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First Breakthrough on Perthus High Speed Rail Tunnel

First Breakthrough on Perthus High Speed Rail TunnelThe first, west Perthus tunnel, a major engineering project on the 44.4 km Perpignan-Figueras high speed link between France and Spain, has been holed through by TBM "Mistral" on 1st October, 2007. The second TBM, dubbed "Tramontane", has still 150 metres ahead to finish the east tunnel.Construction of this twin bored tunnel has been more tricky than expected. The two 9.9 m-diameter double telescopic shields supplied by Herrenknecht have been driving 2 x 8.3 kilometres since 19th July, 2005. The geology of the Pyrenees is varied (quartz, feldspar, black mica, green schists, gneiss) and the rock has been characterised by various strengths and alteration degrees. The presence of an important fault disrupted progress of the machines so that the first breakthrough, first expected early this year, has just taken place. Visit www.herrenknecht.com TEP (Trans Euro Pyrénées) is the consortium in charge of the construction of the rail line on behalf of TP Ferro, the concessionaire. In February 2004, the French and Spanish governments entrusted TP Ferro with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Perpignan-Figueras section for 50 years. The five-year construction period will take another 2 ½ years.The project is divided into five different lots. Construction of the French and Spanish platforms has been commissioned respectively to Eiffage and Dragados. The cross-border parts of the project have been awarded to three international joint ventures: Eiffage TP and Dragados for civil engineering, Vías y Construcciones and Wittfeld for track laying, and Cobra Instalaciones and Forclum for equipment installation, electrification and signage. Visit www.travauxpublics.eiffage.com, www.dragados.com, www.vias.es, www.wittfeld.de, www.grupocobra.com and www.forclum.comOn the French side, the line will run on four viaducts totalling 983 metres while in Spain, where the mountainous topography is more difficult, there will be six viaducts with a total length of 1,863 metres. The line also has 14 railway bridges, 11 road bridges, nine underpasses, 61 hydraulic structures, two cut-and-cover tunnels of 162 and 175 metres in length, and a flyover to reverse train traffic direction (on the left-hand side in France, on the right-hand side in Spain).The total cost of the project amounts to EUR950 million, whereof EUR301 million for the tunnel. It is hoped that construction of the tunnel will end in February 2009. However, the Spanish ministry of development announced in June a three-year delay for the Barcelona-Figueras line, with entry in service put back to 2012. The stretch just south to the Perpignan-Figueras section and the crossing of Girona, partially underground, are the two most delayed sections. This is the reason why the private operator of the Perpignan-Figueras section is supposed to meet the Spanish authorities soon to discuss the consequences of the delays on their concession contract. Click here, es/21 or fr/16. Read E-News Weekly 29/2007, 5/2007 & 5/2006. 42/07.