• Adding to the projects in progress and the wish list

    Avid readers of TunnelTalk add to the wish list of projects for the new decade and suggest two additional major projects in Europe as mega-works in progress for 2020.

    See what they are on the Feedback page and at the bottom of the article.


Smooth sailing into the 2020s 02 Jan 2020

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk

The forecast at the end of 2018 was for a bumpy ride during 2019 and it proved to be so in many respects. There was political upheaval; the impacts of trade wars and sanctions; delays and long extensions to project starts and finishes; executive changes for major projects together with buyouts, merges and changes within company teams at the local level. What is hoped for in 2020 and at the start of the new decade, is for things to settle down and a for a sense of getting back to business to take hold, with a longer-term view to become a focus and for a global perspective to prevail. There is much to do and no time to waste getting started.

In the United States there are several projects on the verge of going into construction and promised as long-range investment.

The WaterFix in California with its twin 40ft diameter x 35 miles long tunnels and other major elements, will be one of the largest tunnelling projects underway in North America when it gets started. The last report by TunnelTalk was that a funding shortfall had been met by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to ensure construction of the full twin tunnel scope, rather than a single tunnel in a first phase and the second as part of a subsequent program of works. The next report will be at the start of the construction procurement phase for the US$16-17 billion project. Tunnel excavation is programmed over a 13 year period within the overall 17 year project schedule from start of construction to inauguration of the mega potable water delivery system.

WaterFix procurement programme
WaterFix procurement programme
Plan for second crossing of San Francisco Bay for BART
Plan for second crossing of San Francisco Bay for BART

Also in California is progress on subsequent phases of the State’s high speed rail project. Few in the USA realise that construction of the first dedicated high speed rail in North America is actually progressing with the mostly at grade sections through the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Merced. The main tunnelling work and most challenging sections of the projected $77 billion service between Los Angeles and San Diego in the south to San Francisco and Sacramento in the north, will be the routes through the California Coast Range in northern California and the Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains in the south. Few in the industry in the USA believe the project has a future beyond the initial segment in the Central Valley.

A project in California that does have momentum, after a hiatus of many years, is the BART extension to San Jose and into Santa Clara County. Funding has been secured and it is decided that it will be a single-bored twin-track tunnel for the 5 mile (8km) underground extension and with platforms for three of the four new stations being accommodated also in the large TBM bored tunnel in a stacked configuration. The construction procurement phase is set to start early in this new year (2020).

Along with the extension to San Jose is the proposed second San Francisco Bay crossing for the BART transit system. Early design work is progressing and towards a start of construction of either a second immersed tube crossing or a bored tunnel operation within 10 years.

TunnelTalk enters its second decade

<em>TunnelTalk</em> readership and Alert recipients by profession
TunnelTalk readership and Alert recipients by profession

On entering a new decade, TunnelTalk also celebrates an anniversary. The web magazine has been published now more than 10 years and begins a new decade in 2020. Over the years it has grown exponentially from the early days of 2008 and 2009. From its launch at the World Tunnel Congress 2008 in Agra, India, the magazine now has an online Archive of more than 3,500 articles, videos and reports and enjoys more than 80,000 reader sessions/month, with the weekly Alert of new editorial content going out to more than 7,500 signed-up readers across the globe every Thursday. The value of our readership base and of our editorial coverage has attracted a following of dedicated new and long-term media partners and advertisers.

We thank all our readers and media partners for their support during the past 10 years and will continue to grow our editorial coverage and business base in the years to come. The TunnelTalk team wishes everyone in the industry a prosperous New Year and we look forward to meeting colleagues at the WTC2020 in Kuala Lumpur in May, the NAT conference in Nashville in June, and many other events through the year.

On the east coast of the USA, the project with most urgency is the new rail undercrossing of the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York and into the Pennsylvania Station terminus in Manhattan. The need for the project, to support the operation and urgent upgrade of the existing rail river crossing, is clear and accepted by the local authorities and the delivery partners undertook a wide ranging financial review after receiving a medium-low rating from the Federal Transportation Authority, from which a funding allocation is to be sought. The project is the same as the previous Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) which was cancelled soon into construction procurement in 2010. The 2020s could be the decade for realisation of the needed infrastructure.

In Europe rail and road projects are the focus for the coming years. There is the Brenner Base railway line under the Alps between Austria and Italy to finish, the 18km long road and rail Fehmarn immersed tube sea crossing between Denmark and Germany to advance and momentum to be maintained for the Helsinki-Tallin rail sea crossing.

In September 2019, the Joint Chief Executive Officers of the Brenner Base Tunnel, Konrad Bergmeister, on the project for Austria since 2006, and Raffaele Zurlo, in post from 2010, were both replaced by the delivery partner Board with two new CEOs. The change took place at a time when the first TBMs for main running tunnel drives were being launched and when the last of the main construction lots was in final phases of procurement. Trains are expected to begin service on the new line in 2028.

