TBM Virginia excavated 14 km of tunnel on the Mules 2-3 section (on Italian side) of the Brenner Base Tunnel after 4 years of activity. The TBM which has completed its excavation of the tunnel for the eastern line, arriving at the border with Austria, and installed 56.800 prefab tubbing rings in the eastern main tunnel.
The milestone has been celebrated on March 28, 2023, by the Italian Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Matteo Salvini, members of the BBT Management Council Gilberto Cardola and Martin Gradnitzer, Rete Ferroviaria Italiana Chief Executive Vera Fiorani, and Webuild Chief Executive Pietro Salini.
Webuild has now achieved a 91% completion rate for the excavations on the Mules 2-3 section, which was the most challenging part of the entire project.
The TBM, which is approximately 200 metres long, started from the assembly chamber and headed towards the Brenner Pass. Achieving this goal means that a significant part of the first main tunnel, where trains will run in the future, has been completed.
“With the completion of the first excavation of the eastern main tunnel in Italy, the Brenner Base Tunnel achieves a fundamental goal. Special recognition goes, above all, to the TBM operators. The mechanised excavation within this section was carried out safely and the team did their utmost every day to ensure that the TBM would be able to reach the state border today [March 28, 2023],” BBT SE says.
The construction Mules 2-3 section is the largest lot of the entire Brenner Base Tunnel project comprising a tunnel system of approximately 65 km. The works have been launched on May 22, 2019 and the Virginia TBM excavated a daily average of 10.2 metres, with a maximum of 40.5 metres in one day (February, 16th 2020).
TBM Virginia has a total weight of 2750 tonnes – equivalent to about eight fully-loaded Boeing 747 aircraft – and an engine power of 4200 kW – comparable to 17 Formula 1 cars.
The real record, for which Virginia set itself apart from all other existing machines of comparable boring head diameter (10.71 metres), was set in March 2021. In one month, Virginia excavated an impressive 859.50 metres.
“I am proud to be able to say that many great works are under construction in Italy, and certainly the Brenner Base Tunnel is one of the most important. This tunnel, designed to unite two countries, represents Italy and Austria, which say yes to large infrastructures and which look to the future with enthusiasm,” the Italian Minister of Infrastructure said.
The Brenner Base Tunnel will connect Italia and Austria under the Alps, from Fortezza to Innsbruck, reducing travel times by 70%, from 80 minutes to 25 minutes. It will be part of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor and an essential section of the 425 km Munich – Verona railway line, along which Webuild is working on five projects after having completed a sixth one.
Mules 2-3 section in Italy comprises the construction of 65 km of tunnels including an explanatory tunnel, two main line tunnels, cross tunnels and emergency stop with the related access tunnel.
In addition to Mules 2-3 section on the Italian side where Ghella is also taking part, Webuild is completing the Isarco River Underpass. On the Austrian side, it has completed the Tulfes – Pfons section and begun work on Gola del Sill – Pfons under a EUR 651 million contract awarded to a consortium of Implenia, Webuild and CSC Costruzioni. In July 2022, a ceremony was held to start construction of H41 Sill Gorge – Pfons section expected to be completed in mid-2028.
In Italy, Webuild is also working on the 22.5 km Fortezza – Ponte Gardena rail line on the Italian side of the Alps, which will quadruple, mostly underground, the Verona – Fortezza line at the southern end of the Brenner along the Munich-Verona railway axis. Under Lot 3A as one of the accesses to the Brenner Base Tunnel, a 13-km rail bypass in Trento will be also built to ensure connection between Fortezza and Trento. In 2023, Rete Ferroviaria Italiana awarded a Webuild-led consortium including Ghella and Collini a EUR 934 million contract to build the Trento bypass.
The BBT tunnel system includes about 230 km of tunnels, 157 km of which being already excavated.