Light at the end of the tunnel

2016-12-12 - As the world’s longest and deepest tunnel – the Gotthard Base Tunnel, receives its first passenger train on December 11, 2016, ABB and Swiss technology has become more critical with focus on faster, reliable transportation with several challenging tunnel projects in the offing for India
ABB has been a part of this engine of growth in India from providing tri-phase locos with regenerative breaking and efficient GTO propulsion system with savings of up to 20% electricity way back in 1995 to the more contemporary milestones of powering more than 3,000 diesel locos with ABB turbochargers and between 30 to 35% of certain locos running on ABB traction transformers and converters.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel project has been described as Switzerland’s mega construction project of the century, travelling over 57kms to reach Italy through the Gotthard mountains, reducing the travel time by 35 minutes. India has close to 20 mountain rail tunnels – they range from Pir Panjal at 11200 meters to 6 tunnels between 6,000 to 4000 meters. This includes India’s and one of Asia’s oldest tunnels – Parsik tunnel in Maharashtra. The Konkan Railway in Maharashtra, stretching 760 kms, with 59 stations, 92 tunnels, 2,328 bridges built through this mountainous terrain containing many rivers, was the biggest and most difficult railway engineering project to be completed in eight years.

The Indian minister for railways Suresh Prabhu, recently laid the foundation stone for the Imphal station, announcing commencement of work on the country’s longest rail tunnel as well as world’s tallest girder rail bridge. The 111 km line will comprise of 37 tunnels in all. The longest of these tunnels will be 11.55 km long, making it India’s longest tunnel.

With more than 100 years of experience in the rail sector, ABB has provided the strongest ventilation system with power supply and drives for Gotthard with the power of 80 Formula E cars. In addition, ABB supplied 899 medium-voltage cubicles, more than 500 protection and control units and over 300 transformers.

The solutions provided by Swiss technology and companies in India comprise a wide range - railway security technologies, track safety and renewal, fuel injection systems, signaling, IT and telecom systems, ticketing and passenger information systems and finally rolling stock production and maintenance. Collaborations in the area of tunneling span seismic prediction, tunnel scanning, and security doors for safe evacuation.

As per various reports, beyond business opportunities, the Indian side has sought Swiss cooperation to amplify the outreach of George Fernandes Institute of Tunnel Technology (GFITT) in Goa. With the reported impending visit of the Railway minister to Switzerland on the invitation of Swiss transport corporation, more could be in the offing in the area of scientific exchanges on the next level of tunneling technology.