The Queens start tunneling

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg has baptised the Follo Line Project’s first two tunnel boring machines Queen Eufemia and Queen Ellisiv. Meanwhile, The Norwegian Minister of Transport and Communication Ketil Solvik-Olsen has initiated the start of the first giant machine.

The baptism and start-up marked the beginning of the excavation of what will be the longest railway tunnel to date in the Nordic countries. The four 150-meter long tunnel boring machines are given female names, in accordance with tunnel traditions. The giant machines are all named after prominent women associated with Norwegian history along the new corridor of the Follo Line.

Deep inside the mountain
The ceremony took place inside a large assembly hall, one kilometre from the tunnel entrance at Åsland, Oslo. The first two tunnel boring machines heading towards Oslo have been named after Queen Eufemia and Queen Ellisiv. The final two machines heading for Ski have been named after the merchant Anna from Kloppa and the ferrywoman Magda from Flåtestad.

The tunnel boring machines, all weighing around 2400 tonnes, will excavate 18.5 of the 20 km long tunnel from one centrally located access point at Åsland. Each machine will dig roughly 9 kilometre tunnel for the new double-track line between Oslo and Ski.

A new phase in the megaproject
With around 90 guests and staff present, the Norwegian Minister of Transport and Communications Ketil Solvik-Olsen pushed the start button on the first tunnel boring machine, Queen Eufemia. Representatives from the municipalities of Oslo and Ski were also attending, alongside the Italian and Spanish ambassadors to Norway, representatives from the Norwegian National Rail Administration and executives from the TBM-contractor Acciona Ghella Joint Venture. 

“We are very impressed with the work which has been done at Åsland since the contract was signed with Acciona Ghella Joint Venture in March 2015. Thanks to a great effort by the main contractor and subcontractors, the project is right on track. The project is now entering a new phase and the start of the first tunnel boring machine is a huge milestone”, says Deputy Director General Gunnar G. Løvås, from the Norwegian National Rail Administration.

“Now the work really begins. We have prepared for the start-up for a year and a half, and I am proud to say that we now, one time, can start the tunnel boring excavation. We have established a good working relationship with the Norwegian National Rail Administration and a strong international team which work together with Norwegian managers and suppliers”, emphasises Project Director Fernando Vara from Acciona Ghella Joint Venture.

Important success factors
The four tunnel boring machines are specially designed for extreme hard rock conditions. They are produced by Herrenknecht in Germany, transported to Norway in sections and reassembled in the mountain caverns at Åsland.

The tunnel boring activities are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Name choice
A small name committee have selected the names for the tunnel boring machines after courageous women with relations to the area. The names for the two machines boring towards Oslo were selected to recognise affinity with Oslo and the Medieval Park. The two tunnel boring machines that excavating towards Ski are named after two enterprising women who lived in the district of Follo, outside of Oslo.

Queen Eufemia: Machine No. 1 will bore from Åsland to Oslo
Eufemia was queen of Norway from 1299, married to King Håkon Magnusson. Eufemia married Håkon in St Mary's Church in Oslo. The ruins of St Mary's can be seen today in the Medieval Park. The new Follo Line will run through a covered superstructure (culvert) below parts of the park.

Queen Ellisiv: Machine No. 2 will bore from Åsland to Oslo
Ellisiv was queen from 1046, married to King Harald Hardrada. She was a Russian princess. Snorri Sturluson called her Ellisiv Jarisleivsdatter. Harald forced his nephew, King Magnus, to divide the kingdom with him, and when Magnus died shortly after Harald become sole king over Norway and Denmark.

Anna from Kloppa: Machine No. 3 will bore from Åsland to Ski
Anna was a merchant and a well-known figure in the township of Kolbotn in the 1950s. Anna walked every day from her crofter farm in Kloppa to sell eggs and milk from a characteristic fisherman's sled. The road from Kloppa to Kolbotn crosses the Follo Line corridor.

Magda from Flåtestad: Machine No. 4 will bore from Åsland to Ski
Magda provided ferry transport to and from Flåtestad Farm and over the Gjersjøen Lake (in the Municipality of Oppegård), which was an important church road east and west of Svartskog Church in Oppegård. A theatrical play about the life of Magda Flåtestad was first performed in the autumn of 2015 on the occasion of the Municipality of Oppegård's 100-year anniversary.

All photos: Nicolas Tourrenc/AGJV