The world's longest underground railway connection

From the Tulfes portal near Innsbruck to Fortezza in Italy’s South Tyrol the Brenner Base Tunnel is under construction. It will be 64 kilometers long – seven kilometers longer than the Gotthard Base Tunnel – and is the centerpiece of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Trans-European Network (TEN) from Helsinki to Valletta (Malta). Thanks to the almost horizontally running tunnel route, in future the incline and decline of the existing, over 140-year-old Brenner railway line leading across the 1,371 meter high Brenner Pass will be a thing of the past.

Hard rock specialists for tunnel superlative

A special feature of the project is the exploratory tunnel being driven through the rock before the two main tubes are built. In addition to exploring the geology, for example with regard to expected fault zones, later during ongoing operation the passage (centered 12 meters beneath the main tubes) will take on the role of a drainage and maintenance tunnel.

For the exploratory tunnel Herrenknecht is supplying an approximately 200 meter long 1,800 tonne Gripper TBM with a diameter of 7.9 meters. After assembly in a cavern 3.5 kilometers deep in the mountain, in September 2015 it began its 15 kilometer drive from Austrian Ahrental toward the Italian border.

Five of the 19-inch disc cutters in the cutterhead are fitted with the innovative DCLM or Disc Cutter Load Monitoring system. It measures the cutting load acting on the disc cutters, which allows conclusions regarding the condition of the tunnel face and thus optimization of the tunnelling parameters. Another five disc cutters are fitted with the DCRM (Disc Cutter Rotation Monitoring) system, which monitors the rotary movement and temperature of the cutter discs, enabling optimization of the tool maintenance intervals. In addition, a camera system provides photos of the tunnel face to the monitors in the control cabin. Until March 2019, the jobsite crew bored a total of 13.3 kilometers with the hard rock TBM.

Project Facts

  • 8.1 meters inside diameter of the main tunnel
  • Over 75 kilometers of tunnel built by six Herrenknecht TBMs
  • Overburdens of > 600 meters

Concentrated TBM power for over 62 kilometers of tunnelling

Herrenknecht supplies five more machines for the Brenner Base Tunnel: For the excavation of over 48 kilometers of the main tunnels, two large-diameter Double Shield TBMs (Ø 10.600 mm) and two Single Shield TBMs (Ø 10.340 mm) will be employed. One Double Shield TBM of a smaller diameter (Ø 6.820 mm) excavates an additional section of the exploratory (and later drainage and maintenance) tunnel over a length of 14 kilometers.

The smaller Double Shield "Serena" began her drive in May 2018 and has already covered almost 4 kilometers of tunnel of a total of 14 kilometers. Two of the large-diameter TBMs, "Flavia" and "Virginia", are being assembled in the launch shaft after several weeks of transporting all the individual parts by sea and land. They will begin tunnelling through the Brenner in the early summer of 2019. In the course of this year the two remaining, recently ordered sister machines will be produced by Herrenknecht in Schwanau and are expected to be deployed in 2020.

After completion of the Brenner Base Tunnel in 2026, every day 400 trains will travel through the new infrastructure at speeds of over 200 km/h. The travel time will be reduced by two thirds.

Brenner Basistunnel

Project Data
Column 0 Column 1
Tunnelling Length 77,893 m
Quartz, slate
Client Brenner Basistunnel BBT SE
Contractor Arge Tulfes Pfons
Astaldi / Ghella / Oberosler / PAC / COGEIS JV
ARGE H51 Pfons Brenner
Machine Data
1x Gripper TBM:
Diameter: 7,910 mm
Lining method: Rock support
Cutterhead power: 3,500 kW
Torque: 7,666 kNm

1x Double Shield TBM:
Diameter: 6,820 mm
Lining method: Segmental lining

2x Double Shield TBM:
Diameter: 10,600 mm
Lining method: Segmental lining
Cutterhead power: 4,200 kW

2x Single Shield TBM:
Diameter: 10,340 mm
Lining method: Segmental lining
Cutterhead power: 4,200 kW

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Steffen Dubé President and General Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA Inc.
Gerhard Goisser Commercial Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA, Inc.

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Steffen Dubé President and General Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA Inc.
Gerhard Goisser Commercial Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA, Inc.