The TBM has a 9.36m diameter and weighs nearly 900 tonnes. It is due to arrive on site in January.

Webuild has already set up a fully-automated factory at Belpasso near Catania for the production of the pre-cast concrete segments. It will produce the segments for the tunnels for the two lots awarded to Webuild between Catania and Messina. The fully-automated factory will speed up production, manufacturing a segment every seven minutes compared with the usual 10 for a factory using labour.

Webuild is working on seven lots along the Palermo-Catania-Messina railway, commissioned by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), the infrastructure arm of state rail operator Gruppo FS Italiane.

In May, a Webuild and Ghella consortium was awarded Lot4A for the design and build of the line between Caltanissetta Xirbi and Nuova Enna, including 20km of tunnels – 90% to be constructed by TBMs – and 3km of viaducts.

In June, the consortium won Lot 1+2 comprising construction of 30km of new railway to double the Fiumetorto-Lercara Junction. The works include 20km of parallel tunnels, more than 2km of road and rail viaducts, over 7km of roads, and three stations. Four TBMs will be used on the contract.

Webuild is also responsible for Lot 1 Fiumefreddo-Taormina/Letojanni (15.4km) and Lot 2 Taormina-Giampilieri (28.4km) between Catania and Messina; and Lot 3 Lercara-Caltanissetta Xirbi (47km); Lot 4B Nuova Enna-Dittaino (15km) and Bicocca-Catenanuova (38km) between Palermo and Catania.

The new Palermo-Catania-Messina axis is a strategic project for Sicily and Italy, and part of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). It will reduce travel times between Palermo and Catania by 60 minutes to two hours.