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Progress report | Five international mega-projects

As the new year dawns, New Civil Engineer gives a progress report on five large international infrastructure projects that are at varying stages of completion

1. South America: Panama Canal expansion

The £3.48bn project to expand the Panama Canal has been plagued by strikes, delays and a high-profile legal dispute since work began in 2007.

The work involves the construction of a new canal that will add to the two existing canals. It also involves building of a third set of locks to enable the waterway to handle modern mega-freighters. The latest progress report from the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said that the project is now 83% complete and the electro-mechanical phase has begun with the installation of the first steel rolling gate for the lock at the Atlantic side.

A further 16 rolling gates are now on site and ready to be installed by mid-2015. Much of the 4.4M.m3 of concrete needed for the new locks has been poured making them visible.

Verdict: Approaching lockdown

Watch a video of the steel gate installation here

Click on the video above to find out more about the Panama Canal expansion

2. Asia: Hong Kong High Speed Rail (XRL)

At the last count, MTR’s £6.85bn project to build the high speed rail link between Hong Kong and mainland China and the vast West Kowloon Terminus (WKT) was two years behind schedule.

But, after a range of problems, some key milestones have been passed. In late September last year, the last section of tunnel excavation works was completed in the urban section of the project in Kowloon. The complicated process of backfilling above the completed tunnel structure at the section of the WKT approach tunnel was also in progress. Two basement slabs have been completed in the West Kowloon Terminus and electrical and mechanical contractors have gained access to part of the terminus.

Work on the distinctive structural steel columns for the terminus entrance has also started. In addition, over 85% of the drill and blast tunnelling works for the Ngau Tam Mei to Tai Kong Po tunnels has been completed in the New Territories section of the project.
Commissioning work is now scheduled for summer 2017.

Verdict: Work to be done

Hong Kong high speed tunnel

Hong Kong high speed rail tunnel

3. Europe: Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link

Proposals to link Denmark and Germany with a £4.48bn immersed tube tunnel are going through the respective application processes in both countries.

The Danish parliament is expected to discuss and approve the project in the first quarter of this year and release the necessary finances. At the same time a public consultation is underway in Germany.

The four largest parts of the contract were put out for tender last year and nine international consortiums handed in their final bids in late December 2014.

Now an internal review process is underway and the final construction budget estimate is expected to be published soon by client and scheme promoter Femern A/S after it reviews the bids. New financial analysis published on 15 December last year said the project would pay for itself in 32 years rather than the earlier estimate of 39 years.

Verdict: Early days

To watch the video, go to:

Watch the video to find out about the construction of the immersed tube tunnel for the Fehmarnbelt

4. Australia: Regional Rail Link, Victoria

Australia’s largest public transportation project, the Regional Rail Link in Victoria, is designed to remove major bottlenecks in Victoria’s rail network by untangling metropolitan and regional tracks as they travel into Melbourne from the west of the city. Works were completed on the rebuilding of the three stations on the route: Sunshine, West Footscray and Footscray stations in November last year, two level crossings have been removed, and all of the 12 planned new road-rail grade separations in have been delivered. Train services will commence progressively in April 2015 on the Regional Rail Link line.

Verdict: On time and nearly complete

Click on the image above to watch a video about the Regional Rail Link

5. The Middle East: Qatar FIFA World Cup stadiums

Al-Wakrah stadium

Al-Wakrah stadium, Qatar

Ignoring the not inconsiderable arguments against the World Cup taking place in Qatar it seems work is pressing ahead on parts of the programme to build nine new stadiums in time for the 2022 tournament. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy announced in late September last year that 50 workers had transferred to the site offices for the Zaha Hadid-designed Al Wakrah Stadium – including project management consultant KEO and design consultant Aecom – and that a construction contract will be awarded this year. Enabling works are currently being conducted and the bowl for the stadium is now being dug out. The further the project progresses, the harder it will be for FIFA to row back on its decision to award the competition to Qatar – regardless of the findings of its investigation into the bidding process. Completion of the stadium is slated for 2018.

Verdict: It’s complicated

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