Now that the official stamp of approval has been granted by Austria and Italy, the work can begin on the world’s longest tunnel: the 55 km Brenner Base Tunnel. The two countries have now agreed costing and finance and a budget has been set for US$11.4 billion. The EU has already committed US$1.4 billion to the project, which includes subsidies to the European Rail Traffic Management System.
Work on the main section of the 55 km tunnel between Innsbruck in Austria and Fortezza in Italy will begin shortly and construction work on the central section of the tunnel between Trens and Ahrental is set for 2016. If everything goes smoothly, the tunnel should finally be completed by 2025. Early preparatory excavation works on the first access tunnels began in 2008 and engineers are already making excellent progress.
Construction work on the incredibly long tunnel should help to ease major congestion problems for freight and passenger transport between Italy and Austria. Officials from both countries have welcomed the recent decision as a major step forward towards developing sustainable transport in the highly sensitive Alpine region.
EU Vice-President Kallas said: “In line with the objectives of the White Paper on the Future of Transport the Brenner Base Tunnel will deliver a crucial contribution for rail transport to play its part in more resource efficient and sustainable alpine transport.”
The Brenner Base Tunnel is the centrepiece of the larger Priority Project 1 and once the Brenner Base Tunnel has been completed, it will connect just south of Innsbruck to the high capacity rail network between Berlin and Palermo, thus creating the world’s longest underground railway, at a total length of 64 kilometres.
Construction contracts for the early works on the Brenner Base Tunnel project will be put out for tender over the course of 2011 and the main tunnelling contracts will be awarded by 2015.
The debate over the Hudson River Tunnel continues to rumble on in Washington State after Amtrak applied for $1.3 billion in funding to enable the company to begin planning two new tunnels beneath the Hudson River, plus an expansion of the New York City station.
Amtrak’s proposal means that the company would contribute $570 million and New Jersey $150 million towards the replacement of the Portal Bridge. The bridge has been in use since 1910 and currently has to open to allow shipping traffic to pass up and down the river. The age of the bridge and its frequent mechanical failures and breakdowns is often blamed for frequent delays on the Amtrak and NJ Transit lines.
Amtrak are also seeking funding of $188 million for preliminary environmental and engineering studies for two high speed tunnels, plus an extra $50 million for work on a new Penn Station South to ease the transport problems in the local area.
Governor Christie has approved the state’s commitment to the Amtrak project despite calling for a halt on the $8.7 billion New Jersey Transit tunnelling project (known as Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC) last year because of spiralling costs. He voiced concerns at the time that the state of New Jersey would end up taking responsibility for any budget overruns on the project, which the state could not afford. New Jersey has since been ordered to repay federal funds already spent on the preliminary work on the project.
The combined tunnelling, bridge and stations project are known as the Gateway Project and are crucial to Amtrak’s long term plans to build a new network for high speed trains able to travel at 220 mph. The tunnels and station component of the project are expected to cost in the region of $13.5 billion.
Experts in Florence are concerned that the iconic statue of David sculpted by Michelangelo in the 1500s is in serious danger of sustaining damage as a result of tunnelling construction planned for this summer.
Work will be starting soon on the new 6.4 km tunnel and underground station at Firenze Santa Maria Novella in Florence. With the addition of a new station, passengers will be able to enjoy a new high speed link to stations in Rome and Milan. The new tunnel and station will be built under the existing station and, at present, the tunnelling work will take place 600 metres from where the statue of David currently resides.
Michelangelo’s statue of David is arguably one of the most famous works of sculpture in the world. This masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture was created between 1501 and 1504 from marble and depicts David from the Bible. The statue was originally sited in a prominent location in the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence, but was moved to the Accademia Gallery in the city in 1873, where it still remains.
Unfortunately for David, there is now concern that tunnelling work beneath Florence could jeopardise the integrity of the statue in light of existing weaknesses already present in the marble, in particular the tree trunk that supports David’s right leg. Scans of the statue taken in 2008 highlighted a large number of tiny cracks in the marble, some of which are the result of Michelangelo using poor quality marble. But although the statue is already showing signs of weakness, experts are worried that the tunnelling work close by could make things much worse.
As a result of concern for the safety of Michelangelo’s David, many art historians and art critics have expressed a belief that the planned tunnel construction should be halted in order to protect Florentine heritage.