcony situated three floors higher) and it would certainly bring into proper perspective just how much the surface magnificence relies on the unseen underground monuments for its sustainable existence.
China's leading mega-project status - TunnelTalk, July 2011
High-speed railway development in China - TunnelTalk, July 2011
Record-setting sea links open in China - TunnelTalk, June 2011
China's mega Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao link moves forward - TunnelTalk, June 2011

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