A telehandler for the Brennero tunnel
Since 2007, work has been continuing on the Brenner Base Tunnel (BBT), an underground rail route that provides an alternative to the old route, which imposed various speed and safety restrictions on the trains passing through it.
The project involves the construction of 230 kilometres of tunnels and infrastructure. Four construction sites are currently in operation, two in Austria and two in Italy. The sheer length of the tunnel suggests that this is a colossal undertaking in unfavourable environmental conditions, which requires highly specialised expertise and advanced technology.
So it comes as no surprise to find the project teams using a Pegasus telehandler, the Dieci vehicle designed for working in excavation environments such as mines and tunnels.
WHY USE A TELEHANDLER FOR A TUNNEL?
The Pegasus telehandler is preferred by experts in the mining and tunnelling industry because it has all the features a telehandler needs to work in excavation environments.
With the telescopic boom it can easily reach the tunnel roof, lift heavy loads and, thanks to the rotation system, work on multiple points without having to reposition itself.
The four independent outriggers also enable the vehicle to adapt to different types of terrain, including slopes, resulting in a safe and comfortable experience for the operator.
Pegasus vehicles are therefore the most comprehensive solution for tunnel outfitting, essential for installing electrical, lighting and communications conduits and above all for positioning forced ventilation ducts.
THE VERSATILITY OF A TELEHANDLER
In the depths of the Brenner tunnel, our multi-talented telehandler has proved its worth in yet another task: shotfiring. Around 70% of the tunnel shafts are excavated with a state-of-the-art tunnel boring machine (TBM), but the remaining 30% need to be opened up by controlled explosions.
The rock face is drilled according to a preset plan to create blast holes into which explosives are placed.
Pegasus is used for the delicate task of loading the blast holes that cover the 8-metre diameter of the rock face. The telehandler’s
man basket enables operators to connect each blast hole to hundreds of metres of electrical cable that will send the ignition signal to each stick of dynamite.
This application not only underlines the great versatility of our telehandlers, but also the great stability of the Pegasus, which enables it to be used for delicate precision tasks.
THE HISTORY OF THE TUNNEL
On 23 March 1859, Porta Vescovo station in Verona attracted a throng of excited onlookers. There were elegant women with veils and parasols, upstanding gentlemen with moustaches and top hats, and proud gendarmes, all of whom were present to witness the departure of a train bound for Trento.
That was the day on which the first section of the Brenner Railway entered operation. The railway was built by Austrian government with the specific purpose of controlling the territories south of the Alps. Over time, geopolitical changes have turned it into a major transport link between the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
So, having been created to connect Verona to Innsbruck for military purposes, today it is a symbol of the European Union, which has among its founding principles the free movement of people and goods.
European development depends on infrastructure upgrading, because better connections between member states mean better trade opportunities and better mobility for their citizens.
That is why the Brenner Railway has become part of a larger project, the TEN1: Trans-European Railway Axis, which is intended to connect Berlin to Palermo.
THE BASE TUNNEL: THE BBT
TEN1 is an ambitious project that encountered an obstacle right from the outset: the Brenner Railroad is underutilised due to topographical limitations.
In some places the track traverses gradients of up to 26%, which restricts goods trains to a speed of 50 km/h and a payload of 450 tonnes, and necessitates the use of a second locomotive, not only for towing but also for braking on downhill sections. These limitations impact on the speed and safety of transport.
To remedy these constraints, the Brenner Base Tunnel (BBT) was designed as an alternative underground route to the Brenner Railway.
The BBT will be the world’s longest rail tunnel: it is 63.5 km long and divided into two one-way train tunnels and a full-length safety tube, with emergency exits at three intermediate points.
The tunnel will reduce the route distance by 20 km and gradients by up to 4%.
This will allow trains to reach 200 km/h in some sections, reducing journey times by up to 25 minutes (from 80 minutes currently) and thereby increasing freight and passenger traffic.
The tunnel is scheduled to be completed in 2025 and will enter operation in 2026, so no doubt we will have further opportunities to talk about how the next generation of Dieci telehandlers will be used on the BBT project.