It’s heartening to see major work in the tunnelling industry awarded based on the best bidder, rather than the somewhat insidious lowest bidder principle. The industry can be as self-congratulatory about innovation and research as it likes, but no matter how clever the new solution, no one sets out just to build a clever tunnel. They set out to build a rail link, or a road, or a sewer. So it is not unknown for a technically superior bid to lose out to a risk-taking, inferior offer, simply based on an often-illusory cost-saving. So, I decided to highlight the contract at the front of the magazine.

Work on the approximately 18km-long running tunnels will begin in summer 2018 with completion targeted in 2024. A spokesperson for Porr said, “The construction phase for lot H51 involves building two main tunnel tubes between Pfons and Brenner, around 9km of exploratory shafts, and the emergency stop and transfer point at St. Jodok. The two main, singletrack tunnel tubes will primarily be driven by TBM with an excavation diameter of 10.37m – this means that a stretch of up to 30m can be driven per day and per tunnel boring machine. Excavation of exploratory shafts will be by the drill-and-blast method and secured with shotcrete. The entire lot will be supplied via a single access shaft.”

“In contrast to the lowest bidder principle under which the price is the only criterion for awarding the project, the best bidder principle also takes quality criteria into account. These included solutions to reduce construction time or mitigate risks, the type of shield selected, logistics, and spoil recycling. “It wasn’t only the price that played a key part, but also the technical expertise of the bidder. Our knowhow – especially in tunnelling, logistics and materials engineering – along with infrastructure projects realised at home and abroad acted in our favour in the bid process.”

Porr CEO Karl-Heinz Strauss added, “The scope of the project, the changeable geological conditions and the limited space constraints of the construction site all represent considerable challenges.”

Congratulations to the Brenner Base Tunnel company and to Porr, hopefully the next 74 months go smoothly.