Thursday, May 8, 2014

Túnel visión

The rain in Spain didn't stop the construction of tunnels, and the flow of funds;
Fed by European funding, the country has built deserted airports and high-speed rail networks used by very few passengers. Between 2004 and 2013, Spain received €20.56 billion in European money for transportation infrastructure. Of this, €7.45 billion went to the high-speed AVE train.
A prime example of the waste is the series of rail tunnels being built in Pajares, a mountainous area in the northern region of Asturias.
....The project had a budget of just under €1.8 billion and involved nearly all of Spain’s major builders: FCC, Acciona, Dragados, Ferrovial, Sacyr, Constructora Hispánica and others.
But the trouble started soon, when water began seeping into the tunnels. “The tunnelling machine kept running into pockets of water,” recalls El Tigre [Miguel Ángel Fernández], who is currently unemployed. “I have seen the water pull away containers weighing three tons. But instead of stopping to seal the tunnel properly, we were told to go faster to get out of the water area fast.” 
That's cash flow management! But the construction companies had been warned;
[Spanish state infrastructure management agency] Adif commissioned a hydrologic study of the terrain when the work was already underway. However, a study conducted as early as 1986 had already warned that this was a karst area, made up of porous bedrock that lets rainwater seep through. “It is expected that the route will be affected by significant water formations,” read the report.
 So it's no one's fault;
A spokesman at Adif, the state-owned railway infrastructure manager in charge of building the AVE tracks, said this was no time to assign guilt, and that other countries have had similar problems with their own projects. 
Other countries do indeed;
In a slight change in plans, officials with the Washington State Department of Transportation have announced Big Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine, won’t get back to work below Seattle for nearly a year. Big Bertha has been out of commission since late January when the machine’s cutterhead openings became clogged with dirt, damaging seals around the machine’s main bearing and causing the machine to overheat.

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