In the world of engineering and construction, there is a tool that has revolutionized the way underground tunnels are excavated: tunnel boring machines. These impressive machines have made it possible to carry out large-scale infrastructure projects efficiently and safely.
Tunnel boring machines are huge, complex machines specifically designed to excavate tunnels efficiently. They use an excavation system that combines excavation, debris removal and tunnel support in a continuous process. As the TBM advances, it creates the tunnel by excavating soil or rock and simultaneously lining it with segments of concrete or steel.
One of the most impressive TBMs is the “Bertha”, used in the Viaduct Tunnel project in Seattle, United States. With a diameter of approximately 17 meters and a length of 100 meters, this tunnel boring machine was one of the largest ever built. During her work, Bertha excavated more than 2 kilometers of underground tunnel, traversing complex and challenging terrain. Her ability to excavate large volumes of soil and rock at a constant rate was truly impressive.
Another notable TBM is the “Gotthard Base Tunnel”, used in the tunnel project of the same name in Switzerland. This tunnel boring machine set a world record by digging a tunnel 57 kilometers long, making it the longest railway tunnel in the world. The tunnel boring machine worked tirelessly for years, traversing the Swiss Alps and overcoming significant geological challenges. Its precision and efficiency were crucial to the success of the project and the advancement of rail infrastructure in Europe.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
In recent years, TBMs have also played a key role in the construction of underground transport infrastructure in cities such as London, New York and Istanbul. These cities have faced unique challenges when tunneling under densely populated urban areas. TBMs have made it possible to minimize traffic interruptions and speed up the construction process, reducing the time and costs associated with underground infrastructure projects.
Technological innovation has been key in the development of the most impressive tunnel boring machines. Modern machines feature GPS navigation systems, real-time monitoring systems, and advanced control systems that enable efficient and safe operation. In addition, tunnel boring machines have also adopted green technologies, such as the use of electrical energy instead of fossil fuels, thus reducing the environmental impact.