Europe’s Biggest TBM Breaks Through in Italy

On June 8, 2020, the Herrenknecht EPB Shield for the Santa Lucia Tunnel successfully completed its tunneling mission.

On June 8, 2020, the largest tunnel boring machine (TBM) built and used in Europe completed its mission with a breakthrough. With this project milestone, the machine from the Herrenknecht with a diameter of 15.87 m completed 7.5 km of complex tunneling through the Italian Apennines.

Following the specifications of customer Pavimental S.p.A., Herrenknecht designed and manufactured an EPB machine (earth pressure balance shield). Working closely with the contractor, the Herrenknecht engineers tailored the tunnel boring machine to the specific requirements of the project. Among other things, they implemented a comprehensive warning and protection system to reliably protect the site crew against potential dangers from the methane gas deposits predicted underground during the advance. This foresight paid off.

The large three-lane “Santa Lucia” tunnel newly excavated by the Herrenknecht EPB Shield is a key project in the expansion of the A1 highway between Bologna and Florence. Thanks to optimized routing on the previously winding highway, the efficient tunnel will reduce the likelihood of accidents as well as travel times and thus the gasoline and diesel consumption of tens of thousands of cars and trucks a day.

At the acceptance in 2016, Dr.-Ing. E.h. Martin Herrenknecht presented the XL borer to the contractor and representatives of the client.

Following just 12 months of design and assembly, in August 2016 the EPB Shield was ready at Herrenknecht in Schwanau for formal acceptance by the contractor and representatives of the client, Autostrade per l’Italia S.p.A. After the start of tunneling in July 2017, the Pavimental miners drove up to 122 m of tunnel per week through the Apennine mountain range with the 4,800 tonne colossus.

During the long drive over 7.5 km , the EPB machine with its large diameter of 15.87 m excavated a total of around 1.5 million cubic meters of soil and rock. This corresponds to almost two thirds of the volume of the Cheops pyramid.

Italian contractors and infrastructure projects are known and respected worldwide for very large tunnel boring profiles and complex tunnel geologies. Herrenknecht is a reliable pioneer partner to them with matching expertise and innovative ability. With the production of the Santa Lucia machine, Herrenknecht beat the existing European record for TBM diameters of 15.55 meters. It had been held since 2010 by the Herrenknecht EPB Shield for the Sparvo tunnel, also for the expansion of the A1 motorway in Italy.

Machine type: EPB Shield
› Shield diameter: 15,870mm
› Drive power: 8,750kW
› Drive length: 7,551m
› Geology: limestone, marl, siltstone, shale, sandstone
› Client: Autostrade per l’Italia S.p.A.
› Contractor: Pavimental S.p.A.

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