Brenner Base Tunnel: The next Challenge for mechanized Tunnelling

The oft-mentioned Brenner Base Tunnel is Europe’s next mega-rail project in the making. Including the Innsbruck bypass, the 64 km long tunnel route will run from Innsbruck, Austria to Fortezza, Italy, making it arguably one of the longest – if not the longest – underground railway tunnels in the world. The tunnel route is a challenging one, traveling below the Brenner Pass in the Alps mountain range with a maximum cover of around 1600 m. When complete in 2025, twin 8.1 m i.d. tubes will run single-track trains just 70 m apart from one another, connected every 333 m by cross passages.

The authors of this article believe that the best methods for excavation of the Brenner Base Tunnel are mechanized – specifically using either open-type or shielded hard rock tunnel boring machines. These types of machines have proven themselves in deep tunnels worldwide, and are frequently faster, safer, and more cost-effective than conventional drill & blast headings. Obviously, the use of specialized ground support to adapt to the challenging rock condition will have to be integrated into the TBM design and operation as well.

Mammoth Proportions

Excavation on the massive scale required to...

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