AFTES holds court in Lyon Oct 2014

Shani Wallis and Binda Punj, TunnelTalk

It was a snake that attracted attention at the AFTES conference in Lyon in mid-October. Not of the reptile kind but of the robotic kind. A device designed to assist in the cutterhead inspection and maintenance of TBMs operating under high hydrostatic pressures.

Discussions at the forum in the Lyon exhibition hall
Discussions at the forum in the Lyon exhibition hall

This was among a wide range of machines, materials and supplies on display at stands in the sold-out exhibition of the conference while in the lecture rooms a programme of technical presentations kept delegates updated on major projects and developments in France and its neighbouring countries in Europe.

The AFTES congress is convened every three years for three days and is organised by AFTES, the French Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, with support by the national tunnelling associations of Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal as well as by the ITA (International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association). As in 2011, the event this year was held at the Lyon congress centre, which presents a comfortable, convenient and easy to navigate venue. Organisation was again top class with two simultaneous sessions of lectures, a programme of presentations at the Agora forum in the exhibition area, and an exhibition space of more than 160 stands, providing ample interest and activity for the registered delegates and the crowds of visitors who entered the exhibition free of charge.

NFM stand ready to greet visitors
NFM stand ready to greet visitors

At the NFM stand, Communications Manager Anne Brissard confirmed a busy year for the French TBM manufacturer with 14 TBM orders confirmed to date in 2014.

Nine machines are on order for the MRT Thomson Line in Singapore - three for John Holland for Lot 208, two for South Korean contractor Daelim for Lot 222, and four for Daewoo also of South Korea for Lot 216. An EPB machine ordered by Bouygues is in delivery for the Paris Metro Line 14 and another is in manufacture for the Dragages/Lian Tung JV for its highway contract in Hong Kong. Two machines, one an EPBM and the other a dual mode machine, are on order for Odebrecht of Brazil for the Sao Paulo Metro Line 3 project and a hard rock TBM of 11.15m has been ordered by French contractor Eiffage for an exploration tunnel contract on the Lyon-Turin high speed railway link mega-project between France and Italy.

These orders add to the busy year in 2013 for NFM that included four TBMs to Sydney for the North West Rail Link, where one is into its drive, another is ready for launch, the third is in assembly on site, and the fourth is in manufacture in the factory of NHI, NFM’s parent company in China, and nearing its commissioning and shipment.

Stand poster of the NFM TBM for Riyadh Metro
Stand poster of the NFM TBM for Riyadh Metro

The last of three EPBMs of 10.1m diameter ordered also in 2013 by the consortium led by Impreglio of Italy for the 6km underground section of its Riyadh Metro Line 3 contract in Saudi Arabia is set for delivery before the end of the this year.

The robotic snake was the live demonstration of attention on the Bouygues stand where Adam Mallion of OCRobotics of Bristol, UK, and Bruno Combe of Bouygues explained how and why the device was developed and applied as a prototype to the Herrenknecht Mixshield TBM that excavated the twin tube highway tunnel for the Port of Miami in Florida, USA.

Live demonstration of the robotic jet-snake

“The robotic device combines a light, a camera and a high-pressure water jet to clear the cutterhead and the cutterhead tools of mud and material to provide remote inspections of wear without having to undertake high-pressure compressed air man-entry interventions,” explained Mallion. On the Miami project, said Combe, the system was significant in saving significant numbers of man-hours for compressed air interventions and saved several days on the tunnelling programme. “It was developed and retro fitted, in collaboration with Herrenknecht, to the Miami TBM and will be designed into the 17.6m diameter Herrenknecht machine that the Bouygues/Dragages JV has ordered for the undersea Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Airport highway tunnel link in Hong Kong,” he said.

At its stand Spanish firm Zitron was celebrating a major order to supply all the permanent ventilation fan installations for the near £16 billion Crossrail project in London. “This is a significant order for us and we are well pleased with the confirmation,” said Luis Javier Diaz Valdes for the company’s ventilation department.

New Bekaert Macaferri logo revealed at AFTES
New Bekaert Macaferri logo revealed at AFTES

For Benoit de Rivaz and Aldo Ceresola on the Bekaert stand, the mission was also to introduce the new Bekaert Macaferri merger. Branded as Bekaert Macaferri Underground Solutions, the purpose of the merger explained de Rivaz is to present custormers with a holistic solution to their needs, be it the company’s famous Dramix steel fibres, or Macaferri’s synthetic fibres or the rockbolts, rock anchors and other ground engineering tools and concrete support materials that either or both offer in their individual, but now combined, product ranges.

Among other materials and supplies on display was a segment reinforcement cage made of fibreglass for easier breakout of tunnels for cross-passages for example, instruments of all kinds for measurements and monitoring, materials for groundwater control and displays of the most up-to-date in personal protection equipment.

CETU sponsored water-control study

On its stand, staff members of CETU, the Study Centre of Tunnels in France, were explaining the different areas of study currently under way including a live demonstration study of waterproofing systems in the Tunnel des Échelles. “Water ingress through the rock causes continuous maintenance costs and safety concerns in busy highway tunnels,” explained Catherine Larive, Head of the Materials, Structures and Tunnel Durability Deparment of CETU, “and we are a member of the study team that is monitoring the results of the experiments with different waterproofing materials and systems. Three different methods are being examined and the results of the monitoring will be published at the end of the study period.”

More details of the extensive work of CETU, its publications and centres of activity and study, can be found on the CETU website.

Among the many brochures, flyers and literature made available for free distribution was notice of the next in the series of the popular Study Day programme organized and promoted by the Belgium Association of Tunnels and Underground Space. Scheduled for 11 December 2014 at the Tractebel Forum in Brussels (ABTUS-BVOTS), the programme for this Study Day will be devoted to the presentation of a number of major transportation tunnels in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Switzerland plus three border-crossing links.

TunnelTalk had a productive three days at the AFTES congress in Lyon and thanks in particular Elisabeth Briand, the press contact for the event, who welcomed the members of the press, not only those in the technical trade media, but journalists and reporters for regional and national newspapers and television stations. We look forward to meeting friends and colleagues and our new contacts at AFTES 2017 in Paris and at other international shows and exhibitions in the meantime.


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