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Tue May 21 2024

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Italian contractor builds in-house TBM refurb shop

5 days Most tunnelling contractors that have finished with a tunnel boring machine either send it back to the manufacturer after use or write it off and leave it buried underground.

Webuild's TBM repair shop in Terni, Italy
Webuild's TBM repair shop in Terni, Italy

Italian contractor Webuild has set up a factory in Terni to assemble and regenerate tunnel boring machines (TBMs) as a cost saving measure.

The factory has been built to service, modify and remanufacture Webuild’s substantial fleet of TBMs.

A new company, Webuild Equipment & Machinery (WEM), has been set up to undertake the work.

Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo) will have a total of 58 TBMs including those already operating, those being assembled, those that have been ordered and those that will be ordered for planned projects. When these machines have completed the project for which they were built, they need servicing and eventual modifications and must also be refurbished to be used in new projects. Most contractors send them back to the manufacturer, which in the UK usually means Herrenknecht in Germany.

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But Webuild has decided to do things differently. In creating a TBM regeneration factory at Terni, it not only expects to save money by extending the lifespan of these TBMs, it also hopes to gain know-how for developing new technologies that can increase the automation levels of these TBMs to improve tunnelling safety, quality and efficiency.

To justify an operation like this requires a company to have a certain scale of tunnelling activities. In Sicily alone Webuild is currently working on seven railway projects covering 200 km of railway network, which include 175 km are in tunnels. It has 19 TBMs programmed to work on the island, with an investment of more than €400m.

Webuild is also part of the joint venture selected to bore two-mile twin tunnels under the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in the UK as part of the £1.25bn A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme for National Highways.

National Highways selected the More joint venture, comprising WeBuild (42.5%), FCC Construcción (42.5%), and BeMo Tunnelling (15%) as its preferred contractor for the works two years ago. Main construction is expected to begin next year, depending on the attitude of the government at that time.

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