As President of The Italian Tunnelling Society (SIG), I am pleased to welcome you to Naples for the 45th ITA-AITES General Assembly and World Tunnel Congress, which is hosted by SIG together with the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association.

After WTC 1996 in Florence and WTC 2001 in Milan, SIG is honoured and proud to host this outstanding event for the international tunnelling community once more.

I am very pleased to inform you that for this WTC we received 730 papers from more than 50 nations all over the world, an amazing number.

This shows, on one hand, how underground works and tunnelling are themes with considerable appeal and, on the other, how the WTC at Naples managed to capitalise on this interest: more than 2,000 guests are expected to participate at WTC 2019.

“Tunnels and Underground Cities: Engineering and Innovation meet Archaeology, Architecture and Art” is the title of the congress, and it intends to merge topics on engineering and geotechnics with some of the themes dear to Italian culture.

More specifically, WTC 2019 not only showcases the traditional topics about design and construction of underground works, focusing on tunnelling, engineering and innovation, but also introduces unusual and peculiar subjects suggested by recent Italian underground projects.

In fact, Italian experience with archeological findings, design and creativity are represented at the “Triple A” Sessions – dedicated to Archaeology, Architecture and Art in underground constructions.

The goal of this year’s event is to offer an original interpretation of some emerging issues brought up by the national and international communities regarding societal life needs and the role of underground works in satisfying those needs.

Nowadays, underground works can offer quality answers regarding transportation systems, social services and energy infrastructures. Moreover, projects can now integrate disciplines that were once dissociated or divergent – such as dynamic planning, design of underground spaces and structures, safety and automation technologies, enhancement of archaeological elements found in the excavations, presentation of beauty and art in underground mobility paths. Therefore today, I might say, the technical skills and the interdisciplinary approach can really make the difference, opening new frontiers in the underground works.

Coming back to the “Triple A” – Archaeology, Architecture and Art – I am pleased to remind our guests that every day during the congress, special off-site sessions, co-organised with ITACUS, will be offered, at Palazzo Serra Cassano – an historical building in the city center of Naples – with keynote speaker lectures and oral presentations from congress’ papers. After the sessions, attendees will have the possibility to visit the Bourbon Tunnel, an ancient underground path recently refurbished and taken to a new life. The tunnel is directly accessible from the foundations of Palazzo Serra Cassano through a long staircase carved in the Neapolitan yellow tuff, an exceptional opportunity to time travel into the past!

Furthermore, on Wednesday 8 May, speakers will address the “Triple A” topic with dedicated sessions, both at the Congress Venue Mostra D’Oltremare and at the abovementioned Palazzo Serra Cassano.

I believe it is also worth mentioning the training courses that will be held on the first days at the Congress venue. These courses are promoted by SIG together with ITACET, and will cover crucial themes such as:

• Tunnelling 4.0 – “Tunnelling 4.0. Information technology for the design, construction and maintenance of underground works” (on 3 May and 4 May.). • Communication of underground works – “Tunnels design construction and operation: communication and stakeholders’ engagement” (on 4 May).

The technical visits (scheduled on 9 May) will also be very interesting events and, among these, I believe it is important to highlight the one dedicated to the Brenner Base Tunnel. It is the longest railway tunnel under construction in the world today (64km long) and it will connect Austria to Italy passing through regional Alps’ tectonic alignments, such as the Periadriatic fault that separates the African tectonic plate from the European, and features a high overburden (maximum overburden 1,800m).

A special session of the congress is dedicated to this type of works that concerns the Alpine arch, named “Long and deep Tunnel – Transalpine tunnel”, in which many and different challenges will be represented in the podium presentations: logistics, management and transport of excavation materials finding suitable reuse and storage for the millions of cubic meters excavated, best choices (for various sections) of the excavation methodologies to overcome geotechnical difficulties, foreseen time and cost respect issues, just to mention some. Also, for this reason, I believe that the visit to the Brenner Base Tunnel construction sites (Italian side) – now fully operational – represents a unique opportunity for attenders.

WTC 2019 is also the setting of an important international exhibition, where companies have the opportunity to show their products, technologies, equipment and know-how.

More than 200 exhibitors will be set in the dedicated pavilion and in the gardens of Mostra d’Oltremare that will also host an outdoor exhibition for equipment and machinery.

Finally, the WTC Organising Committee has prepared an extraordinary social program that will represent a great opportunity for all participants to experience the beauties of Naples and of its surroundings.

I am sure that the Opera Musical event at the San Carlo Theatre and the historical train journey to reach Pietrarsa – the charming Italian Railway National museum set in front of the Naples gulf – for the Gala Dinner, will leave our guests astonished.

My dear guests, once again you are very welcome to take part to the WTC 2019 which, I am sure, will prove to be profitable for your mind and joyful for your spirit.