Monthly Archives: December 2013

Leipzig’s Gain after the Pain

© Andreas Schmidt

© Andreas Schmidt

After more than ten years since ground breaking, the Leipzig City Tunnel officially opened to rail traffic on 15 December, providing a vital link for S-Bahn trains between the north and south of the city via the central Hauptbahnhof Station. The project was complex; two tunnel bores, each measuring 1.4 km in length had to be built in difficult subsoil conditions at a depth of up to 16m beneath the city centre. Four underground and two above ground stations were also constructed.

The location of the construction site not only made it difficult to master the site installations and material deliveries for the completion of the stations; the necessary transport and assembly technologies and procedures also had to be individually developed and selected for each station – the reason being lack of space. All lower escalator sections had to be delivered before the start of construction on the stations, as there would not have been enough space once the facades were complete. In addition to all the spatial challenges, it was also necessary to work without interruptions to rail traffic, especially in and around Hauptbahnhof Station.

Such a connection in Leipzig has been under consideration for over a century with passengers until now having to circumvent the city to travel north-south in a very time consuming process. The construction of the City Tunnel has been very time and money consuming going beyond programme and budget by a considerable margin. However, with travel time on some routes being reduced by up to 40 minutes and new stations, each designed by different architects wanting to leave a strong aesthetic and functional mark on such an important scheme, the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ is especially applicable to the immense challenges and rewards faced in this project.

Jim Davis


Written By admin 
December 23, 2013 16:47 pm
Posted In Rail, Tunnel

Airports Commission announces its shortlist for UK air expansion

On Tuesday 17 December, the UK government’s Airports Commission released details of its much-anticipated interim recommendations for increasing essential UK airport capacity and connectivity by 2030.

Its independent review, led by businessman Sir Howard Davies, has shortlisted three options: Gatwick Airport Ltd’s proposal for a second runway, Heathrow Airport Ltd’s proposal for a new 3,500m runway, and Heathrow Hub’s proposal to extend the existing northern runway enabling it to operate as two independent runways.

In its press statement, the Commission adds that it “has not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options because there are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage”.

However, it will undertake a further study of proposals for a new airport on the Isle of Grain (or ‘Boris Island’ as it is dubbed after its champion, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson) in the first half of 2014, and report back later in the year. Also missing the shortlist were Stanstead Airport and Birmingham International Airport with their respective proposals for expansion.

The Commission will make its final and ‘robust’ recommendations to the UK government in summer 2015 – around the time of the country’s next General Elections. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the reactions to the shortlist so far.

Heathrow Airport is predictably pleased. Its chief executive, Colin Matthews, comments, “The world economy is changing fast and Britain needs a world-class hub airport with the capacity to compete against Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. A third runway is the quickest, cheapest and surest way of connecting the UK to growth.”

Stuart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, was similarly upbeat, “I am very pleased that the strength of London Gatwick’s case has been recognised by the Airports Commission and that the shortlist has been narrowed down to two main locations.”

Not quite so happy was Boris Johnson, who declared that building a new runway at Heathrow would be a “catastrophe”. According to him, “A new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left.” However, the Commission’s report estimates the Isle of Grain option would cost up to five times as much as any of those short-listed.

Reaction from the airlines seems to favour Heathrow. UK trade publication, ‘Travel Weekly’ quotes Dale Cellar, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) as saying, “Despite the inevitable challenges and disagreement that will follow, the vast majority of the airlines believe that expanding Heathrow is now the only sensible way forward for the UK.”

We also spoke to architects and civil engineers, HOK, creators of Heathrow’s award-winning Terminal 5 Intermodal Station. Richard Gammon, director of aviation and transportation, concluded, “The only practical solution to the issue of UK aviation capacity is the option that Heathrow has outlined for a third runway.

“Heathrow is vital to the economic prosperity of both London and the UK, and supporting its ability to evolve to meet the needs of the global marketplace must be a core part of maintaining UK plc’s global competitiveness.”

Gail Taylor

Written By admin 
December 23, 2013 12:07 pm
Posted In Aviation

Qatar unveils 3 bridges designed by Calatrava

Qatar is a country with ambitious plans for infrastructure development. It has set out a National Vision for 2030 and within this timeframe the nation is hosting the Football World Cup in 2022.


This week, Qatar’s Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal’ has unveiled one of the country’s most important infrastructure projects that will provide, it is hoped, an iconic image for the city of Doha to the world.

Doha’s Sharq Crossing is certainly extremely ambitious; it will comprise three bridges interconnected by subsea tunnels spanning a 10 km stretch of water and linking Doha’s Hamad International Airport with the city’s cultural district of Katara in the north and the downtown central business district of West Bay. The 12 km project is designed by architect, engineer and artist Santiago Calatrava and will become a new landmark for Qatar. The inter-connected bridges will be between 600 and 1,310 m in length and connect to 8 km of subsea tunnels. Calatrava’s design is inspired by natural forms, and draws from the image of flying fish to form arcs rising from the water. The Architect stated, “Architecture for public works humanises the natural landscape and serves the community. The Sharq Crossing project for Doha is a great opportunity to develop an exceptional and grand piece of public work.”

