EVER GREATER numbers of lorries, carrying freight between northern and southern Europe, are creating an increasing problem for the Alpine regions of Switzerland.
In an attempt to reduce congestion and environmental impact, the Swiss government has embarked on a major rail tunnel building programme, to which a UK contractor is contributing.
A meeting of the British Tunnelling Society last week heard how Balfour Beatty, part of the Arge MaTrans consortium, is tackling a section of tunnel between Steg and Raron.
Paul Hoyland, technical manager of Balfour Beatty Major Projects, explained that the height of existing rail tunnels built at the end of the 19th century created access problems.
The joint venture is using a combination of traditional drill and blast techniques and two massive tunnel boring machines to cut through the mixture of granite, granodiorite and limestone rock.
And in contrast to construction of the original tunnels when an estimated 300 workers died, Hoyland said work so far has not resulted in any serious accidents, a statistic of which he is justifiably proud.
Work is expected to be complete by 2005.
Also at the meeting at Great George Street, Brown & Root's Martin Knights explained tunnelling work under way at Cern, Switzerland, to accommodate equipment vital to upgrade the world's most powerful particle accelerator.
Brown & Root is part of a consortium on one of three civils contracts. Work has involved tunnelling in difficult 'molasse' which is prone to swelling and rapid degradation. Extensive bolting and ground stabilisation work has been required.