Prospects for use of construction rail in up-coming Australian tunnelling - an overview

Philip G Graham

After several disappointing possibilities, there may be 'light at the end of the tunnel'.

Summing up the recent projects:

The large diameter TBM-bored road traffic tunnels in Brisbane all used the Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPV)* - bi-directional pneumatic-tyred articulated carriers - for the first time in Australia. Plenty of clearance to manoeuvre these lumbering vehicles in this diameter of tunnel where Herrenknecht TBMs were used. In addition the suppliers of the TBMs now have their own subsidiary suppliers of MPVs.
The tunnelling of the drift at Anglo American's Gosvenor mine also used MPV support with the Robbins TBM.
    * also M.. Service V.. (MSV), or M.. Function V.. (MFV)

In the case of the various Metro TBM-bored tunnel projects these are in the range of TBM diameters where either MPV or construction rail support was an option. Depending on the main tunnelling partner of the contractors's recent experience and preferences, the new market in Australia, the supply of branded TBMs from China and numerous other factors it seems that MPVs have prevailed:
1) For the north west section of the Sydney Metro contractors Thiess/John Holland/Dragados JV used MPVs with the NFM TBMs.
2) For the Forrestfield-Airport Link contractors Salini Impregilo/NRW jv used MPVs with the Herrenknecht TBMs.
3) For the city section of the Sydney Metro contractors John Holland/CPB Contractors/Ghella jv are using MPVs with the Herrenknecht TBMs.
4) For the city section of the Melbourne Metro contractors Lendlease Engineering/John Holland/Buoygues Construction/Capella Capital jv are using MPVs with their Herrenknecht TBMs.

The large diameter road traffic TBM-bored tunnel for the West Gate access project in Melbourne will also inevitably use the MPVs.

Who has done what - the global partners in the joint ventures:

 - Dragados, up to the event of the Australian projects, almost exclusively used construction rail for metro and heavy rail projects particularly in their base Spain and Hong Kong
- Salini/Impreglio the same, with large water tunnel projects in many parts of the world, metro and heavy rail projects particularly in their base Italy.
- Ghella the same, also with large water tunnel projects in many parts of the world, metro and heavy rail projects particularly in their base Italy.
- And as previously mentioned in the earlier post, Buoygues metro and heavy rail projects particularly in their base France and Hong Kong.

What of the future?

The letting of firm contracts for Snowy 2.0 is perhaps the first glimmer of a possible return to use of construction rail in medium size tunnels in Australia. The construction firm Salini/Impreglio is highly experienced in water tunnel projects and has overcome difficult tunnelling in various parts of the world and more recently in North America. Its Lake Mead Intake Tunnel No 3 for South Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), involved tunnelling under and out near the centre of the Lake under a shrinking water level to assist with a lower intake tunnel. For that project the contractor used a fleet of venerable Schöma tunnel locomotives with muck disposal by rail.

For the Snowy 2.0 Pumped Storage Scheme, the Headrace and Tailrace tunnels will likely use improved design conveyor belt transport for muck disposal (the current trend), construction rail confined to TBM and road header supply duties, manrider and other supplies depending on the tunnel lining requirements. Salini/Impreglio have at its disposal a number of tunnel construction locomotives from various sites around the world, but the opportunity may be taken to update its fleet with the latest emissions compliant tunnel locomotives. Schöma is a significant presence both in Salini/Impreglio's current fleet and as a potential supplier of new units.

Snowy Hydro, Snowy 2.0 Pumped Storage Scheme - Future Generation jv= Salini-Impreglio/Lane Construction/Clough - Headrace Tunnel, Tantangara Reservoir~HEPS pressure Shaft x X XXX m; Tailrace Tunnel, HEPS~Talbingo Reservoir x X XXX m {27 000 m total}

Finally, there are undoubtedly some more new waste water CSO, potable water and HV cable tunnels projects in the planning stage in the various rapidly expanding Australian capital cities which still lend themselves ideally to construction rail assist.

See Also: "Metro Tunnels might utilise tunnel locos? " LRRSA Groups Message 18/09/2017 #9491