On the practicalities, Health and safety has been carefully considered across all aspects of the crossing and specifically tunnel design, combining enhanced fire-resistant structures with ventilation, smoke exhaust and dedicated pressurised escape routes. The crossing tunnels have been designed to meet strict international traffic management and safety requirements.

The project is one of the most technologically advanced building and complex programmes being undertaken by Ashghal to enhance Qatar’s transportation network.

Ashghal has appointed Fluor Corporation as the programme management consultant for construction supervision of Sharq Crossing, which is estimated to commence by 2015.

View the Pillars of Qatar’s National Vision for 2030 here.

Jim Davis

New Images of Britannia Airport Plan


The promoters of London’s proposed Britannia Airport, TESTRAD (Thames Estuary Research and Development Company), have released fresh surface access plans and concept images highlighting the chief regenerative and economic benefits that could be realised from the £45b development value, should an Estuarine Airport be selected from an array of proposed schemes for further consideration next week by the Sir Howard Davies Aviation commission recommendations.


Bridget Rosewell, OBE, Technical Director London Britannia Airport, said: “Over the next forty to fifty years, as the world continues to develop and grow, London will continue to be attractive and could well grow by another 3 million people or even more. This would require at least another 1 million dwellings and probably more. This strain on capacity could be met by the reuse of Heathrow, while the airport could operate much more effectively where there are no residents. What’s not to like?”

Ian Mulcahey, Technical Director London Britannia Airport, said: “As significant questions emerge over the feasibility and practicality of the Isle of Grain as a possible location, the London Britannia Airport scheme in the Thames Estuary appears to be the only credible alternative to Heathrow. With zero noise disruption, zero demolition and only 30 minutes from central London the £47bn scheme.”


Japan hopes to boost economy with super-fast SCMaglev ‘levitating’ train

japan maglev train

Japan’s JR Central rail operator has recently unveiled its SCMaglev high-speed hover-train prototype, eventually destined to run from Tokyo to Osaka via Nagoya in a journey time of just 67 minutes. The company’s current high-speed Shinkansen service takes approximately 2 hours 30 minutes between the two cities.

A massive challenge for civil engineers will lie in the topography of the planned route. In order to be straight enough to allow top speeds of up to 500kph (311mph) when open to the public, the track will be required to run through approximately 250km of tunnels – many of them through the Japanese Alps – representing about 86% of the route.

In a nutshell, this is how the train uses “superconducting magnetic levitation”. According to a report in the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, it is “propelled by powerful supercooled magnets along a walled track known as a ‘guideway’. The train runs on rubber wheels until it reaches 100kph, at which point it floats to 10cm above the ground. The lack of friction allows it to reach its record-breaking speeds”. It is also said to be extremely difficult to derail.

On the subject of speed, a JR Central prototype has so far attained a blistering 580kph (360mph) in tests last September, the world record for a train. However, recognition for the world’s first fully operational Maglev train goes to China. Since 2004, the Shanghai Transrapid service has linked Shanghai Pudong International Airport and central Pudong. Its top speed is a comparatively sedate 431kph (268mph).

Although the first section of the proposed new tracks between Tokyo and Nagoya won’t be operational until 2027, not reaching Osaka until 2045, it is hoped that the Maglev will showcase Japan’s advanced engineering capabilities to the world in the nation’s run-up to the 2020 Olympics.

JR Central also hopes to interest other countries, such as the USA, in buying its Maglev train technology to help fund the project. The estimated cost currently stands at some Y9bn ($89bn), which JR Central will bear in its entirety.

Gail Taylor

Light at the end of the tunnel for station design


This spectacular new metro station in Leipzig, Germany, comprises a 141-metre long and 20-metre wide concourse walled by illuminated blocks of glass. The station was designed by Swiss architect Max Dudler, after his practice was awarded the contract in a competition. Structural engineering was handled by PICHLER Ingenieure GmbH, with MEP and safety consultants including Planungsgemeinschaft Winter-Graner and Brandschutz Consult Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH Leipzig. Arge BOL/BÜ oversaw construction supervision.

Plangruppe 100-gleichges

Forming one of the four stops on the 5.3 mile Leipzig City Tunnel railway line, the Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz S-Bahn station will open for public use in December. The station, a joint development between the Free State of Saxony and Deutsche Bahn AG, took ten years to construct, and will form a link to Leipzig Markt station – the world’s largest station by floor area – to Leipzig city centre.

The entire surface of the walls and ceiling forms a concrete grid housing the backlit blocks of glass. A statement from Max Dudler’s studio reads: “The seemingly endless repetition of the same element in the course of the slightly curved, light-filled hall increases the sensation of the dimensions of this already large structure.”


Written By admin 
December 03, 2013 16:20 pm
Posted In Metro, TRANSPORT