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Tunnel boring machine completes majority of main Brenner tunnel

A significant part of the first main tunnel of the Brenner Base Pass tunnel was completed with the breakthrough of the tunnel boring machine (TBM) named Virginia.

The TBM bored 14 km (8.7 miles) in nearly four years. It travelled approximately 14,000 m (45,930 ft) while installing 56,800 prefab tubbing rings in the eastern main tunnel.

BBT reported that Virginia, which is approximately 200 m (656 ft) long, started from the assembly chamber and headed toward 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.

The breakthrough was broadcast live when TBM operators dyed the last prefab tubbing ring with the Austrian and Italian national colors.

For the members of the Board of Directors of BBT SE, Gilberto Cardola and Martin Gradnitzer, the arrival of one of the TBMs at the Brenner Pass represents a very important day for the entire project. “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 mechanized 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. Our thanks also go to the planners, engineers, geologists and all employees of BBT SE who contributed significantly to this achievement.”

Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Matteo Salvini said, “Today 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 ‘H61 Mules 2-3’ construction lot is the largest lot of the entire Brenner Base Tunnel project and comprises a tunnel system of approximately 65 km.

During its journey within this lot, which started on May 22, 2019, the Virginia TBM excavated a daily average of 10.2 m (33.5 ft), with a maximum of 40.5 m (132 ft) in one day (Feb 16, 2020).

Virginia has a total weight of 2,750 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 m or 35 ft), was set in March 2021. In one month, Virginia excavated an impressive 859.50 m (2,820 ft).

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