For the Fehmarn project, Germany finally gave its approval for the bi-national sea link but in doing so opened the way for a series of objections to be filed with the courts. Resolving the court cases may take several years but in the meantime the delivery partner of the Danish Government, as the owner and principal funding agency of the project, is pushing ahead with start of construction on the Danish side of the link. Construction contracts were signed back in 2016.

In other parts of the world there are several major projects to advance. These include in Australia the Snowy 2.0 hydro scheme and the Kidston hydro plant, and the proposal for a 100km long x 7m diameter water tunnel to alleviate the impacts of drought as a serious natural disaster in the State of New South Wales. In southern Africa the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II is due to award major tunnel and construction contracts soon, and in Singapore, the route of the 50km long all underground Cross Island Line of the Metro system has been confirmed as passing up to 70m directly beneath the Central Catchment Nature Reserve rather than taking a longer route around it. This is announced as work on the city’s DTSS deep tunnel sewerage strategy Phase II project begins excavation. In South America, it is links across the Andes that fuel aspirations and planning for road and rail links. These include the Agua Negra road tunnel road tunnel between Argentina and Chile and important also to Brazil, and the Bioceánico Aconcagua railway between Argentina and Chile with a 52.5km-long twin-tube base tunnel in the total track length of 205km.

Tunnel excavation wish list

As we look into the new decade, there are some additional suggestions for the wish list. The list comprises projects that could be considered if there was to be an increase in productivity, a reduction in costs, and if tunnel length was not an issue (Table 1). Let us know your suggestions for adding to the list.

Table 1. Start of an underground and tunnel excavation wish list
Country Tunnel Length Purpose
Spain to North Africa Gibralta crossing 40km Rail
Eire to UK Dublin to Anglesea 100km Road
China-India Link under the Himalayas Several of 20km and more Rail
Norway Ship tunnel 1km Canal
Norway fjord crossings Floating tunnels to cross deep fjords 5km and more Road
Canada Vancouver to Victoria Island Up to 26km long immersed tube Road
England to Northern Ireland Blackpool to Isle of Man to Belfast 100km + 60km Road/rail
USA - Russia Across the Baring Straits 90km Rail
UK Gosport to Isle of Wight 6km Road
UK M25 Jn5 to M1 motorways directly under London 60km Road
Sweden-Finland Stockholm to Turku (via Aaland) 100km Rail
Channel Islands-France Guernsey-Jersey-France 20km Road/rail
Japan-Korea Undersea link 200km Rail
Russia-Sakhalin Island possibly on to Japan Undersea link
Undersea link
India-Sri Lanka Undersea link 25km to 50km Rail
Argentina-Chile Tren a las Nubes - Train to the Clouds Several of various length Rail
Argentina-Chile Bioceánico Aconcagua 52.5km-long twin-tube base tunnel under the Andes Rail
Underground habitation of the moon Underground habitat /storage/scientific research Various tunnel and underground space excavations  
CERN Geneva Future Circular Collider FCC 100km Nuclear physics experiments
Hyperloop developments Intra-city people movers Various Ulta highspeed transportaton

We all band together to look forward to a successful New Year and a progressive 2020s decade.



Adding to the wish list and list of projects in progress for the new decade

Feedback from: Tunnel enthusiast Shashikantha in Bangalore, South India

Thank you for considering this for adding to the wish list.

Fig 1. Route of the proposed highway between Bangalore and Mangalore (inset)

Fig 1. Route of the proposed highway between Bangalore and Mangalore (inset)

If you are familiar with the geography of South India, Bangalore is on an elevated plateau of 1,000m above sea level, right in the middle of the two port cities of Chennai and Mangalore (Fig 1). There are no challenging mountain ranges between Bangalore and Chennai, but there is the formidable Western Ghats on the route west to Mangalore. To preserve the ecology of the Ghats, while not hampering the growth of Bangalore, which needs access to a sea port on the west coast, a road tunnel of 29km is being considered. It will be challenging work due to the elevation differences and the prevailing geology. It has been discussed for some time and perhaps this decade is the decade in which it will advance.


Feedback from: Michael M

Avid reader of TunnelTalk here.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece. There are however, a few projects in Europe that probably warranted a mention as they are among the largest, if not the largest, in Europe at present:

  1. The Grand Paris Express: 200km of new metro with 68 underground stations, requiring some +/-30 TBMs. Large portions already under construction with many more contracts to be awarded and started this year.
  2. The high speed rail line between Lyon, France and Turin, Italy (TELT). The four contracts for the base tunnel under the Alps are going out to RFP (requests for proposals) early this year. The twin tube base tunnel has a length of 57km.

Keep up the great work!

From the Editor: Thank you for the Feedback and for adding these important projects to our works in progress during 2020 and for your appreciation of the magazine. We have plans to add to our current Archive coverage of the two mega-projects during 2020 to bring the readers up to date.

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