Tunnelling Asia 2022, organized by TAI, which took place in Mumbai during 27th and 28th June, saw a huge gathering of delegates/engineers from all around the world. The theme of the conference: ‘Underground Space: Need of the Day’ focused on the methodologies and technologies available for enabling fast-paced tunnel construction.
Lt. Gen Suresh Sharma, Senior VP, Tunnelling Association of India (TAI), while inaugurating the conference, emphasized on the growing importance of tunnelling in urban areas. “We can see the tunneling methodology shifting from DBM to NATM, while Micro-tunnelling is picking up because of the growing need for utilities and sewage. There is a lot of investments coming in, given the growing importance in hydro power projects, irrigations, railways, water supply, roadways, and sewage. TAI has analyzed 1726 tunnels spanning over 3600 km, till date, of which, 1200 have been completed, which means 2200 km of tunnels are yet to be constructed.”
He also informed the audience about the huge tunnel - a railroad project of the Border Roads Organization - being built below the Brahmaputra River.
Prof. Mahendra Singh, President, International Society of Rock Mechanics – India (ISRM – India), and also Prof, IIT Roorkee, in his keynote address, discussed the challenges in tunnelling. “Despite 60 years of research, we still face challenges because the rock mass is unpredictable. There are problems due to inrush of water, settlement, issues of TBM applications, and so on. The experience of professionals in this area cannot be substituted,” he said.
Shri. Vikas Kumar, Managing Director, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that “tunnelling has seen phenomenal growth over the past many years. But we need to take a multi-pronged approach with proper regulation and considering the socio-economic impact of these projects. Over its 25 years of existence, the Delhi Metro during its development has encountered hidden treasures, British-era drains, and old / heritage buildings. And not a single incident of a fire breakout has happened in the Delhi Metro since its beginning,” he informed.
Throwing light on the challenges and opportunities in tunnel construction in a city like Mumbai, Ashwini Bhide, Additional Municipal Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), said, “We plan to have an underground road network to ease traffic in Mumbai. We have already begun building underground tunnels to prevent flooding during the monsoon season. However, time and cost are very important in planning such projects. We will use AI and ML to give us better insights on the strata in cases like settlements, etc.”
Emphasizing the importance of technology, Dr. Mangu Singh, President, TAI, also ex-MD of DMRC, shared his experience of building the first underground metro of India in Kolkata. “During that time, a sealed TBM was used which had compressed air in it. The laborers had to go inside this compressed air chamber and undertake manual excavation. Since they could work only for 2-3 hours, eventually, this exercise culminated in a lockdown of the project. The tunnel later collapsed and had to be redone. Given such experiences, I believe that conferences like these are very important for knowledge and technology transfer,” he said.
Prof. Jenny Yan, President, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA), gave a glimpse into the activities of ITA over the past 3 years. “In spite of the pandemic, we managed to conduct 13 seminars, workshops and programs. We also managed to have a collaboration with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). I believe that our efforts in underground tunnelling will also help us achieve some of the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) targeted for 2030.
S. V. R. Sriniwas, MD, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), shared memories of the first tunnel developed by Euphrates to connect Babylon. In his view, a TBM is no less than an aircraft in its design complexity. “We must try to develop a better assembly line and backend wiring. This should include improvements in conveyor systems, muck handling, and rim launching for improved speed.”
“India’s growing workspace acts as a driver for the development of underground railways, highways, crude oil storage facilities, etc. Tunnels also bring connectivity to crucial areas in mountainous areas and thereby ensure uniform socio-economic development by facilitating seamless migration of people. It is important that we follow a risk mitigated approach while thinking along these aspects,” said chief guest Anil Kumar Lahoti, General Manager, Central Railways.
The innaugural session ended with a vote of thanks by S. K. Gupta, Director – Projects, MMRC.
At the conference, Plenary Session saw presentations by Dr. Jinxiu Jenny CRA of China on Global Tunnelling Updates and Innovations, followed by a presentation by S.K. Gupta on creating underground space for construction of Line 3 in Mumbai; by Daljit Singh, DMRC, on Challenges and Issues in execution of Delhi Metro Phase-III and IV; and by Giuseppe Lunardi, Rocksoil on Development of Tunnel and Underground Space.
The Plenary Session was followed by 6 technical sessions on the following topics: Sub-surface Planning, Investigation and Design – understanding the geological and geotechnical conditions; Contractual, Insurance Aspects and Financing of Tunnel and Underground Projects; Tunnel & Cavern Construction, Technologies, Equipment & Safety Issues including instrumentation; Industry Special aspects; Urban Tunnelling; and Innovative Techniques.
Six papers were presented by MMRC on developing the first underground metro in a coastal city like Mumbai. The first and only smart tunnel from Malaysia presented at the conference propagated ideas on how to use underground roadways for flood water flow in regions with seasonal rainfall. Industry specialists from Bekaert, Normet, Bajaj Reinforcements, Srons, Tata Steel, Ultratech, CAC, SISO, Lombardi, Stewols, Fosroc, Dextra, Argentium International, Bajaj Reinforcements, Rohhri Enterprises, Precision Drawell, Kasturi, and others gave insights on the latest products and technologies developed by them.
The Young Members group for Tunnelling Association of India (TAIYM), organized a conference which saw young researchers presenting their experiences in various projects. Experts from Lombardi and AECOM shared their experiences while executing Mumbai’s Coastal Road project and Kolkata Metro, respectively. Experts from around the world gave lectures on the software and technologies available to make analytics and tunnel maintenance easier. The highly informative and productive conference ended with a Valedictory Session.
TAI honours Dr. E Sreedharan with Lifetime Achievement Award
TAI conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. E Sreedharan, popularly known as ‘Metro Man’, for his contribution to the development of tunnel and underground spaces in India. He is credited for changing the face of public transport in India with his leadership in building the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro. His stint in the Delhi Metro as managing director (1995 to 2012) was considered so successful and crucial to India’s infra development, that in 2005, he was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the government of France, and the Padma Vibhushan by the government of India in 2008.
He started with working on two tunnels (near Kottayam railway station) with a length of 147m that were built when he was assistant engineer for the Ernakulam-Quilon meter gauge railway construction in 1957, was responsible for the planning, design, and construction of 93 tunnels with a total length of 82.5km for the Konkan Railway and 91km of tunnelling for phase 1 and 2 for Delhi Metro - becoming the first person to have done a maximum length of tunnelling in India.
He retired from the Indian Railways as Member Engineering in 1990, and was later appointed as the CMD of Konkan Railways in 1990. He completed India’s first major project under BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) for the Konkan Railways, for which he was widely acclaimed. He was subsequently made managing director of the Delhi metro. During his tenure, he revolutionized public transportation in Delhi by completing a network of about 200 km of Delhi’s metro Phase 1 and 2. He later served as the Chief advisor for the Lucknow Metro project and Principal Advisor of the Kochi Metro Rail Project. He has always given credit to his teams for his achievements and for starting the metro revolution in the country.