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News round up

Work has just started on a major tunnel crossing the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul.

Some 1.4km of the 13.7km tunnel will be under the Strait, running at a depth of almost 60m below the surface.

Japanese-Turkish consortium Taisei-Kumagaigumi-GamaNurol's $820M tunnelling contract is part of a $2.5bn initiative that also includes refurbishment of existing railways in the city. The tunnel, which will link the Asian and European parts of Istanbul, is due for completion by 2008. This will be the city's third crossing of the Bosphorus, following the1km suspension bridges which were opened in 1973 and 1988.

Competition has started for the design and construction of a 2km bridge over the River Danube. Bulgaria's Ministry of Transport & Communications has published the prequalification notice for the $275M bridge which will link Vidin in Bulgaria and Calafat in Romania. The bridge is one of Bulgaria's top transport priorities. Entry is restricted to companies from within the European Union as well as to those from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Between four and eight of the top scoring bidders will be invited to submit detailed tenders. The invitation to tender is scheduled for July, with the contract due to start in December. Work is also about to start on a 980m suspension bridge over the Danube in eastern Romania.

China Road & Bridge Corporation reached an agreement with the Romanian government in February.

Prequalification has started for the final design and construction of Dubai's new 70km light railway. Some 30% of the route is tunnelled, with two creek crossings, and the remainder is elevated.

Dubai Municipality invited bids for prequalification last month and is to release tender documents in August.

The work will be let as a single package including civils work and electromechanical equipment.

A 50/50 joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Hyundai Engineering has won a $270M contract to build the 1.7km Masan Bay Bridge in South Korea. The contract covers financing, design and construction of the bridge as well as operation and maintenance for a 30 year period. The steel and concrete structure consists of a 740m cable-stayed bridge with access viaducts of 410m and 550m. Work has just started and is scheduled for completion in the first half of 2008. The bridge will save drivers from having to take a congested motorway around Masan Bay to reach to the major industrial city of Pusan.

International funding agreements have been reached for two key European rail links each involving a 50km-plus tunnel under the Alps. The French and Italian prime ministers have agreed to meet 80% of the cost of the high-speed railway linking Lyon and Turin. Total cost of the scheme has been put at $15bn. France and Italy are asking the European Union for the remaining 20%, covering the international section. At the heart of this is a 52km tunnel through the Alps. Italy and Austria have signed a bilateral treaty clearing the way for progress on the 55km Brenner Base Tunnel.

Japanese contractor Obayashi is rumoured to have undercut competitors to win a complex light rail construction job in Seattle, with a bid of $280M. This is the third of five major contracts in the 22km initial segment of Sound Transit's Central Link project which broke ground in October 2003. The latest contract includes a 1.6km twin tunnel section through the glacial soils of Beacon Hill as well as two stations, one 50m deep and one elevated. Tunnelling will be by earth pressure balanced machinery.

A consortium of Swedish contractor Skanska and Czech companies Metrostav and Subterra has won the contract to extend Prague's subway system. The $368M scheme for City of Prague transport authority involves a 4.6km extension of the C-Line in the northern part of the city. About 40% of the route is in tunnel.

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