Double breakthrough for The Follo Line Project in Norway

Shorter travel time and increased capacity for the rail passengers on the Østfold Line came a big step closer when two major tunnel boring machines had a breakthrough in Oslo yesterday. The Follo Line will provide 11 minutes travel time by train from Ski to Oslo - halve of today's travel time.

Dronning Eufemia came first: The first tunnel workers came out through the drill head with flags. (Foto: Nicolas Tourrenc)

- The Follo Line will be of great importance for the growth and development throughout the Oslo region. It is an important part of the InterCity development, which will provide an efficient transport system with increased capacity for both freight and passengers, says Gorm Frimannslund, CEO of Bane NOR.

An easier everyday life
In the National Transport Plan, it is assumed that it will be invested up to NOK 270 billion on the railroad until 2029. It has never been allocated so much money to build railways in Norway before. 

- This is an important day for all travelers in the Oslo area. The Follo Line will make everyday life easier with shorter travel time. It will affect where people choose to live and work, "said the Minister of Transport Jon Georg Dale, on the marking of the breakthrough.

Bane NOR will the next three years go into the market with investments of NOK 60 billion. This will be used for InterCity projects in the Eastern part of Norway and rail development in Bergen.

Tunnel boring machines
For two years the two machines, queen Eufemia and queen Ellisiv heading northbound toward Oslo, have successfully drilled nine km each. The final launch for the tunnel production is scheduled for spring 2019 when the last two tunnel boring machines (TBM) reach the small town of Ski.

With today's breakthrough towards Oslo city center, two giant TBM’s have completed the journey at the same time. It is probably the first time in history that two hard rock machines have bored close by each other over such a long distance with breakthrough at the same time. The two machines ended their journey in a mountain hall with guests, 3D-mapping and festivities. Tunnel workers made their way out through the head of the large machines, with flags and cheers.

You can see the whole event here!

Great milestone
Bane NOR chose production method for the largest part of the long tunnel (18.5 km of 20 km), and entrepreneur Acciona Ghella Joint Venture (AGJV) are excavating on behalf of Bane NOR. The excavation started September 5th, 2016, and the drilling in the north direction is completed ahead of schedule.

- We understood at an early stage that tunnel boring machines could be the correct choice. With this project we have documented that tunnel boring, in addition to explosives and more conventional methods, is suitable for the production of waterproof, long tunnels, also in extreme hard Norwegian rock, says Bane NOR and the project manager for TBM in the Follo Line Project, Anne Kathrine Kalager and continues:

- Two years ago, we started the first machine. When we are reaching this goal two years later, not only with one, but two machines, this feels like reaching a big milestone, she said. 

Project Director, Fernando Vara at AGJV is proud of what AGJV, together with Bane NOR, have achieved so far.

- We are proud of the way AGJV, in cooperation with Bane NOR, has managed to handle this complex project. Together we have continued to reach goals, and together we find solutions when we meet challenges. The double breakthrough we experienced today, ahead of schedule, was emotionally strong and amazing, says Fernando Vara, Project Director, AGJV, who is also responsible for the ongoing tunnel excavation towards Ski.

Foto: Nicolas Tourrenc

Railway technical work starts up
The two tunnel boring machines will now be disassembled and transported out of the mountain. Equipment for this is already installed. Immediately rail technology implementation starts so to make this watertight tunnel into a completed railway system.

- The Follo Line will provide a state-of-the-art infrastructure for this part of the Oslo region and further south to the towns southeast of Oslo and all the way to Sweden. It is designed for speeds of up to 250 km / h and has at least 100 years of life expectancy, says Per David Borenstein, Project Director at Bane NOR/Follo Line Project.

Minister of Transport and Communications, Jon Georg Dale, emphasized in his speech that the Follo Line is an important part of the Norwegian Intercity development. Bane NOR is expected to sign contracts for 60 billion NOK for the next three years to ensure double track lines in the south part of Norway.

Facts about the Follo Line Project and tunnel boring
Two tunnel boring machines, each 2400 tons, have drilled from the Åsland rig area to a mountain hall close to the center of Oslo, while another two machines are excavating their part of the tunnel from the same rig area towards a new transport hub at Ski.

The machines, 150 meters long with drill bits with diameter 9.96m, are specially made for extreme hard rock. These are the most powerful tunnel drilling machines ever produced, according to the manufacturer Herrenknecht in Germany.

2/3 or more than 65% of the large Follo Line Project are now produced. The Follo Line is scheduled for completion in December 2021. Passengers may choose high speed trains directly through the long tunnel between Oslo and Ski, with 50 % reduction in travel time, or they may choose the local Østfold Line with improved capacity.