The Semmering Base Tunnel (SBT) is currently under construction and is one of the most important major infrastructure projects in the heart of Europe, forming part of the new Austrian Southern Railway – the central axis on the trans-European route from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. With a total length of 27.3 km, the SBT connects Lower Austria and Styria. Under the aegis of Implenia, a joint venture commissioned by ÖBB is constructing the roughly 13 km long middle section (contract section 2.1) known as the “Fröschnitzgraben” tunnel.
The majority of the SBT and all of its entrances are being constructed using the traditional drill-and-blast method. The geology dictates where tunnel boring machines (TBMs) need to be used. The first of two TBMs began work on July, 13, in the “Fröschnitzgraben” tunnel.
Further down the line, two 120 m long, 2 500-tonne machines – one for each tube in the tunnel – will drill their way through around 9 km of mountain from Fröschnitzgraben (Styria) towards Gloggnitz. The TBMs were built in France and travelled 1000 km to get to Semmering before being put to work. For space reasons, the two boring machines are being delivered to the site separately in individual parts and assembled 400 m underground.
Austria’s Transport Minister Norbert Hofer, Kurt Bodewig, EU Coordinator for the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor, Styrian Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer, Lower Austrian Transport Secretary Ludwig Schleritzko, Implenia Infrastructure Business Unit Head René Kotacka and Chairman of the ÖBB Board of Management Andreas Matthä were thoroughly impressed with the celebrations they attended to mark the “switching on” of the first machine. The VIP guests emphasised the added value which the construction project is injecting into the economy and its significance for the future of European and Austrian transport infrastructure.